I see it every day. Organizations acquiring project management solutions and failing at the implementation. Why? Probably because you know how important project management is, but the rest do not (necessarily). Moreover –and worse-, they might be right.

project management toolOf course, project, program and portfolio management is key. If you run the PMO, it becomes the quintessence of your work.

Alas, realizing the advantages of a well-implemented project management organization requires being in a particular position of the value chain where not everybody is placed. Put yourself in the Team Member’s shoes; would you perceive any value by reporting the time you spent working on tasks? Or, if you were an experienced Project Manager (and chances are that you wouldn’t even know what that means: you just do your job), would you be willing to estimate tasks efforts, foresee expenses, spend time declaring risks or evaluate the Earned Value insights when you positively know what’s going on with your project? Again, probably not. Because your portion of work is just fine as it is.


These are some ideas that may help when it comes to transform your company in a project-driven organization.

  • Think of the “clamp” effect. You need to act top-down and bottom-up in a coordinate way. By just pounding the table (top-down) or kindly ask everyone to get on board (bottom-up) is not enough. You need to go both ways.
  • I know managers afraid of setting the rules when it comes to asking for reporting. They think people may find it counterproductive or useless; they are scared of their own team reactions. If you happen to think like that yourself, how will you convince others? Do not hesitate: set follow-up based on the metrics the organization needs: hours, expenses, progress, risks…you name it. But do not allow anyone to go on his/her own.
  • You do not seem to have that superpower? Go ask someone else to do it. The higher the better. Top managers not only need to ask for the benefits of accurate dashboards, but also to agree with the effort involved in getting to that point. It is not easy, I know. So many directors want results without any sacrifice. My piece of advice: work hard on it before making any movement, otherwise they will not feel involved and afterwards it might be too late. It is not easy to convince a CEO to support an initiative that is already ongoing, is it?
  • PMO professionals frequently feel like the most disliked people in the organization: if they happen to succeed in the previous steps, they will be promoting the top-down pounding on the table + rules + procedures, etc. Very annoying. Here is where bottom-up strategies pop up. Do not underestimate the lower levels of the organization or overestimate the C-Level support. The “clamp” needs to act in a coordinated manner in order to balance pressures. Here are some practices that seem to work quite well:
  1. Give back some of the information you’ve got. If the information is useful for you, it should also be for others.
  2. Facilitate free communication among team members. Vertical communication is fine, but the real world works its own way.
  3. Publicly highlight good performers. Your PM tool should help on this.
  4. Is there a plan? Let people know where they exactly are located on it.
  5. If you know what project management culture is, spread it out. Education is the long-term investment that works best in the future short-term.
  6. There frequently are neat management issues to solve (which you are probably very aware of) but also day-to-day issues that are not so evident. Do your homework. Research on those, ask people what their daily problems are and really get into it. Then, figure out a solution for the most common issues that you can help with. The thing is not just responding to the higher level demands, but also to simplify and add value to the majority.
  7. Try to solve a situation in a particular area that worries your resilient target more than you. Say Project Managers are concerned about team geographical dispersion. Okay, try to solve it with your brand new tool. Or, even better, can you reduce their paperwork? Go ahead, choose you least needed report and kill it.
  8. Do not bite off more than you can chew. Go little by little; first step first, then second, then third. Expecting to transform your organization in a bing-bang way is not a good idea (unless you have no choice). Expectations are everything in frustration management and, really, your tool will not make the difference. The way you implement it will.

I hope it helped! What is your experience on this? Any recurring issue when it comes to setting up a project management culture? How did you solve the difficulties you found?

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