Saturday, April 29, 2006

Building Your PMO – People, Process, Tools – Part II – PM Processes

(Apologies for the shortness this week - life and work keep interfering )

Well, you are building a PMO, so you’ll be expected to come up with some Project Management procedures. There are a plethora of great procedure sets out there that cover everything you can imagine about Project Management, they usually come with their own documentation and form sets. Your company probably already has some standards or processes that you will want or need to include in anything. Again, below are my ideas and thoughts, suggestions only, I know many of you have had different experiences, please share them.

Start Small.

This is pretty generic and universal advice, so I’ll go quickly. Whether you are starting from scratch or have some existing material, start small. Most of you know this one already. Don’t try to impress by inundating your organization with rules and forms, they’ll rebel. For the first time around, I would use very light processes and forms – maybe a charter, schedule, action items/issues list, and meeting minutes. Have your PM do all these so that no burden is on the sponsor or other team members. You’ve got good PMs, just trust in that, they’ll get the job done, and that is what counts.

What to do with Existing PM Standards?

This can be a real problem. Management may be looking to you to implement these standards, or to enforce them. Personally, I did not get into this to “enforce” anything, so I would begin negotiations with the objective of starting small and controlled and building on. In all likelihood, the package or set of standards you start with will not fit the way business is being done. Use this to encourage a process by which you start with a subset and add on as needed.

One company I worked for had purchased a very comprehensive set of Project Management and software development standards and procedures. There must have been 200 or more forms. The product was available on the intranet, and the project manager was expected to go and select the methodology they were going to use and then use the forms and procedures associated with that methodology. The methodologies were all based on software, and they were pretty specific – web based, mainframe, client-server, purchase, etc. I am sure that you can guess what happened. Since there was no PMO or procedure for using the tool, PMs just picked out what they wanted, used that and then copied the documentation from one project to the next. Everyone was “using” the tool, but the only similarities ended up being the fonts and the title pages. IMHO, that was because it was too complex. That is one reason why I advocate people, processes and then tools.

So, take whatever you have, boil it down to the essentials, then take half of that and start. You should not have any problem convincing people to use less, except maybe those who are invested in the tool or process. Find them, and get their help and buy-in, make them a part of this. Be careful that you are not perceived as wanting to slay a sacred cow, if all of this is new, then you can use that as a starting point. Things like “I need to start small so I understand everything” will go a long way here.

Next time, I’ll talk a little about build or buy options and how to move from processes to tools

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Building Your PMO – People, Process, Tools – Part II – Processes – Forms

First, let me express my general distaste for forms. While I can’t say I hate all forms, I do believe that many organizations have used them incorrectly and created situations that are more harmful than beneficial. I do believe that the right forms can be very useful and beneficial. For one thing, every time I get on an airplane, I become a huge fan of the pilot’s pre-flight checklist. However, I don’t think I want my pilot filling out a form during a crisis – I’d rather they were flying the plane. That said, I think that by following a few guidelines and understanding the nature of forms, a PMO can use them to benefit the company and the PMO!

Forms Tend to Grow Rather than Shrink.

I will not say that I never saw someone remove a field from a form, but how many times have you filled out something on a form and had absolutely no idea how it got there, or what it is for, but you have to fill it out! I could scream. If you are going to create a form for anything, start as small as possible. I’m a fan of the “one page” school – fit it all on one page. That forces you to decide what is important and drop the rest.

Now I did have one team member who thought that meant to decrease the font until it all fit on a single page – no really. This is the same guy that gave me a 91 page screen design – yes ONE screen with 91 pages of documentation. Laudable in some ways, but I could not see the customer reading it and signing off, so in my infinite generosity I instructed him to cut the size by half, making it still twice as large as the other screen designs. Well he just printed the darn thing on both sides of the paper. Surely there is a level of the pit reserved for these people, but I digress.

Here’s a real frightening thought. Your forms may be around for a long time. Not only do the darn things grow, but they seem to be immortal. What will your form look like five years from now? I don’t know, but wouldn’t it be nice if it was just as useful then as it is today. Start with this in mind; be careful not to incorporate temporary jargon, or the types of things that will require maintenance over time. Some examples are the names of departments or people, use instead the role that the person will be playing (project sponsor, project manager, etc). As a general rule, wherever possible, don’t put anything, when you have to put something make it as self-explanatory as possible. If you have to explain your form now, image how it will be in five years. Don’t image, take a look at some of your company’s forms.

Never use Two Forms where one will do.

I think that if you build a form with the idea that everyone who sees it hates it, and wants nothing more than to not fill it out, you will have a good start. Double or triple that, and rather than help your customer meet their goals, you’ve create a lifelong enemy. Fewer and less and above all, please don’t require the same information in multiple places.

I recently moved and got a new doctor. I ring the bell, wait until they slide back the opaque glass and acknowledge my existence. Upon seeing me, the nurse hands me the every popular clipboard (provided to her by the makers of Viagra) and a pen (compliments of the makers of Levitra). “Please fill these out” she says. So, with odd feelings of inadequacy, I shuffle to my seat with the enthusiasm normally reserved for my dentist and begin. Moving through the process I discover that there are 7 forms that I need to fill out – ALL 7 ask me for my name, address, city, state, zip and phone. Three ask me about my “emergency contact”, they all require my SSN and signature – I can’t go on, I’m having flashbacks. If you think this is frustrating, think how tired your customer is of having to enter that stupid 14 digit “project number” on every form! At least I care about my address and emergency contact. Don’t ask for the same information more than once.

One great example of how one team I was on used this principle is that we created a form for the project initiation. This was just to get things kicked off, get a sponsor and a PM, that kind of information. This form next became the project Charter by the addition of a few sections giving more information about he project, team, scope, etc. The charter then goes in front of the Steering Committee for approval, once approved, the charter then grows into the Project Plan document. Now, I know this is an example of a form growing – which I said is bad, but no duplicate information is required, the document grows in proportion to the stage and complexity of the project, and no one is having to fill the same thing out multiple times. I think this is a great approach- we also use this for meeting agenda and minutes – the agenda becomes the minutes by the addition of a section. There is then only one document to store.

DIY – Do it yourself.

OK, want to keep your customers from hating your forms. Fill them out yourself. I’ve advocated doing the work yourself before, and the reasons are the same. How can they complain if you are doing the work and they are getting the benefit? Certainly some will complain that you need to be “working” not filling out forms, but that’s a whole different problem. Aside from delivering value at a low perceived cost there is another benefit to you (the PMO) filling out your own forms. You certainly will not want them to be as simple and easy as possible.

Try it, I’d like to get that nurse to sit in his waiting room for 6 hours writing their name and address again and again. I’ll bet they would figure out a better way! Just like you will. If you and your team are intimately familiar with your forms, as only those who use them constantly are, you will find ways to make them as efficient as possible. That incentive does not exist when you graciously provide others with the forms. Even asking is not enough. They are probably too busy filling out forms to tell you how to do it better. If you and your team are using the forms daily, those forms will become models of efficiency – trust me!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Building Your PMO – People, Process, Tools – Part II – Processes – The PMO as a Professional Services Organization (cont.)


These are not the PMI or QA types of standards; I’m not referring to making sure every project has a charter. There are certainly great ones out there and some that will work for you but I’m talking about standards for you, your PMO and your team.

I believe that everyone wants to achieve more, by setting standards for your team; you challenge them to do better. Also, standards create a personality for your PMO. If everyone on your team can be expected to meet a high level of professional standards, then the same can be said of the PMO. Unfortunately, if one member falls out, you’ve got trouble – but that’s why you got into management right?

As an example, let’s take the value of Teamwork. How would you set standards for this? You set standards as expectations, some ideas:

· We help when asked – we are never “too busy”
· We always treat each other with respect – particularly when we do not agree
· We are here for the success of the organization, the team and each other. Only by helping others succeed can we succeed.
· We will share our ideas, experience, knowledge and problems with each other.
· We are never alone.

I’m sure there are more that you can come up with – I’d suggest a small number of standards for each value. The standards help define and communicate the value. I deliberately used “we” in all of these to help communicate the teamwork even more.

Since you have set standards, you have given teeth to your values. Your values are not slogans or sound-bytes; they are something that everyone on your team lives. If your behavior is not going to match your values – forget it. If these standards only apply for your friends or – worse – for those in power, forget it. I have seen too many people who set their behavior standards based on the size of a person’s office. I have nothing but contempt for that kind of behavior.


So we have values and standards, how to ensure that everyone (all your stakeholders) understand them. You want to make sure that not just the team, but everyone associated with the team understands your values. When your customers know your PMO will do what is best for them before grabbing for some personal gain, you become valuable.
Understanding of your values and standards will establish the identity of your PMO. You are as your customers perceive you. I won’t get into the whole “perception is reality” thing, but perception is understanding. By acting according to your standards, you create the reality, perception and understanding that you want. Your PMO is too important to leave this to chance.

You will also need to communicate your values and standards. I’m not a fan of big posters or plastering slogans all over the place, so how do you communicate?
First, you communicate by how you act. For example, what does it communicate when a project is rejected because it is not written on the latest version of the Project Charter? Not teamwork, that is for sure. However, when you cut and paste the old Charter into the proper form and work with the sponsor to fill in any missing elements, you send a clear message that you will do what it takes to make your sponsor successful.

Branding your PMO is important in giving it an identity and helping people understand. Think about any popular brands and what that brand means to you. How quickly you can understand values by simply thinking of the brand. Wal-Mart is low prices, Disney is fun, Nordstrom’s is service and so on. You PMO will have a brand and identity whether you like it or not, best to make sure you have the one you want.

Good old written and verbal communication is part of the mix too. How do you communicate the success of a project, by giving accolades to the team members or crediting the PMO? Do you freely share information, or do you hoard it? Do you seek feedback; do you talk with your stakeholders constantly? Lots of good communication help out there from all walks of business, use it.


Now the ugly part, you’ve got to manage all this. Standards provide value only when consistently applied and enforced. Quality can only exist where it is measured and required. Training is effective only when planned to achieve a goal and tailored to each individual. All this means a lot of work for the manager, so some ideas:

· Tie the standards to rewards and penalties. You can not be serious if you are not willing to reward and penalize behavior. Reward is easy, but penalize is vital. If you do not take appropriate action when values are violated, you’re sunk.

· Train your team in what you expect. Don’t just lay down a standard and say “meet it”, help them meet it. Give your team members sufficient time and training to achieve the standards. You are creating elite professionals. Olympic-level athletes train constantly, even more importantly, they think and analyze their performance. It will be no different for your team. I’m not talking about sending them off to a 3 day course and marking the “training” box complete. Training is ongoing and career long.

· Align your individual goals with the team goals, which are in turn lined all the way back to the company goals. Clearly link the work of each team member with the success of the company. As a PMO you are probably already doing this for all the projects, just do the same for the people. Knowing exactly how you are contributing to the success of the company (and yourself) is a great motivator – particularly for the type of people you are hiring.

· Feedback, feedback and more feedback. High performance individuals want to know how to perform better, don’t expect that they will “know” that what they did is good or bad all the time. Your team will be making mistakes and they will be hitting it out of the park – you need to be there both times. Spend the time to take a careful look at how the event came about and in the former, work to avoid it and in the latter, seek to repeat.

If there is any way to do it, create a significant performance-based component to you salary plan. Not just on-time, on-budget, on-scope, but also including teamwork, personal growth, and contribution to the PM culture that you are trying to build. One performance goal we used was for each PM to design and give a one-hour class (lunch and learn type) on a Project Management topic at least once every quarter. This got the PM some time in front of audience, let them prepare a class; learn more about a topic and share that knowledge with others. This was a real win for everyone involved.

I haven’t talked much about the customers / partners yet, and not to slight them at all. I really believe that your partners hopefully are the key to the PMO success and the success of each individual. Here I’d like to suggest something off the beaten path and that is to have your partners provide key input into any review or performance evaluation / compensation for you and your team. This can be pretty scary, and unconventional, but let me give some reasons:

· It is really all about the relationships you build with your partners and your ability to work with them towards mutual success. If they are not successful, you can not be. Feigning success because you delivered exactly what was asked for when your partner is unhappy is rude, unprofessional and dishonest.

· Your partners are vital to your success, what better way of telling them and showing that you mean it than to give them direct control of your success? You will never be a “them” when you share your success this directly. If you can somehow tie your success to your partner’s even better!

· It places you in a vulnerable position by showing you trust your partners. Vulnerability is a key component to trust. Partners will never trust you if you can not show that you trust them. This is a great way of showing you trust them. As always, this isn’t a trick or gimmick – you must be sincere and ready to take the consequences, if this is only a token amount, then don’t bother, it has to be a significant amount of money.

By tying your values, goals and objectives directly to performance, you give them teeth and meaning. No one is confused about the value of money and this is you voluntarily placing your money where your mouth is. Just be ready, lack of commitment in any form will invalidate this strategy, and worse lose the trust of team members and partners.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Building Your PMO – People, Process, Tools – Part II – Processes The PMO as a Professional Services Organization

For the most part, PMOs are staff organizations for the most part. We are a service only unit within the company. We are often perceived as not producing value and many people are less-than-enthusiastic with the forms, methodologies, “bureaucracy” and “paperwork” that we produce. On the flip side, in Circle of Innovation, Tom Peters advocates that “all value comes from Professional Services”. The value of your PMO is in the people who represent it.

We’ve talked about how to put your team together; the next thing is organizing and managing them. Quick word on my management philosophy - I believe people want work to be meaningful, they want to succeed, and they want to be part of a great team. Our job is to put the pieces together to make a great team.

In his book True Professional , David Maister uses to the term professionalism to encompass the ideas of pride in work, commitment to quality, genuine desire to help, and dedication to the interests of clients. (Everything I have read of his has been wonderful – I highly recommend him). Using this as a basis, we can evaluate some of the components of professionalism.

The first component of professionalism is competence. One must have the capability to perform the required service or create the required product to be a professional. If you can’t do the job, you are probably not going to last long, although I have seen some consultants who… well – not us, and not our PMO.

Next component is attitude. A professional is not here “just for the money” they demonstrate care and commitment. Care is the key here, if you and your team do not care, everyone knows – fortunately you wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t care, so that’s a done deal.

Finally professionals have character. There is a set of core values that they consistently demonstrate by their actions. If you cannot be trusted, your in trouble and will be very ineffective. If your customers don’t trust the PMO with their projects, portfolio or team, you cannot do your job. Again, not a problem for us personally, but we do want to make sure that the team has all these attributes in abundance.

Implementing and Managing Professionalism

So how do we get started – obviously the right people will make this a walk in the park (that’s why it’s people, process, tools), but even then you cannot take any of this for granted. I suggest you start with a set of core values. These values must be clearly communicated not just in words, but also through consistent actions. Values cannot be sacrificed to any form of expediency, they are not a fall back position or something to put on your card. If you show that your values are flexible or inconsistent, then you loose all trust and who wants to be like that anyway! Some suggestions on values:

· Teamwork
· Commitment to Learning and Continual Improvement
· Adherence to Standards
· Quality
· Customer Satisfaction
· Communication
· Intolerance of unprofessional behavior and results

Your set will depend on what makes sense for you and your team. We all have different values; different priorities for those values. The important thing is that we remain consistently faithful to our values.

Regardless of your PMOs specific values, I think that implementing and managing a professional organization falls into three main areas. First, professionalism requires a set of standards for behavior, performance, learning, quality, communication and service.

Next, we want everyone associated with the PMO to have the same understanding of these values and what is required to meet acceptable levels. This understanding can only be gained through a combination of training, education, coaching, counseling, and experience.

Finally, like everything else, professionalism must be managed. Progress and performance must be managed by making adjustments, encouraging improvement, and discouraging non-compliance. These activities fall within the purview of management – your job.