So, you’ve spent all this time and energy building and putting into place a process for people to follow to help them achieve better project outcomes and now you have some that aren’t complying. What do you do?

First, you must make sure your project management process is usable.

If your process is complicated, hard to follow, or hard to figure out where they fit into it, people won’t use it. Make sure you are keeping it simple and as streamlined as possible. Read more about this here:

The problem with process: Why your projects and PMOs are failing before they ever get off the ground

Fight, Flight or Freeze – Resistance to Implementing PM Practices

Are you owning the process, or are they?

Once you have made sure it’s not the process and it really is a people issue, here are some techniques you can use:

Make sure they know HOW to comply.

Do your homework to understand the reasons for non-compliance before raising a red flag to others.

  1. If it’s a knowledge issue, get them the right/right-sized training/coaching.
  2. If it’s a motivation issue, find out their WIIFM (what’s in it for me) and tie their success to the overall goals that matter to them and their organization. For example, if getting a promotion is on their radar or getting that key assignment, show them how a win on this project will help them get recognition. If that’s something you can help with (such as making sure their successful project is recognized), then offer that support.
  3. If it’s a misunderstanding of their role, clarify that WITH them so that you can agree to what they must do.
  4. If it’s laziness, you can try appealing to their sense of responsibility to the community or the stakeholders on the project by showing them the impact of their lack of participation.

In any of the above instances, they won’t pay attention unless you have some specific metrics you can point to and impacts you can clearly articulate. Be prepared with facts, not finger pointing or emotion.

If the above doesn’t work, then it’s time to start looking at who else can help you…

Do you have an engaged and supportive sponsor that cares whether this process is being followed? If so, engage them and tell them about your concerns about noncompliance. This can often be the PMO leader that established the process, the PMO’s sponsor, your leadership team, or the leader/boss in the area where the non-compliance is taking place. Here’s how to have that conversation:

  1. Make sure that you can clearly articulate the impact of the non-compliance. That can range from pointing out how it’s impacting other stakeholders because they don’t know what’s going on with the project, or when and how they are supposed to engage, the project isn’t meeting the timeline or scope, quality is suffering, etc.
  2. Show them how it’s impacting the morale of other PMs that are complying because they feel like it’s not “one team, one fight” with the non-compliant person.
  3. Be clear about what you have done to help this person back so that they see you have tried several options before coming to them.
  4. Make sure you are keeping this conversation objective and about the impacts that are being caused by the behavior, not an attack on the person.

Then it’s time to get a little more public.

After you have given the above options time to work, you can try a more open approach. Bring the issue to a more public forum via the PMO leader or portfolio manager. Let’s assume this is the role you are in.

In your regular PMO/PPM meetings, let the group know that you will be going through a routine audit to make sure that everyone has all the support they need to effectively use the process. Let them know both a timeline to give them time to prepare (and comply), as well as exactly what metrics are going to be used to ensure compliance.

I would highly recommend that this list of measurements be very straightforward and simple. The more complicated, the more it will feel like this audit is becoming “the work” and people (especially those that don’t want to comply) will complain and draw attention to the intensity of the audit as a distraction technique.

Then, you need to give them some time to comply with these standards, making sure that any opportunities for training/coaching/support are provided. Once that time for compliance has been satisfied, bring the group together and review where each project stands. Your goal for this session is to gain commitment and support from leadership on compliance or put the leadership team in a position where they must approve any non-compliance.

That’s right…there might be a reason why certain projects wouldn’t have to comply. You may not like their reasons, but at the end of the day, the leadership team needs to make an active decision to either get the non-compliant project back on track or take responsibility for non-compliance. The goal here is to get to the source of the problem and get to a decision so we can cut back on the drama being caused by angst, frustration, etc. Then we can all get back to Getting. It. Done.

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