Feb 19, 2014

OCM, The People Side: Leverage the Champions of Change

Posted by Allen Young in Culture & Change Management, Portfolio Management, Project Management Office (PMO), Project Management Research, Project Management Training | 0 Comments

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Continuing to flesh out the areas I’d like to see expanded on in any OCM model, let’s take a look at how the PMO and its people contribute to—or impede—an organization’s “change-ability.”

According to PM Solutions’ own research, the majority of firms already have a PMO of some sort in place, and the early focus on improving project management (PM) maturity and capability is bearing fruit. Yet firms that have basic project management under control often still struggle with managing their portfolio of projects. The most frequent issues we see include balancing project demand with resource capacity, project selection, and project prioritization (committing resources to the most strategically important projects—those that will add the most value to the firm).

PMOs are usually the first to recognize PPM issues—typically because the business keeps adding new projects to the mix while the number of project practitioners remains more or less fixed, and can’t keep up with the demand. The consequences include higher incidences of time and cost overruns, reductions in quality, and staff burnout.

All too often, management, the business and the project practitioners don’t understand the dynamics of PPM. And, unfortunately, companies have been slow to realize that the PMO is the most appropriate owner of the PPM process (In our 2013 PPM research study, just 30% of companies entrust PPM to the PMO, up from 18% a decade ago.) Because of this, just having the PMO as a Change Agent usually isn’t enough, which we’ve learned from previous PPM improvement initiatives.

At one of our newer clients in the chemical industry, we mutually agreed that it would be beneficial to provide at least some high-level education up front, so we scheduled overview sessions with managers from the business and IT sectors of the company. We provided an overview of what PPM’s essential components are as well as defining the value of it. From those overview sessions, we were also able to confirm additional champions of the cause—one of whom had the charter to start leveraging an enterprise-based PPM tool the company had already purchased. The overview sessions helped speed up the interview process with key stakeholders and practitioners, as we wouldn’t have to re-explain basic concepts during the interviews. Since we already had multiple advocates in place, it became easier to implement the first phase of improvements, which included a project portfolio list and a prioritization scoring model, after the PPM assessment was complete.

Everyone is a Target—and a Potential Resistor

One of the outputs from our sponsor assessment is what we call an OCM Chart, which essentially is an organization chart for all areas of the company that will be impacted in some way by whatever we will be changing, with tags on each box designating the individual or role as a sponsor, a change agent, a target—and if known, as a resistor. What we sometimes have to remind ourselves is that everyone is ultimately a target, which also means that anyone could be a resistor—even the authorizing sponsor.

Such was the case with one of our clients in the alcoholic beverage industry. With high and unceasing demand for new products, the company never had the time or luxury of building any PM or PPM structure or processes, relying almost exclusively on “hero” project management tactics to save the day. Despite everyone’s best efforts, however, the company was still missing introductions of new products at trade shows due to project schedule overruns. To reverse this unwanted trend, a senior operations VP—and our authorizing sponsor—agreed to establish a PM Center of Excellence group. At the urging of the Training department, the sponsor agreed to bring us in to help that group establish its initial set of processes and templates, along with some project management training for its practitioners. Our first step was to conduct an assessment of the company’s PM maturity and organizational readiness, followed by creation and rollout of some very basic templates including project initiation, scope statement, project category assignment, and status reporting. We began to encounter resistance as we added recommendations. What we thought was basic, and seemed reasonable to the majority of the project practitioners, was considered too process-laden by the authorizing sponsor, who made it clear that they merely still wanted to incorporate a few key templates at a quick and simple level.

This unwillingness effectively limited their intake of change to only a thimbleful at a time. We subsequently discovered that they had a better appetite for PM training, so decided to emphasize that over consultative changes—a tactic we’ve used successfully before in similar instances. Sometimes you have to show them how it’s done the right way via training examples, and let them come to the realization on their own that they need to incorporate multiple best practices, and not just a half-dozen templates, to improve project performance.

To stay tuned in to the latest research on PMOs and PPM, I invite you to become part of the Research Panel being convened by PM Solutions Research. Just email our editor-in-chief Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin at jcabanisbrewin@pmsolutions.com. And, you can get started today by participating in our State of the PMO 2014 study, online through March 1.


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