Changing the Culture of Your PMO – Bill Stewart

The number one priority for many corporations today is to move to a culture of strategic execution excellence. It is the focus of many business experts and of my book to be released later this spring.   Changing a culture can be a daunting challenge for even the strongest leaders.   But, the correct amount of visible and active leadership, a set of practical and proven project management tools  and experiential-based  project management training provides the culture change necessary to achieve strategic execution excellence.

A Consistent Approach to Planning and Execution: Developing a project management methodology has become “a life’s work”  for many Program Management Offices.  Yet, the universal tools for planning and execution have been developed over and over again for years. In the interest of keeping everyone involved in the development of an internal project management process, we have found that it takes an average of eight months for corporations to roll out PM process. When you consider that for everyday that PM process is not in place is another day that projects suffer, efficiency, productivity and profitability are impacted. The analogy I like to use is of a family watching their house burn down even though they have a fire hose and water. When asked why they haven’t put out the fire, they say that they have not come to a full consensus on the approach that will be used… but next time it catches on fire, they will have a process to put it out. The point here is that implementation should be immediate. Either buy a pre-packaged web-based process and tailor it, or rapidly blend together internal processes, fill gaps and roll it out.

Immersion Training: Rapid change to culture does not take place when project management training is spread over months and years. In fact, the change seldom occurs. A move to a culture of discipline requires immersion training that consists of contiguous days of leadership and PM simulation workshops. This training, tailored to the PM processes of the organization, ensures that students begin to apply the tools, techniques, skills and experiences immediately on their own projects. Imagine that after only 6 days, 20 project managers return to work using an effective and consistent approach to planning and executing projects. And each project manager is in contact with 6 or more team members that are now exposed to these powerful techniques. The culture begins to rapidly change.

Total Commitment of Executive Leadership: Here is the kicker. How does executive leadership get involved? Sadly, many do not have experience as a project manager. Even more of them do not have the references of how a successful project was conducted or how it feels to have participated in that type of success. It may be more painful in their eyes to try to get the organization to be better at execution than to not make the change. This is where painting a
picture of what the organization will look like in one year is critical. Executive workshops that focus on how successful the organization will be with improved execution are important. Without executive support and involvement, many project managers often return to old habits of “winging it”.

Starting with the CEO and working your way down, you must help these leaders recognize how project management delivers their strategic goals and how they as leaders must set the example by asking the tough questions, following up and ultimately supporting the project managers as they tactically deliver the strategy of the organization. “Where the head goes, the tail will follow”.

This three prong approach can be successfully and rapidly implemented and will affect culture change. It takes discipline at all levels to make it happen.
Lead the Way!