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Meloni Coaching Solutions, Inc. on LinkedIn

Top Management Resource - 2012

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A Tale of Two PMOs

Project Management: A Tale of TwoI recently came across a statistic that states that 50% of all Project Management Offices (PMOs) fail. That seems so high, but when I reflect on my own personal experience in setting up two different PMO’s I can tell you that my experience supports that statistic. One PMO was successful and one PMO was not. Of course two experiences is hardly a solid scientific sampling. Yet it has prompted me to bring you a tale of two PMOs. The first PMO I was involved in had support from the very top. Our Executive Vice President was very much on board with the idea of the PMO. She could see that projects were floundering and she could see that each project was being managed differently and that this was leading to confusion. And so she tasked one of her directors with the creation of a project management office or PMO. In turn he brought in an expert in project management and an expert in PMO organization.  He selected some of the top project managers from the department and brought them into the PMO. Together they conducted research and went to seminars and hired the best consultants. Everything looked good. The Vice President told all of her directors what was happening and how she expected their full support. They all enthusiastically declared that they couldn’t wait for the results. They were all very happy to know there was going to be a group of people who was going to help them run their projects more efficiently. At least that’s what they said in public. Behind the scenes the PMO team was having a different experience with those same executives. It seemed that most of those executives were too busy to meet with them to discuss plans and processes. It seemed that those executives didn’t have any resources available to meet with the members of the PMO. And when members of the PMO invited people to discussion sessions and training on project management methodology nobody showed up. When asked about their participation, every executive denied that they were refusing to participate with the PMO. They blamed schedules and resource constraints and said that the PMO was being unreasonable and so it went back-and-forth with no real progress or solution. Out of desperation the members of the PMO started going to some of the people who were running projects and who were new to running projects. They offered help. They offered mentoring and support. By working directly with those who could benefit immediately with what they had to offer, the PMO began to experience some success. But alas it was too late. The bickering back and forth at the top level and the lack of progress lead to the dissolution of the PMO. The members of the PMO all learned an important lesson. We learned that company culture played such an important part in the success of a PMO. What we experienced was our own company culture. Our culture was nobody ever said no to something in public. Nobody said they wouldn’t do something or support something. They just did not do it. And if someone decided not to do something, nobody not even the Executive Vice President would make them do it. Grassroots was the way in which we experienced some success. By grassroots I mean going directly to the people who are going to use what you’re creating and engaging with them and helping them and having them help create your processes and your methodology. And that leads to the tale of PMO number two. A few years later at the same company a few of us who had worked on that first PMO found ourselves working together in another division. This division had a small PMO and they wanted it to grow. Surprisingly those of us who participated in the first PMO were called upon to help. It was surprising because they knew our previous attempt had not been a success. We were called upon because we had the lessons learned from the other PMO. We knew the company and we knew the culture. And use those lessons learned we did. We really socialized our PMO. We had an open house with games and suggestion boxes and of course fun food. We invited people to planning sessions; we walked around and spoke to all of the executives in informal and formal settings. We asked for their opinion, we asked for their feedback, and we did not announce or create any new policy without the involvement of the majority of the group. Was it a lot of work? You bet. Was it slower? Absolutely. But the time we spent doing this was time well spent. It was part of the plan and part of the process. We didn’t make unrealistic deadlines for the growth of the PMO. We created deadlines that assumed input from all concerned parties. We created drafts expecting people to come and tell us what they hated and what they loved. We assumed an attitude of “We are the PMO how can we help YOU succeed. Did we make everyone happy? Absolutely not. There were definitely some people who still did not trust us or the idea of a PMO and wanted to do things their way. Some of them came around, some did not. But in the end by working within our culture we were able to support projects and bring about positive change. And that was really the point. If you are curious about PMOs and you are looking for ideas on how to move forward with a PMO (and also Project Portfolio Management), check out this free eBook from Keyed In Projects on Why PMOs Fail. There is no reason for you to experience anything but success! Margaret
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Why Not Do Some Weight Lifting?

“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.” – John Holmes
johnHolmesQuoteWhat is your exercise plan this week? Will you take a yoga class or do some Pilates? Have a trainer help you with some weight training? I hope you do have time to take a walk or go to the gym or go for a run. This is not just about reminding you to keep in shape. Yes it is a good idea for you to walk to meetings using the long route, or to take the stairs whenever possible. Both of these are good ideas. Being a leader is about mind, body and spirit. I am asking you to consider another form of heart healthy activity. The type that involves helping others. YOU have the ability to reach your hand out to others and lift them up. It is good for them and it is good for you. The opportunity for you to do this type of lifting is all around you.
  • When a colleague has a career set back or disappointment – lift.
  • When the team works non-stop to meet an impossible deadline – lift.
  • When layoffs or cutbacks are announced – lift.
  • When a favorite colleague leaves the team or the company – lift.
  • When ‘Murphy’s Law’ strikes and everything that can go wrong, goes
  • wrong – lift.
  • When a presentation goes badly or a prototype is rejected – lift.
These are just a few of the scenarios where you can lift people up. Anytime  morale is down, YOU lift people up. Add that to your exercise plan and you will recognize immediate benefits. No special diet or exercise equipment is required. Happy Lifting, Margaret
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Happy International Project Management Day

Being a project manager is not such a big deal. There are only a few things you need to do. All you have to do is:
  • Create a compelling vision out of the potentially vague set of goals that you have been handed
  • Motivate an already over extended team to work even more hours on YOUR project
  • Remind stakeholders that a team allocated 50% cannot complete the project in half the time
  • Stop scope creep while keeping stakeholders happy
  • Constructively manage conflict
  • Squeeze 2 hours of productivity out of every hour your work
  • And be in charge of anything/everything that could possibly somehow be related to your project (even when it isn’t)
All of the above plus leap tall buildings in a single bound. Actually some days you wish all you had to do was leap tall buildings in a single bound. You do all of this and more and YOU do it with a smile. You love the variety, the challenges and the people. You love meeting impossible deadlines and seeing your customers happy.  You love cheering on your team members and you love seeing the sense of accomplishment they feel when solve a difficult problem and meet yet another milestone. Not such a big deal, right? Wrong. But many of you make it look easy because of your skills, your passion for project management and your dedication to your own continuous learning and improvement. Celebrate project management, celebrate your colleagues and celebrate yourself. You have earned it! As long as the celebration is within scope, schedule and budget. :-) Happy International Project Management Day, Margaret
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Stop Asking Why? NO, Start Asking Why!

“Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people.” – Leo Burnett
Stop Asking Why? NO, Start Asking Why!There you are, preparing for your team meeting. You have that one team member who asks questions about almost everything you say. Quite frankly, they make you tired. You find yourself dreading the meeting. You find yourself trying to make sure you have an answer for every potential question that she is going to ask you. Certainly that is very draining. Have you ever stopped to consider why she asks so many questions? Have you had a chance to sit back and look at the situation from 20,000 feet? Is she asking questions to taunt you, to hassle you? Or is she asking questions because they need context? Perhaps she is asking questions out of curiosity. No matter why you think she is asking you questions, you are still going to answer her with good information; in a calm professional manner – after all you are a professional! Before you assume that she is asking you questions to hassle you or because she has to know every single detail before she can do their job, consider the value of their questions. If she really is asking you questions to challenge your authority, Good! Bring it on. This is an opportunity to showcase your leadership skills. To show that you are able to accept being challenged. Answer truthfully what you do know and answer truthfully about what you do not know. Allow other people on the team to help step in and fill any gaps. Typically someone who is challenging you will stop once they are satisfied. If she is asking questions because she needs context, then you want to provide that context because you want her to be able to do her job. If this is disruptive in the middle of the team meeting consider having special time with her to make sure she has what she needs to do her job. Or make sure she has time with another lead so that she understands what she needs to do the job. It is possible that her questions are helping other people in the room who are not speaking up. If she is asking questions out of curiosity, this is great! She is engaged and interested in the project. She might be a good problem solver. Once she asks questions it might set her mind into action. She may come up with different and creative approaches to meet the project objectives. Her questions when handled well will help the rest of the team become creative too. You don’t want to discourage the questions. You want to harness the power of those questions for you and the entire team. And if you’re not sure why someone is asking questions, then you should answer their question with your own question. Asking them about the basis of their questions and letting them know that you’re asking so that you can be the most helpful. Let the questions continue! Peace, Margaret
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It’s About Risk; NO it’s About Communication

project-management-proactive-mindWhen I teach project management and I’m talking about risk management with my class I tell them that project management is risk management. When I talk to them about communication management I tell them that project management is really focused around communications. Of course after I have told them both of these things I have to joke with them about being schizophrenic. I don’t think I am. (Would I know if I were?) The truth is I want everyone to consider walking around with a mindset of thinking, “What could happen?” When your team member tells you they’re going to finish an activity early don’t just thank them and move on, think “What does that mean, what could happen because this piece of work is completed early?” If it’s on the critical path of course it means we have the potential to complete early. If it is not on the critical path you have the opportunity to take that resource and perhaps place them on a critical path activity or have them help someone else who’s having a difficult time. In that way you are practicing risk management because you are recognizing an opportunity. In the same way if a team member approaches you to tell you that it looks like some materials that have been ordered are going to be late you want to think to yourself  “What could happen because these materials are going to be late, what can be done about this?” I really am asking you to develop a proactive mindset. Another way that I say this is when you have a colleague who is managing projects and it looks like her projects always go very smoothly, you might be tempted to think that she always gets the easy projects to manage. That is probably not the case. Your colleague is probably very good at risk management and she walks around with a proactive mindset. She makes it look easy because she has identified and determined responses for many threats and opportunities that her project team will face. Now what does any of this have to do with communications management? What good is a completed risk register if nobody sees it? Not only do you want to walk around with a proactive mindset you also want to add to that phrase, so that the full sentence is, “What could happen and who needs to know about it?” There you are, on a job interview... Your potential future employer looks across at you and asks you what is the most important Body of Knowledge? You can say all of them. But this person is really looking for you to make a decision. Go ahead and start out by saying that the PMBOK Guide has many important processes and that all of them should be considered when running a project. Then narrow your focus and pick just one. If you could only use one Body of Knowledge on your project which one would it be and why? Make a strong case for your Body of Knowledge. Many times the interviewer has a preconceived notion as to what they want you to say. Often someone is looking for you to say either risk management or communications management. You can try to second-guess the interviewer and give the answer you think that they want. Or you can just do an excellent job with your answer. It’s best to just give your answer, that’s where you will be the most convincing and authentic. I still remember an interview where I was asked which Body of Knowledge I thought was the most important. I responded with communications management because I felt that so many projects suffered communication breakdowns. My interviewer listened to me carefully. When I finished he told me that he thought risk management was the most important and he told me why. We talked a little bit more and the interview ended. On the way home I told myself  “Well there’s one job I won’t be getting.” Guess what? I did get the job. I got the job because that particular manager needed someone to balance him out. He needed someone who came with more of a communications perspective, to balance out his more scientific risk-based approach. Now you see why it’s so important to just tell the truth. As much as you may want that job offer, you really don’t want to work someplace where you don’t fit in. Cheers, Margaret
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