The holiday gift every PMO wants: unlimited upside!

Written by Stuart Easton

gift of unlimited upside.pngBeing a PMO leader is an honour and a responsibility. But it’s also one of those roles where there’s not often a lot of up-side. When things go well… well, that’s what people expect and nobody notices. When they go badly…

Enough said.

So, this Holiday season, we’re teaming up with Mike Hannan of Fortezza Consulting to bring you, the esteemed PMO leader, a Holiday gift. The gift to end all gifts?

The gift of unlimited upside!

Mike is one of those people who is not only immensely wise and talented, but he is also generous. In this webinar, he shares some of the core capabilities that, time-and-again, he has used to unlock unlimited upside for the PMOs he works with.

What is unlimited PMO upside?

I’m not going to recreate the content of the webinar here – you’ll have to watch it to get that. I will, however, give you a little insight into what unlimited upside means.

The idea here is that, by unlocking the potential of your project organization, you unleash a virtuous cycle of performance improvement, increased motivation and organizational commitment.

In other words, if you are able to deliver projects that add value and do so rapidly and with low risk, your executives will really begin to believe in you. The project teams begin to believe in themselves and they feel empowered, like they are making a difference - a big difference.

Positive results lead to positive attitudes which reinforce positive behaviour across the organization. This allows you to focus on ever-more value-oriented projects and achieve throughput and reliability you never thought possible.

There’s no limit to the upside as the cycle takes hold…

Three pillars of unlimited upside

Again, I’m not going to recreate the whole webinar here, but Mike identified three core capabilities that are the bedrock of unlimited upside. The webinar goes into much more detail and gives not only context but also moments of genuine human warmth… (yes, Mike, I’m thinking of the classic “American does cockney” moment!)

Schedule your projects around your most constrained resources. It’s kind of obvious, but there’s no point having 5 projects all arrive simultaneously on the desk of the one person in the organization with a key skill-set. At best, some of those projects will have to wait. At worst, your expert will start trying to multi-task and will see their productivity nose-dive.

So, schedule your projects so that they deliver work to your most constrained resource with “minimal conflict”.

Interestingly, around a decade ago, researchers discovered that the same principle applies to crowds trying to get through exits in an emergency. By constraining access to the exit, they were able to reduce conflict for the scare resource (the exit) and get people out of the building more quickly. Sounds counter-intuitive, but it works. (As an aside, Mike tells the story of evacuation of Manhattan on 9/11 which has a similar theme.)

Act like an insurance company – aggregate risk. While the first point about constraints makes intuitive sense, this one tends to go against quite a lot of PM orthodoxy. Basically, the idea is to eliminate task-level commitments - and with them, the "responsible sandbagging" that goes hand-in-glove. Instead, empower (and trust) your team to complete the tasks as quickly as they can. Of course, you still need a buffer, but by aggregating the buffer at the project level, you’re acting like an insurance company and “diversifying out” your risk.

The webinar goes into more detail, of course.

Pick projects that add value: Picking the right projects is one of the quickest wins for any PMO. By investing only in projects that add the most value, you will eliminate the rest. This frees your team up to deliver even more of the right projects. Nice!

The effect is even more important than that, however. With ever-faster and more reliable delivery, project value climbs ever-higher, original ROI estimates become more and more trustworthy. Also, because the projects add value, and because good project prioritization process helps make that value visible in a quantifiable way, the team feels like they are achieving something important. This is massively valuable, not only at a human level (we all want to feel that what we do is important), but also at an organizational level.

When people feel their work has value, they work harder and are more effective. They may even be willing to work for less (tho’ I wouldn’t necessarily advocate that!) Don’t believe me? Take a look at this TED article.

The gift that keeps on giving

I’m writing this blog in December. Like many around the world, I’m looking forward to spending time with family and friends over the holidays. I’m also looking forward to the giving (and receiving?) of gifts.

The best gifts, however, are the ones that last a lifetime. Knowledge and the wisdom to use it.

At the risk of sounding cheesy, I hope you enjoy Mike’s gift and that some small part of it stays with you for years to come.

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