Transcript: Defining the Right Services
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Welcome to the PMO Strategies Podcast + Blog, where PMO leaders become IMPACT Drivers!
Today we are going to talk about why so many PMO leaders struggle to get engagement with their services and capabilities. We are also talking about which services PMO leaders should be building first. Hint: It’s not what you think, and that’s part of the reason so many PMO leaders struggle to get that engagement, support, and interest even when delivering services the stakeholders asked for.
Are you ready to learn the secrets to ensure that you build exactly the services your stakeholders need and in the right order?
Tune in to in to ensure you are not just successful in the short term but are on a path to a sustainable and high IMPACT.
I’ve watched so many PMO leaders struggle to get the support they need for their PMO. They set up shop and then before they know it, people are using every excuse possible to not use the PMO process. They’ll say it’s too hard or it has too many steps and they’ll find any reason possible why their project does not belong in “your PMO process.”
Well, that’s your first problem right there. If any of this sounds familiar to you, this is where you want to hit the pause button on everything you’re doing and put a new plan in place. Don’t worry, I got your back. I’ll help you through it.
If your stakeholders are calling it your PMO process, then you’re doing it wrong. It’s not your PMO and it’s not your process. As we talked about last week, it’s critical that you assess the organization for IMPACT opportunities and then first build what they want before you build what they need.
Now what does that mean exactly? You see, they’re going to tell you all the things that they want you to do and they want the PMO to do. All too often PMO leaders come in saying they know the medicine the organization needs to take to fix projects. They come in with their templates, their tools and their process that they spend months and months putting in place and then no one comes running. Nothing happens. The PMO leaders are wondering what the heck’s going on?
No one is interested in the services, the process, the templates and the tools you put in place for them because they didn’t ask for it. That’s not what they told you they wanted you to do. And sometimes, and here’s the crazy part, they did ask for it and they’re still not interested.
So why is that? The PMO leaders that are feeling that pain built a PMO for themselves, not for the stakeholders. This is not your PMO, these are not your processes. The things that you think they need are not necessarily the things that they want.
You need to build your stakeholders PMO and when you do, you’ll have no problem getting them to engage in the PMO solutions. That’s right, I call them solutions. We’ll talk a little bit more about what I mean with that in this episode.
So what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to give them what they want before you give them what they need to gain that critical buy-in and support. You will hear them talk about the pain points and their challenges. They’ll talk about the opportunities and where they think the PMO can provide value and they will even talk about the way they believe the PMO should solve that problem.
If stakeholders start asking you to change a process, put a tool in place or add templates, you should be very wary. They don’t necessarily know if the solution they are suggesting will actually fix the problem they have. They might think they know the solution to the problem, but you’ve got to really do your homework to determine if what they think the problem is – is even the problem and then what they think the solution is – is the right solution for that problem.
They may be completely off target there. Sometimes I’ll find PMO leaders saying, but you asked for this process and that’s on us because we really didn’t listen. I mean really listen, we did what they said but what they said and what they really wanted might actually be two different things. Instead of asking them to give you the solutions, which is never a good idea, we have to use the process I talked about last week to assess the organization for IMPACT opportunities and dig deep until we get to the root cause of what they told us and use that to help us figure out what they actually need.
For example, they might say they need a new process because so-and-so is taking so long to get things done. When someone gives you a solution, you always want to pause and dig deeper. Why do they think that they need a new process? Anytime anyone asks you for a new process, you want to have your radar up because anytime you as the PMO start adding a process, adding steps, adding templates, adding tools, adding more things for people to do, you’re going to possibly slow things down and the goal for you as a PMO leader is to help accelerate IMPACT delivery in the organization, accelerate getting to that ROI so if you’re adding new process that could do the opposite.
Discovering the Root Cause of Issues
We’ve got to be very careful when we’re adding new process and make sure it’s actually what’s needed. Sometimes we’ll find that the process they think they need is really just for example, a resource constraint on one of your subject matter experts that has way too many things going on at once.
It might be that what they really need is to stagger their projects so that that critical resource isn’t trying to balance 10 projects at once. A better process for managing projects wouldn’t necessarily solve that problem, because that problem is really at the portfolio level. It’s not that you have that resource assigned to the project and that they’re taking too long on that particular project in isolation. The other scopes not that big, it’s really not that much to do, but they have 10 different project managers hovering over them at their cubicle because all of them are waiting for something to be done at the same time. That is not really a project management problem as much as it is a portfolio management problem and a resource utilization problem. So putting better project management process in place wouldn’t necessarily solve that.
So to get to the root cause when you assess the organization and listen for their pain points, they invariably told you problems and also what they thought about the solutions.
When that happens, just keep asking why until you get to the root cause it might go something like this. We need better project management. Well why? Because our projects are taking too long. Costing too much. Okay. Why? Why do you think that? Because I was told that I would get my project in November and it’s now January. And then you keep asking why and how and who and how much and what you were told and what does the plan look like. And you start asking questions about the planning process and using those why questions about the resources and you can ask things like:
- Is it all projects or just certain projects?
- What do those projects, if it’s certain projects have in common, is that the same project manager?
- Is that the same stakeholder group or functional area?
- Is it the same resources?
Now you’re not doing this to look for who to blame just to find the commonalities, the thread of commonality between those projects.
You might uncover that the plans are all great, but then they fall apart in the detailed requirements stage for example. Okay. And as you dig further, you uncover that subject matter expert that needs to be in these requirements planning sessions is always too busy or doesn’t show up for the meeting. So the meetings keep getting scheduled and rescheduled and they make a little progress. But then even if they get the requirements done, the person that needs to review them doesn’t have any time on their calendar for three weeks… Do you see what happens there? There’s all of this unraveling of a project and the root causes actually the schedule and availability of a subject matter expert who doesn’t understand the IMPACT on the project overall. By pushing out those meetings, there’s a six month project in front of them and they can’t meet for two weeks.
They don’t realize that there’s actually a huge ripple effect if they push out the schedule on their task because they don’t really understand how the whole big picture works. So that might be a communications problem and helping them connect the IMPACT of what they’re doing or what they’re delaying on the overall project.
Let’s say you discover all the projects that have a particular software engineer on them. Get behind in the stage where she does her work and there’s only one of her in the whole department. Go talk to her, talk to her directly, listen for the stories and the pain points and the complaints from the other stakeholders. But go talk to her, she’ll likely be pretty easy to find because she’ll be the one over there in the corner with the coffee cup in front of her eyes. All red and bleary from overwork and her hair will be on fire.
That’s right. It’s bright red because it’s on fire and she won’t even have time to talk to you, but make sure she knows you’re coming to help and not blame her. Take her out for a coffee, feed her, get her to tell you what happens and then you can figure out how to fix the problem. For example, in this case, you’ll likely need to put better portfolio management in place to handle project prioritization, staggering of projects and things like that so that key resources aren’t overloaded and maybe even look at resource reassignments, borrowing people from other places or additional resources to help take the burden off this critical resource that has an unreasonable load on her plate by no fault of her own. That’s the kind of digging we need to do. After we’ve gotten that big picture assessment process done, we need to dig and dig and do more research and ask more questions and do a little bit of investigative work ourselves to make sure that what people expressed is actually the real root cause.
Once we’ve done all our assessment work, we’ve done a large investigative work, we’ve done all our digging. Now we are really defining our services and capabilities and we’re ready to roll right now. We start with templates and tools and process, right?
No, definitely not.
That’s where a lot of PMO leaders make a big mistake, and who can blame them?
They grew up professionally, many of them getting their PMPs or other project management certifications and learning all about how to apply templates, tools and process. They are graded literally on how well they follow best practices and some even mistakenly use the PIM, Bach or other bodies of knowledge and project management as the manual for how to manage projects instead of as a best practice guide to the entire practice of project management. By the way, the PIM, Bach and other resources are meant to cover all the things, but it doesn’t say use all the things all the time for every project.
That’s where our professional skills and experience plays a critical role in ensuring that we right size every project every time and that we don’t have a blanket approach, a one size fits all approach to project management. But I digress.
Start Defining Services
If you aren’t supposed to start with templates, tools and process, what do you do? You start looking at the outcomes you want to achieve. When we stay so focused on the templates, tools and process, we are staying in an outputs focused mindset.
Now I’ve talked a lot about that in the IMPACT PMO leader mindset series. That’s back at the first episodes of this podcast. Definitely check it out if you have not because I go into a lot of the mindset shifts that we have to make as PMO leaders. If we truly want to drive greater IMPACT and help accelerate return on investment for the organization.
And if that is something you don’t think is your job, just stop. Go back and listen to those episodes and come back and join me after you’ve done so because that is absolutely the role of PMO leader. You and the PMO are supposed to accelerate getting the projects to return on investment every single time. If we throw a bunch of outputs at the organization, we’re not going to achieve that goal. Instead of getting caught up in the outputs we want to create, we have to figure out the outcomes we want to achieve.
You see what happens is PMO leaders will get busy creating all the templates, tools and process and all the time while they are doing that, your stakeholders are wondering when their problems are going to get solved and they hear, we’re really busy working on all of these templates over here.
When they’ve heard that about three or four times, they go create and do their own thing and you’ll really struggle to get them back with you and get them back on board. They’re going to be what I call the “just don’t cares.” They’re going to have moved on without you to make matters even worse, which we’ll dive into much deeper in a couple more episodes. When we talk about how to deliver high IMPACT outcomes in the organization.
These PMO leaders that put the templates and tools and process stuff in place, first we’ll start measuring their performance against all the things they are creating. They will say, look at us, we’ve created 23 templates this month and celebrate that and everyone’s looking at them like, “so you can’t use metrics like how many templates you created, which are outputs to define your success.”
Looking busy, being busy is not being high IMPACT busy. It is not helping the organization achieve its goals. Busy is just a hamster on the wheel. Going in circles and getting nowhere busy is actually in my book a four letter word and I’m going to ask you to do something that I’ve started doing this year.
It was a new year’s resolution for me and maybe it can be a new year’s resolution for you for 2020 I’m going to ask you to remove busy from your language completely and it’s a much harder habit to break than you would think, but if you want to be seen as a business leader in your organization, if as someone that can help the organization realize their business strategy, then you’ve got to keep this IMPACT PMO leader mindset front and center. You’ve got to be thinking about outcomes and ROI and transformation and strategy realization and not busy.
Now I’m not saying you’re never going to put templates, tools and process in place. Trust me, I believe in them. I create all kinds of templates and worksheets and guides. In fact, my IMPACT Engine PMO training program for example, that dives deep into all things building and running a PMO has tons of templates and resources, but therefore a purpose there to accelerate achieving a goal. Therefore getting to a solution. They’re not just another box that we’re checking.
Don’t forget that your goal in the organization is that highest possible return on investment for every project. And if you’re busy, you’re not doing that. You want to be an IMPACT driver instead. Okay, so how do you decide what solutions you put in place first? And my recommendation here is simple, but it works. It’s been working for me and my students and my clients for decades. You give them what they want instead of what they need.
When you get to that root cause of the pain they’re experiencing right now, go fix that. Fix that quickly. Be the hero, solve their problem. Then you can use that win to build credibility and trust and talk to them about how to prevent that fire from happening next time. Sometimes we have to be the firefighter before we can be the fire preventer. But don’t forget the goal is still fire prevention in the long term and sometimes we have to be firefighters to help them solve the immediate pain right in front of them that is blinding them and preventing them from even having a good conversation with you about future solutions. Sometimes it’s best, often it’s best to just go fix the burning flames right in front of you. Like our software engineer whose hair was literally on fire, solving her problem would actually have a ripple effect of so many other problems being solved and so many other pain points being addressed simply by solving the fact that she was being pulled in too many directions at once.
If she had 10 projects on her and you solved that pain by either staggering those projects or getting another resource from another area, you could potentially solve 10 projects where the problems in one solution. How’s that for making an IMPACT? So when you think of the services and capabilities the PMOs going to deliver in terms of solutions instead of the process and tools, you ask questions like how might we achieve the outcomes our organization needs to achieve? How might we stop the pain they are experiencing now and how might we accelerate that path to the return on investment for projects and answering that question allows you to map the solutions you’ve come up with to their pain and put them on a roadmap.
4 Step Framework for Making a Case for a PMO
Let’s walk through my four step framework I use for how to make the case for a PMO. Now I have this laid out in a full training program inside the inner circle membership because this is such a critical component to getting that much needed, required support for your PMO and the solutions you want to bring to the table.
1 – Assessment. At this point, you’ve already identified their pain point, their challenge, or their opportunity in the assessment stage. That’s step one of this four step framework. The key is to make sure you always talk about that pain point or the challenge or opportunity in the language they used to describe the problem.
For example, if they say we don’t have a clear picture of the work taking place in the organization, then that’s the pain they identified in their words. You know that’s going to translate to services like project portfolio management, a better communication strategy and maybe even some dashboards and metrics and some reports. Here’s the key. That’s the solution you have in project management speak or in portfolio management speak. That’s not how we want to talk about it with them. All right now let’s keep going.
We have the pain. That was step one. We have the solution which was the portfolio management, communications, dashboards and reporting.
2- Map the pain to the outcome. Express the outcome they will see as a result and put it in terms of the IMPACT that it will have on their lives and on the organization.
3- Increase transparency. Well, what we’re giving them is transparency and with greater transparency, they will be able to have an answer to their pain point, which is “I don’t even know what projects are happening in the organization.” Okay, so that is the outcome. They will see, they will have that.
4- ROI. Then we move to step four, which is talking to them about it in terms of how the world will look different to them when the solution is in place.
For example, in this scenario we can say something like using a straight forward project portfolio management approach, you will have greater transparency that outcome into the project work taking place.
Which one? Sure. That we are working on the highest priority projects, thereby decreasing our expenses and focus on lower priority projects.
So you see what I did there? You see how I used straightforward words. I was helping them understand that even though I was talking about a solution we were going to create for them, I was gonna make it easy, straightforward, simple, low barrier for entry. You don’t want to talk about the solutions you’re going to create in terms of big, heavy, complex and time consuming efforts. You want it to seem simple and easy and frankly you want to make it simple and easy. So using words like straightforward or simple or two step or something that’s indicating that it’s not going to be so hard to engage with, helps them see that the cost to them participating in that solution is worth it because the outcome transparency and the way they want the world to look afterwards, the IMPACT are worth it to them.
You see everybody’s making ROI decisions all day long. We all want to know what our return for our investments going to be and so if we’re talking about this straightforward and simple solution to their pain, which was lack of transparency and we talk about it in terms of the outcome, that additional transparency and what the world will look like to them, the IMPACT, then we’re definitely gonna be able to get their buy in and their support.
In that example, I made it very easy for them to say yes to the solution because I used their words, their pain and gave them both the outcome and the IMPACT they’d see when that solution was in place and the secret there is making it such that they can’t say no. Right? If you want buy in and support and you give them what they want, what they’re asking for and you’re addressing their pain directly, then it’s so super easy for them to say, yes, give me that and instead of them running the other direction, when they see the PMO coming, they’re knocking your door down to be first in line to get that solution.
Okay, you got that. We’ve got the four steps. You hear their pain, the opportunity or the challenge. You do some digging to uncover the root cause so that you can develop the right solution to their challenge. You then express the outcome they’ll see as a result and then you put it in terms of the IMPACT that it will have on their lives, on the organization. As a result of that solution you’re recommending. It’s a no brainer and it makes it super easy for people to say yes and that’s exactly what they want. All right.
Now what do you do? You’ve defined the way you can provide solutions to their pains, challenges, and opportunities. Now we need to prioritize. This allows you to get back in front of your stakeholders and talk to them about these solutions using their words and in this framework that we just went through and get buy in and support for the order you implement these solutions in. Essentially what we’ve done by doing this prioritization is set the PMO direction for now.
It’s going to evolve over time, but you want to really focus your energy of the PMO on those top priority items that they say are the biggest pains they need solved the fastest. This allows you to focus your energy on a set of services or solutions that you know you’ll get support for and that will help you gain that much needed credibility. Remember, we’re still focused on addressing what they want. We’re addressing the hair on fire. We’re addressing the huge pain points that are right there in front of you before we start doing the nicer to have things that we know they really need to prevent those fires first, get the fires out and then use that platform to talk about how might we prevent this in the future. And of course when you do all of that, you’re going to want to continue the conversation with them and make them a part of the solution development instead of telling them what they need because it’s got to come from them.
It’s gotta be their ideas expressed in their words. And that’s the best way to guarantee that what you’re doing is actually going to get the support you need to get it implemented and for them to use it right. Because if they’re not using it, then what’s the point? You’re wasting a whole lot of time that you could be spending on higher valued services. You’ll also want to consider the order of services you create in terms of what you know and who you need to help you do it. For example, you should define what services are going to provide and the governance model you use to guide project management, delivery and IMPACT realization before you develop your talent requirements. Because you’re going to want to know what framework you’re using and how you’re going to operate and what services make the most sense, and then say, okay, now here’s the resources that I need to do that.
Well, often what happens is you’ll come in as a PMO leader and you already have an existing team or they start taking the, what I call leftovers from other parts of the organization. Now, not all organizations do this, but if you just laughed, then you know exactly what I mean. Sometimes in organizations, as a PMO leader, I have been handed this wonderful gift of all of these resources, but they were the only one from their department that the organization was willing to let go of, and that means they probably weren’t a high IMPACT resource in that organization. And that certainly doesn’t always happen, but it can happen. And if it happens to you, you’re going to need to again, pause on evaluating those resources. And first determine the services and the capabilities you want to deliver, how you’re going to provide solutions to the pain and prioritize that list.
And then you can say, okay, here’s the resources we need. Develop your requirements first and then you can map what you have and what you need. And if you were handed resources that really aren’t a good match, they might be great at other things, but they’re not going to be great for what you need. Then that arms you to have a different conversation with HR and your leadership team about these are the solutions that you’ve asked for and here’s the resources I have and the skill sets they have. We have a mismatch. Now, if you’re really lucky, and this has been the case for me, sometimes you get to build your own team or the team you’re handed is a bunch of rock stars. That is the best case scenario and if that happens, you still need to determine your services and the solutions you’re providing, the governance framework you’re gonna use, and then you can define the requirements that make the most sense from a talent perspective. As a result and you still have to do that mapping. And then once you’ve done that, you’ll start looking at defining the templates and tools and process and all that.
Now speaking of the templates, tools and process, you want to make sure that you do the methodology and process stuff first before you define a tool or the templates that you’re going to use. Because if you don’t, you could end up in a situation where you have a tool that really doesn’t fit the way you manage projects in your organization.
You’ve got to make sure that you determine how you want to most efficiently and with the greatest IMPACT get to the outcomes for each project. How are you going to support achieving that big ROI? And then you can say, here’s the best fit tool and templates to accelerate IMPACT delivery and IMPACT realization instead of trying to retrofit a tool that doesn’t really work into a new, more streamlined process.
And finally, you’ll need a mechanism for measuring the IMPACT you’re making on the organization with the solutions that you’ve put in place. That requires a whole episode to talk about measuring PMO IMPACT, so we’ll dig into that more in the future. But for now, just think about once you have your solutions defined, then you can actually measure the IMPACT of those solutions.
I feel so strongly about this that I have entire lessons and other resources dedicated to helping you measure the IMPACT the PMO is making, not just the projects but the IMPACT the PMO is making in the organization inside my IMPACT Engine PMO training program. It’s critical to dive deep on that because that is a spot that many PMO leaders miss. They will measure performance on projects, for example, or even if they get that return on investment thing figured out for the projects, they forget that they need to also evaluate a return on investment for the PMO, right, because the PMO is an investment in the organization and resources in funding, so we’ve got to make sure that these solutions are worth the time and energy and funding investment we’re making in them.
You’ve got to make an IMPACT as a PMO leader and as a PMO as a whole and the solutions better do that. All right. That’s it for this episode.
Next week we’re going to talk about the timeline for this and how to lay out a roadmap that all of your stakeholders can get behind and how you can start delivering these services and capabilities in a streamlined way and in a way that doesn’t have them waiting months and months and months to start seeing and realizing value. Because remember as a PMO, you do not have that long to make an IMPACT and build that credibility. They will find ways to go around you and then we’ll find ways to get that PMO on the chopping block or put that funding elsewhere if they don’t feel like they’re getting the support they need quickly. So we’ll talk next week about how you break down the delivery of the solutions into smaller chunks.
I use 90-day cycles with my students in my IMPACT Engine PMO training program and with my consulting clients. I recommend that we do those 90 day cycles and I’ll explain all about those 90 day cycles in next week’s episode.
If you are like me and completely inpatient, you may want to check out our free masterclass that walks through the entire six step process that I’m going through in these episodes and I’m definitely covering some different stuff in that masterclass. Then what I’m covering here on these podcast episodes, so they’re a great compliment to these episodes. You can register and watch the replay or watch one of the live sessions where I am going to dive deep on the full six steps you need to follow to build and run a high-IMPACT PMO that your business leaders are demanding, they’re craving, they’re telling you that they need. I will help you with my six step process and if you are curious about the IMPACT Engine PMO training program, you can go check it out at IEPMO.com.
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