Laura: That’s ultimately what I realized as I was going to these events and I was talking to people and they indicating that they thought it needs to be this certain way, and that’s the only way, or we’ve got to define the types, etc. Once I started seeing all that, and it just didn’t align with the experience I was having when I was successful in organizations as a PMO leader, I really felt this burning need to share that information with everyone. To let people know that there’s a better way. We’ve got to get out of this mindset of survival skills. If a PMO needs survival skills, then the PMO is not delivering business value, period. It was so important to me when I started seeing all of these things online and in sessions where it was just information on how you survive, or how you sell the PMO. I thought, wait a minute, if that’s what people are focused on, where is the conversation around why are we here, what’s the business problem we’re solving, what are the outcomes we’re trying to achieve, the ends that we’re trying to achieve? I felt this burning desire to go change that. I would say you and I are on this mission with a group of our colleagues to just change the perspective of the PMO and help people understand that they don’t need survival skills. They don’t need to sell the PMO, they don’t need to do all of those things. They just need to focus on the outcome they’re trying to achieve, not how many outputs they can create. By the way, guys, value is not determined by the number of outputs you create or the number of pages in your project management plans. Value is determined by the IMPACT you’re making on the organization, how you’re helping the organization achieve ROI. All of that passion and energy, I think you and I share in helping to get the message out there that there’s a better way.
Mark: You use two words that are very fitting for this podcast and that’s passion and energy. As you know, I really have had a lot of passion and energy for the PMO domain. I’ve been at this for nearly 40 years, the first 20 as a stakeholder and then the last 20 as helping others. I’m kind of up there in age, probably a couple of decades older than you, and I’m getting pretty close to that magical line passing the torch. I’ve contributed a great deal, and I’m kind of at a point where there are some very specific niche areas that I am trying to steer my passions and energy towards. If I can say that we went from 75% of PMOs that were struggling 20 years ago to maybe 65% now, I think that there’s going to be a new team of people that are highly passionate and highly energetic, that will drive that 65% down to maybe 33% in the next 10 or 20 years. That’s going to be people like you that are young and vibrant and full of energy and full of passion that have done a lot already and have a lot more to give. There’s a couple of folks that I think are current stars. There’s going to be even more better future stars and you are right at the top of the list. I’m delighted that you’re going to be doing some PMO podcasting and I am confident that with your leadership and a few others like you, that the PMO domain will see further improvement in the next of couple of decades.
Laura: Wow, Mark, thank you so much. It’s just an honor to be able to work with you at all and I’m just so humbled by your words and your kindness. Thank you. There’s a lot of work to do still. If it wasn’t for people like you that had been, I would say carrying a torch, being the evangelist for business-driven PMO, we wouldn’t be where we are. I think that you’ve changed so many mindsets, many more than you probably realize. I know that I really enjoyed listening to your podcast. It’s still out there. It’s called the PMO Podcast. It’s fantastic guys. If you guys want to go listen to Mark’s content and then, of course, we’re going to continue to bring you content with this PMO Strategies Podcast and keep that positive and forward-thinking and business-driven IMPACT-driven focus with PMOs going forward. Mark, I wonder if we could talk a little bit about the session that you’re going to be doing for the Summit?
Mark: Sure, I’d be happy to touch on some of the highlights. Many people advocate that as the formal projects that bring about a change, but it’s oftentimes the informal projects throughout the business that sustain the change. Right off the bat, we have a mindset of as a PMO, whether we are a business transformation PMO or change management PMO or an enterprise PMO, we have our formal projects we’re working on each and every day, great. But there’s a complete set of organizational-wide projects that the PMO doesn’t necessarily need to know about or be involved with, but they exist. And in fact, not only do they exist like I just mentioned, they’re tremendously important and they often they sustain the change, desired behavior of those formal projects. So that’s one premise. Now enter the world of complex adaptive systems, nudge theory, behavioral economics. More than a decade ago, a gentleman economist won the Nobel Prize for his and nudge theory. And the premise of nudge theory is really kind of interesting. The premise of nudge theory is that a nudge influences a choice, but nudges in themselves aren’t mandatory. The person that’s nudged doesn’t have to accept it and there’s no penalty for ignoring it, because nudges are voluntary. But the nudge is intended to make something better, to facilitate a changed behavior for the better. The example I like to give is putting apple slices at eye level in the school cafeteria is a nudge. Banning French fries isn’t a nudge, that’s forced. We don’t change the choice architecture, but we take actions to, in essence, to change the choice and thereby the outcome. This has a tremendous impact. So much so that over a decade ago, David Cameron in the UK, President Obama in the United States, and the Australian government started standing up these behavioral insights teams or behavioral economics teams or “nudge units” for the purposes of saying “we can’t just do a program and expect the world to change. We have to introduce nudges.” Think about how a PMO can help. Think about the business side where these units are existing, they are in essence a PMO. I always worked with PMOS and suggested that in their business case documents, their project charge, project status reports it’s not good enough to show in a vacuum alone the project data points like the project budget. Rather, you should show not only the project budget but what is the stakeholder willingness to spend for that project because it’s really important. If the budget is $1 million and the ultimate benefit is hundreds of million dollars over how many years, what would the stakeholder actually pilot to do the project in the first place? If the stakeholder would be willing to pay $5 million for a project, that only cost $1 million, that’s really good to know and that can set some expectations about how we mitigate risks. Conversely, if the stakeholder only has the ability to pay $1 million on a million-dollar budget, that’s also good to know and that would greatly change the way we mitigate risks. In fact, not knowing that information is almost negligence. It’s almost a gross misconduct. The whole idea of nudge theory comes into play because the answer isn’t to recreate how we do things from scratch, but to root out those practices and behaviors that don’t support the desired change behavior by way of using nudges that bring about the changed behavior.