My entire career has been based on project management and I personally think that I am absolutely terrible at project management and have not even yet come close to executing a project perfectly. There have been projects that have failed miserably and others where we might have stressed out over details that we thought would ruin a product, but it did not matter and it ended up being a success anyway. I have been fortunate enough to receive promotions and continue to get opportunities to expand my team. Why? If I feel I am not “good” at project management, somebody must think that I am doing something right. I am guessing that I am viewed as being an effective project manager and whatever I seem to be doing is yielding results. So, taking a step back what are the traits that I have learned or put an emphasis on that has made me an effective project manager?
Here’s my top three:
1.) How you “manage up” is just as important how you “manage down.” This goes over the head for some people and it amazes me. If you are indirectly throwing your team under the bus while trying to “manage up” you will never have long term success. You have to know how to play the game politically in both directions.
2.) No job or task is below you and never be afraid to get your hands dirty. This mantra has made my team and I feel like we can take on and accomplish anything, sometimes faster and more cost effectively.
3.) Know the business and the strategic direction, and then take it to a deeper level. The better knowledge and understanding you have on the business the easier it is to make decisions and/or present details on decision points to management. In many cases, we end up knowing/learning the business on new projects better than business managers themselves and it has helped in increasing the overall success of certain projects, reduced timelines as well as mitigate risks.
As I mentioned above and even in these areas I know that I am not perfect, but when I am with my team I always try to point out to them others within the company that are very strong in these areas. Before a meeting, I will say “Really watch how this person commands the room and builds up his group at the same time,” or “There is a VP taking on a menial task for one of his direct reports” so it is more than just me saying it but also giving other examples. Anyway, I am sure there is an entire laundry list of what makes a strong project manager, but these three are the ones I have picked up over the years that I think really stick out. How about you guys?
I wanted to share some lessons learned about how my company integrated a PMO Platform process. The feedback and comments during classroom discussions had a mixed bag of positive or not so positive on having a PMO process, so I wanted to share my experience.
My company, along with eight other companies form a portfolio of brands that are owned by a parent company. Each of the nine total companies have been acquired by the parent company in the last 20+ years, some as recently within the past year. It is truly a global conglomerate with half the brands based in North American (U.S. and Canada) and the other half based in several countries throughout Europe, including the parent company. Seven years ago, the parent company made a change in their strategic direction and went from purely a holding company of the brands to a controlling company and essentially wanted all the sister companies to start to implement similar processes, platforms, systems, business structures across the board. In theory, a new strategy could then be set by the parent company and each of the sister companies had all the right parts and components to implement it versus coming up with nine similar but slightly different strategies catered to each sister company. Overall, the alignment has created some successful platforms (Finance, IT, Operations, to name a few) while other functional areas are still coming along but given the individual uniqueness of the brands and their respective business it is understandable that there are some bumps in the road. Enter the PMO Platform…..
When first introduced was not very well received as many of the sister companies were still navigating their way on the other integrative platform changes. Plus, the original PMO process also did not give the brands any additional resources (headcount) and key people with certain functions were asked to take on the additional duties. The feedback was acted upon and a very much condensed format was later presented. The initial cumbersome requirements and details were streamlined, as well as a consolidation of how the communication process would flow up through senior management at the brand level to management at the parent company. The consolidation and simplification of the communication flow, a single page that has just enough detail/signals that any manager through CEO can easily determine how strategic projects are progressing, was ultimately the secret sauce that got the ball rolling with all the brands.
Wikipedia has a sentence that describes PMO as “A group or department….that strives to standardize and introduce economies of repetition in the execution of projects.” The key word there is standardization and it is not just the execution of projects, but also the standardization of how those projects are communicated. So in my case, can you imagine the types of responses our parent company would receive when they inquired to the brands as to how certain strategic projects were progressing? Do you think the European brands and the North American brands would have presented their updates in the exact same way? Before PMO, it was mess. After PMO, much more standardized. I will admit, I was initially frustrated with the PMO process, but once I got a better understanding of foundational problem of why it was needed I flipped my stance. So anyone that has to deal with a PMO, truly understanding “why” it is being implemented is necessary to understand the benefits of it.