Apr 10, 2017

Why Assess PM Maturity?

Posted by Victor L. Allen | 1 Comment

Organizations often think they are better than they are; a PMM assessment provides a good dose of reality.

Editor’s introduction: This week we inaugurate the first in our Expert Series, blogs by writers who have won our respect for their work “in the trenches” of project, program and organizational improvement. Today’s author, Victor Allen, is director of project management for Major Enterprise Projects at DTE Energy, the powerhouse (literally) utility based in Detroit, MI. As a leader in an organization recognized for transforming itself by iteratively implementing process improvements, Vic has decades’ worth of wisdom to share and will share it with our readers over the coming months. Check out his new book at http://pmcompaniontools.com/.

Why would anyone want to measure their project management maturity? Well, it all started for me in 2007, shortly after I had read Project Management Maturity Model by Kent Crawford on a flight from Detroit to San Diego. It was a short and easy read that I found interesting… but little did I realize that I would eventually come to know that book better than I do my wife of 30 years!

In late 2007, I moved from DTE’s Information Technology department to a newly-formed PMO focused on large construction projects and other company strategic initiatives. My new boss cornered me and another manager and said “We need to figure out how mature our PMO is. Which one of you wants to figure out how to do this?” Then he waved around a book - which turned out to be the one that I had read earlier that year.  Needless to say, I was the lucky one to get the assignment.

Among the various models available to measure project management maturity (PMM), some are inexpensive and can be self-administered with little help; others are highly complex and proprietary. In addition to the Project Management Maturity Model by Kent Crawford, there is Harold Kerzner’s PM Maturity Assessment™, OPM3 by PMI, as well as models specific to consulting firms that they administer or sell. The models share many similarities, with more or less emphasis on different areas of project management. What I have found is that the model you choose is both unimportant… and very important. I say this because no matter which model you choose, you will immediately identify dozens and dozens of areas to improve. Addressing any single area for improvement may have a dramatic impact on your organization's performance. Addressing several improvement opportunities may transform your organization from good to great. At the same time, if you align your organization to a particular model, you are committing to a certain way of thinking for what is likely to be a five year (or more) journey. More importantly, you may be teaming up with a particular organization or consulting firm for this same duration.

What I have found over the past decade measuring PMM is that there is a never-ending stream of improvement opportunities. As project management practices change, the model must change with it. Some models focus heavily on the ten knowledge areas of the PMBOK® Guide, while others stray away from that a bit. What they often have in common, however, is that they break down the attributes and behaviors of project management, which goes well beyond the role of just project managers. These attributes and behaviors describe at a general - or sometimes very detailed - level what you should be seeing when you examine project artifacts, what you should be hearing when you interview project teams and what you should be observing in their actions and behaviors. These are placed on a scale from poor to excellent and from there you can prioritize what is most important to your organization and begin your journey. 

Going back to the original question that I asked at the beginning, "Why would anyone want to measure their project management maturity?" There are many reasons. First, it is important to have a baseline of your project management maturity. This baseline allows you to benchmark yourself against others in your company or industry. Often organizations think they are better than they actually are; the baseline provides a good dose of reality. The baseline also allows you to compare over time to see if you are improving or degrading. Degrading? Yes, because even if you have been improving your project management maturity year after year, it is highly possible, even very likely, that you will take a step backwards if you lose your focus or begin to take shortcuts in your project management processes. Once you achieve an acceptable or desired level of maturity, you must maintain it. Project management maturity is a bit like a good marriage, you must keep working at it. For this reason, you should consider measuring it once or twice a year. 

Second, the models used for measurement do a good job uncovering your weak points and provide guidance as to what needs to be done to strengthen them. They also speak to the culture of your organization and the support necessary by your senior management team. This is the greatest value of a PMM model, in my opinion, as it provides a recipe for success. 

Third, the model provides a less subjective and sometimes independent assessment of your organization's maturity, which may lead to changes that might not have happened otherwise. It can be used internally to your department or PMO to dispel what people think vs. what is really occurring. It can be used with senior management to make a case for strengthening project management capability or to showcase existing expertise. It can be used externally with customers to showcase your capability.

If you are serious about improving the project management capability within your organization, the first step is to measure your PMM level to identify and prioritize your gaps. The next step is to develop a plan of attack to close those gaps and assign the necessary resources to that plan. The final step is to execute the plan and then assess yourself again to see if you have made progress. To be successful you will need two things: patience and perseverance. If you have these things, you will be successful.

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1 Comment on Expert Series 1: Why Assess PM Maturity?

Jeff Ray says:

Great Article. Thanks Vic for your leadership and sharing your thoughts and experiences.

Posted on April 21, 2017 at 3:05 pm

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