Saturday, March 25, 2006

Building Your PMO – People, Process, Tools – Part I – People (cont.)

Assuming you now have the list of qualifications, skills and characteristics of the type of person you want for your PMO. The only problem is that you don’t know how to find these people. How do you get the right person and not be fooled in the interview? Not only that, maybe you have 3 openings, but what mix is right for you and your PMO. We’ll save organization for later, for now a little about how to pick make sure you get the right people. There are a lot of tactics and a ton of good information is available, make use of it! As a general overview, these are some of my thoughts, as always if you have any ideas, post them for others to read.

Use Your Network: You probably know some good people already if you are part of any professional organizations or have kept in touch with friends and colleagues. Even if they aren’t the right people, they probably know someone who knows someone. Your network is probably the best place to find someone. Your friends would not recommend someone unqualified (well, let’s hope not), and you have a great chance of finding a “diamond in the rough”- someone who is better than their resume. There are a lot of good PMs out there looking for the chance to be part of your PMO. I have to recommend Ask the Headhunter, I have subscribed to Nick’s newsletter for about 6 years, and even when not looking for people or a job, the advice has been priceless. The newsletter and column focus on the job seeker more than the employer, but there are some priceless words of wisdom for anyone. The site is a gold mine of advice, you will not regret it! So stealing a key point from ATH:

Get Them to Do the Job: This is tough; in the past we have done simulations which are fun for all by the way. You can give the candidate a problem to solve, but my absolute favorite was “the project meeting.” One of the PMs in our group had a really harrowing meeting where just about everything happened, and he was quite challenged in just getting through the session – which he did. Anyway, we used this meeting as a simulation. Before the interview (after a phone interview usually) we arranged for the candidate to come onsite for some face-to-face talks. We would send the candidate some project documentation telling them about the history of the project, their role as the project manager, and other details about the meeting and the project status. Then, when they came in for interviews, we scheduled a meeting where the PMO members played the part of the project team and the candidate was the PM. We each had a role to play, one of us came late, one was constantly checking his PDA, one was constantly trying to bring up their issue and hijack the meeting, and so on. The really good thing is we have all been in exactly that kind of meeting. Frankly, most candidates were a little lost, but you could tell who knew what they were doing and who didn’t. Also, those who did their “homework” were obvious, as were those who didn’t. If nothing else, this tells you who is serious about the job and Project Management.

Constantly Recruit: One of the most frustrating experiences is to finally get that personnel increase approved only to have it pulled after you are almost ready to make an offer. So what I’ve found to work is to be constantly on the lookout for great people, and to be recruiting all the time. This way you will have a short list of people to choose from and can make the “official” part of the process as short as possible. I do not want to sound like an HR basher, but I have found that HR is generally not interested in you getting the best candidate; they are more concerned with legal and procedural risks and issues. Your objective would be to make the internal part of the hiring process as short as possible. This means you have to do a LOT of prescreening, you might even want to “interview” people from around town by inviting them to lunch and sharing ideas and experiences. Heck, maybe you will want to work with him or her. Another constant recruiting method is to get out there in professional organizations, so your network helps here too.

“Trust your Feelings”: Use the force. If you do not like something about someone – listen to those feelings. Don’t throw someone out solely because of what you feel, but find out why you feel uncomfortable. One good way is to talk it through with someone else. We try to do interviews with two interviewers. While one is talking / listening, the other can observe the interaction. Maybe the person with you saw something – you pulled back when the candidate asked about overtime and vacation. This way when the two interviewers talk immediately after the interview, you can share impressions and probably find the reason for any uneasy feelings. I’ve found that there is almost always a reason I feel uncomfortable about someone, and if I talk with someone, we can usually figure it out. Once you have a tangible reason, you can make a better decision.

OK – four again. Next time I’ll talk a little (maybe a lot) about organization – how to organize the crack team you’ve put together!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Building your PMO - People, Process Tools - Part I - People

I want to suggest that there is an order to how you develop a PMO, and probably any organization, and the first step is getting the right people. Then you develop the processes and then tools. Of course this is an iterative process – not waterfall, but if you do not have the right people, forget it.

I won’t go into the logistics, as a manager you’ve probably already done this a million times. The right skill set is important, but that is very dependent on your situation and what you need. I firmly believe that you can teach people almost anything in terms of skills, as long as they are the right people. I think the right people for a PMO need to have a few important characteristics.

A Passion for Project Management: This is hard to find, but easy to detect. If you are doing multiple interviews, you will find this. One way to see it is to get them talking, if they can’t stop talking about PM, they love it. You will need people who are excited about what PM can do for a company. Passionate people are infective and you want everyone on your team to spread the virus of PM and PMOs. Each team member is the PMO every time they say or do anything. You’ve met these people. For a great example, just watch a Discover Channel documentary on some archaeological dig an listen to those archaeologists talk about a piece of rock or a skull. Or watch Antiques Road show when they have a really great find. They shake and can barely hold still enough to talk, and everyone else is thinking – “It’s just a rock for Pete’s sake” – but to them it is something so much more! And somehow to you that rock becomes so much more. That is exactly the type of person you want on your team.

Independence: Your team will often be out on their own, they need to be able to stand up to a lot of resistance and sometimes abuse. Personal independence and strength of character are vital. The last thing you need is a team member going to the customer location and caving in or saying things like “OK, we don’t really need a charter if you don’t want one.” One technique I’ve used to help PMs in the field to help them in situations like this is to have them tell the customer “I have to do a charter, my boss requires it, so if you would help me through this, that would be great.” That’s a less confrontational approach. How to determine if they are independent? I’ll talk about one in the “interview” section later.

An Open and Flexible Mind: Sounds like a yoga thing, but I hope you understand. I have had great PMs who could work independently, but could not get out of a rut. One of the worst situations is where the PM insists on following the letter of the law and not the spirit. Insisting that the customer must have this or that field filled out exactly this way is annoying at best, and it can torpedo your PMO quicker than anything. No one wants to be forced to do trivial work, and believe me, there are tons of customers out there who thing PM is trivial. That is what you are up against, so if your team can not focus on the vision and the goal and find creative alternative routes there, you are in trouble. Using the charter as an example, it is important that the document exist and that it serves it’s purpose, not that the cost benefit section contain an ROI over 5 years calculated using the corporate cost of funds at 6% and future value projections at 7% and so on. NOT TO say that your project should not have some kind of cost/benefit analysis!

A Sense of Humor / Perspective: This is something I always look for in employees. If they can not smile and laugh, frankly I’d rather not work with them. Additionally, I have found that people who do not have a sense of humor take things too seriously and tend to be closed minded. They also have a hard time at self examination, if someone can’t look at themselves and laugh, then they probably have a hard time changing. I hate to say this, but hey – it’s only work and most of us are not involved in life-threatening projects. The person who will pour themselves into their work heart and soul, but still understands that it is just that- work is the kind of person I love to work with. When you find these people keep them!

Four is enough for today - next I’ll talk a little about the interview process which is absolutely vital to finding these right people.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Building Your PMO - 10 PMO Books

Here is a list of 10 PMO (and portfolio management) books that have been recommended by other PMOers. I can't take credit for this; this is a compilation of books that I've collected, some from the PMO SIG, and some from my former PMI local chapter. I encourage any of you to post your thoughts on the books. I'll post my thoughts on the ones I've read too. Just to be clear - I am not personally recommending any of these (yet), but I know how hard it is to find good reference material. My first shot at links, so forgive me if that doesn't work.

J Ross Publishing has some freebies at

Advanced Project Management Office, The By: Parviz F. Rad, Ginger Levin
A comprehensive text that looks at function and implementation and covers the complete project management office in a simple format that is easy to read and understand. The author did an outstanding job focusing on the project management process, including project performance and competency. While many industrial organizations are becoming involved in project management, The Advanced Project Management Office will guide project practitioners into the world of success.

Project Management Office Toolkit, The By: Jolyon Hallows
The Project Management Office Toolkit shows you exactly how to apply project management structures to your company's core function, starting from the ground up. This book includes a CD-ROM containing every essential form you need to successfully complete a project, as well as more than 50 worksheets, templates, charts, and descriptions needed to establish a project office, set standards and organize new information.

Running the Successful Hi-Tech Project Office By: Eduardo Miranda
This is your complete how to book on establishing the Project Office as a methodology for managing multiple development initiatives within your organization. The book presents the PO (Project Office) as a model for use in a wide variety of organizations, especially in R and D environments. As more and more forward-looking firms adopt the project form as their preferred way to organize development work, the need for you to coordinate the use of scarce resources and align initiatives becomes quite..

Project Portfolio Management By: Harvey A. Levine and Max Wideman
Project Portfolio Management is an increasingly hot topic in New Product Development, IT, Pharmaceuticals, R and D and Engineering. Harvey Levine has compiled the first guide to help program managers and managers of project offices sort through their existing projects and create a healthy portfolio of projects that will lead to increased ROI for the organization. Levine answers the following questions:

Project Portfolio Management By: James S. Pennypacker, Lowell Dye, Eds.
Selecting the right projects to work on is critical in gaining a competitive edge in today's marketplace. Learn about portfolio management tools, techniques and methods in this collection of articles from leaders in the field like David Cleland, Robert Cooper, Thomas Saaty, David Frame, Steven Wheelwright and others. Case studies and best practices show you how others successfully manage their portfolios.

Advanced Project Portfolio Management and the PMO By: Gerald I. Kendall, PMP and Steve C. Rollins, PMP
Covers the strategy, tactics, and processes needed for successful project portfolio management. It discusses how the PMO can effectively influence project teams and their team members to consistently seek out delivery acceleration opportunities and/or delivery threats relative to their work, and the overall mission of the project team. It also provides a detailed plan for both strategic planning and a PMO, reviews the most popular EPM tools and provides a way to evaluate PMO implementation using..

Using the Project Management Maturity Model: Strategic Planning for Project Management, 2nd Edition By: Harold Kerzner, Ph.D.
Using the Project Management Maturity Model, Second Edition is the updated edition of Harold Kerzner's renowned book covering his Project Management Maturity Model (PMMM). In this hands-on book, Kerzner offers a unique, industry-validated tool for helping companies of all sizes assess and improve their progress in integrating project management into every part of their organizations. Conveniently organized into two sections, this Second Edition begins with an examination of strategic planning pr...

Project Management : Strategic Design and Implementation by David I. Cleland and Lewis R. Ireland (Hardcover - Jun 10, 2002)

"There is nothing permanent except change," advised Heraclitus of Greece in 513 B.C. Project Management: Strategic Design and Implementation, Fourth Edition, by David I. Cleland and Lewis R. Ireland, provides contemporary evidence that both change and improvement are the natural order of things in project management literature.

The EnterPrize Organization: Organizing Software Projects for Accountability and Success By: Neal Whitten. PMP
Neal Whitten presents a highly practical guide to software project management, using a model that builds on the strengths of functional projectized and matrix organizations, while reducing or eliminating their weaknesses. You will recognize proven and familiar ways to define key roles and responsibilities, while also discovering exciting new organizational ideas for software projects. Throughout the book, Whitten shares lessons that have a profound impact on your ability to draw out project…

The Complete Project Management Office Handbook by Gerard M. Hill (Hardcover - December 18, 2003)

"[I]f a reader wants to implement a PMO at the working level, The Complete Project Management Office Handbook is a thorough description of how to do it. Its well-defined project management continuum and numerous tables and function models provide detailed guidance for anyone, from the novice to the experienced project manager, to determine where they are in the project-management-office continuum and how to achieve their objective…[This book] is a comprehensive resource for creating or growing a PMO." -Journal of Product Innovation Management, 2005

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Marketing your PMO - Field of Dreams v. Drug Dealer Approaches

I think we are all familiar with the Field of Dreams approach which goes: "If you build it they will come." Under this approach, if you build the perfect PMO or the perfect set of forms or the perfect methodology the world will beat a path to your door. Much like the final scene with lines of cars driving into Ray's field, there you will sit in your office with a line of people hungry for PM wisdom, methodologies, your forms that are paragons of efficiency and meaning. And then - hopefully you wake up. Remember, they have done without you are your "bureaucracy" just fine up to now. You may be lucky and you have the support you need to implement a PMO, and some people may actually recognize the benefit, but there are still a bunch of people out there that do not and too many of us will end up in organizations where there is passive resistance and lip service. Not only does it make the job harder, but it could result in a failure and a bad name for the PMO. I am sure there are plenty of you who work in organizations where PMO is a 4-letter word, and probably because someone tried to build one using the Field of Dreams approach and it failed. Worse, they could have been using the “take your medicine” approach where management insists that everyone use PMO methodologies – because it is good for them, and then proceeds to chase the non-conformers around the building with a teaspoon of PMO trying to catch them and make them swallow it. I am sure there is no one model that will work, so PMO builders need all the tools they can get. My favorite is the “drug dealer” approach.

This is a very simple approach. We (us PMO guys) know that there are many benefits to a PMO – I won’t reiterate them, if you don’t know, you might want to do some more reading J. The problem is getting someone else (the right people) to appreciate those benefits. So, your task is to first discover the pain point(s) of those people – your stakeholders. A good person to start with might be your most vocal opponent. Talk to that person – do NOT talk about project management or PMOs, work to find out what bothers them, what causes them pain. It might be that they never know what their projects are doing, and they don’t trust the people who tell them that everything looks good. Obviously, you need to find something that Project Management / PMOs can help them with. Once you have this understanding, you will need to do some work.

Figure out how a PMO and/or project management can help, and then do it. You have to be careful not to interfere, and you need to make sure that ALL the work is done within the PMO, do not cause any impact on the stakeholder or their team(s). I would suggest that some kind of report or information is a good way to go. In my case, we did an impact analysis of the current project load and what would happen if a certain project was added. Whatever it is, it needs to be something useful and here is the catch – the first one is free. Once your stakeholder experiences some of those PMO benefits, they will want more. As you supply the services or information to the stakeholder, the value will become apparent. By creating something of value, you also create something worth paying for. Whether that payment is support or work or budget, once the benefits are clear and experienced, you will find your work much easier.

Hope this helps.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Demonstrating PMO Value - Why Prioritization is Important

OK - everyone hates having to decide which project is more important than which. Frankly, I find that a little disheartening since setting priorities and direction is exactly what we look for in senior management. It seems that some senior managers (not the ones I work with mind you) think that everything is important and that their job is to get you to understand that and just "get it done." - Crap

Some facts:
1. Unless you are working at some idiot factory, there will always, always be more good ideas for projects than there will be people to do them. The day there are more people than projects, you might want to update your resume, because sooner or later management will figure that out.

2. Corollary to fact 1: YOU CAN’T DO THEM ALL – duh. I was in one meeting where I tried to explain this and was told that we would just hire more people if we didn’t have enough, so unless you have an unlimited budget, you probably can’t do all your projects – certainly not at the same time. If you tried to do them all, you would probably still be working on a punch-card to CICS conversion today.

3. SOMEONE IS ALREADY PRIORITIZING PROJECTS. Admit it, when a worker has 20 projects all equally important, what do they do? They do the fun one, the interesting one, the one that their buddy over there wanted, the one their boss wanted, the last one someone asked about….. Not the optimum prioritization method. Now image you have 10 people working simultaneously on 10 projects all equally important. What are the odds that any 2 people are even working on the same project at the same time (I know statistically the odds are good, but you get the point). So everyone works on whatever project until someone with some pull tries to get them all together on the “hot” project. We then drop everything, work that project for a while and the others languor in neglect until one of those becomes hot – this is not a logical prioritization method.

4. Sometimes, less is more, slower is faster…. There was an article that I read in the April 2004 PMI Journal - MANAGING THE IMPACT OF CUSTOMER SUPPORT DISRUPTIONS ON NEW PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS by Robert C. Ash and Dwight E. Smith-Daniels(sorry it's a secure link, but PMI members can get to this) that studied the effects of switching between different work items / projects. Basically, the more you switch, the less you get done and the more time you need to re-familiarize yourself when you pick up where you left off. And the longer you are away the worse it gets. So, let’s face it multi-tasking is great but it has its limits. You can not expect to write 4 books at the same time if you switch after every letter. Maybe it would be better to write one book at a time, maybe 2. The problem is that today (my experience is with IT so I will use that as an example) the average programmer is supporting one or two production systems, has a few minor projects (“back burner”) and one or two major ones. That may be the perfect mix, but if it is, I haven’t seen any evidence of it. The more you switch (past a certain point) the more you loose. So our indecisiveness is expensive.

5. It takes longer to do many things at once than it takes to do many things sequentially (again within limits). Look at the book example. Have you ever decided to clean the kitchen and an hour later you’re in your bathroom picking up dirty clothes? The kitchen is still dirty, the bathroom is not much better, and you’re frustrated because you just can’t seem to make any progress?? Just like work. What would have happened had you just stayed in the kitchen?

So where do these fact lead us. The conclusion is that our current method of not deciding and trying to do everything at once is expensive and inefficient. Now here is my thought – you don’t need to prioritize, just do fewer things. You can try this two ways:
Actually prioritize projects – think “to do” lists. Lots of political work here, but ultimately you want people doing the work that is most beneficial to the company, so getting the whole portfolio thing up and running will be a boon, but it takes a while and it is very difficult. Which leads to my second alternative
Just make a list. As the PMO Director, just make a list of all the projects (if they are all equally important, then it doesn’t matter which is first – right). Publish the list and tell everyone that this is a list of projects in priority order and that if they are working on more than one of these projects, then they should give all their time to the highest until they have completed their work and move down the list. Of course that’s not going to work, but it will point out the need for consensus prioritization. No one will disagree that everyone should be “on the same page” or pulling the oars together, or whatever your teamwork slogan is.