3 Reasons Your EPMO is Failing

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Where are we goingI am going to play psychic, and tell you in advance that the answers to the following three questions for your EPMO are “no.” Here goes:

  1. Do you have specific goals for your EPMO that tie to the EPMO vision?

  2. Do you have a target for each EPMO goal?

  3. Have you implemented an approach to measure your progress toward each target?

How’d I do?  If you are like most PM groups, your honest answer to these questions is no.  At best, I guess your answer is, “sort of.”

Sort of is the same as no.  You either can or you can’t.  If you can’t, then how do you know if your EPMO is being successful?  How do you show the executive team how valuable you are to the enterprise?  How do you justify the continued existence of the EPMO?

If you can’t answer those three questions with a “yes,” then your EPMO is failing.  You may be doing good things, but if you can’t prove it, then in the world of senior leadership, you are failing.

You don’t want to fail.  You don’t have to fail.  What you need is the ability to answer these three questions with a definite yes.

If you can’t answer those three questions with a “yes,” then your EPMO is failing.  You may be doing good things, but if you can’t prove it, then in the world of senior leadership, you are failing.

First, What Not to Do

First let’s start with how not to approach these three things:  The leader of the EPMO should not do this alone and then tell the team the answers.

The entire EPMO needs to develop this together.  That way the entire team has ownership of the goals, the targets, and how they will be measured.  Without this involvement and ownership, the team really won’t care all that much if they hit the targets or not, as they didn’t have any say in what was developed.

Second, Here is What You Should Do

Facilitate a brainstorming session with the entire EPMO.  Gather every idea of possible goals for the team that tie back to the vision (reference my March 22 post for how to develop the EPMO vision).  Work with the team and all of the ideas generated to settle on just a few goals that make sense.  Three to five goals are best.  Too many and you will spend all of your time just trying to track them all, and you won’t be focused on just a few critical items for success.

My EPMO is a brand-new EPMO with a vision statement of:  “The Enterprise Project Management Office (EPMO) strives to accomplish the goals of our customers by delivering projects and change through our unbiased, collaborative and innovative deeds.”  Given this, we decided on these goals:

  • Number of projects requesting EPMO involvement
  • Number of projects requested that are not IT projects
  • Satisfied customers

What your team chooses will be different than what we chose.  These three made sense for where our team is – your team will have different answers.  The important things are that the team determines this together and that it ties directly back to your vision statement.

Once we decided that we would use these three goals, we then worked together to decide what our target would be for each goal and how we would track each goal.  It is important to ensure that you can track things without too much administrative overhead, otherwise you won’t keep-up with measuring everything.

We determined the number of projects and the number of non-IT projects that would be a good goal for us.  We set numbers that were higher than 2014, but not so high that we wouldn’t be able to hit them.  We can easily track these two numbers using our project intake process.

The third measure of “satisfied customers” was a bit more difficult for us to determine.  We first thought about a short survey sent at the end of a project to the project sponsor asking three questions about how satisfied they were.  But we discarded that as we researched possibilities and found the Net Promoter Score SM.

Although there are pros and cons to using NPS ®, we decided that at the end of each project, I would send a simple email to the project sponsor and ask the one NPS question.  That question is:  How likely is it that you would recommend our service to a colleague? (on a 0 to 10 scale where 0 is “not all likely” and 10 is “extremely likely”).

Note that there is a specific way to count the responses to the NPS question.  If NPS is new to you, there is a lot of information available on it.  Google the term and you can learn all about it.

Summary

By having one facilitated session to brainstorm on goals, and then by taking some time from each of our weekly team meetings for a few weeks, we were able to determine our goals, set our targets, and determine how to measure our goals – and it only took us a bit over a month to do all of these things.

The great thing is that by doing this as a team, we all worked together and agreed together on all of this.  As a result, the entire team has ownership of these goals, targets, and measures.  The entire team is excited to see us hit and exceed our goals.

On top of all of that, we now have goals and targets that we can share with the executive team to show them how much of an impact we are having on the enterprise, and how extremely satisfied our customers are with our work.

We are not failing.  We are succeeding.  We can now show the executive team that we are successful and impactful to the entire enterprise.

You should be able to do the same.  If you can’t get started on it now.  If you can’t show leadership that your EPMO is successful and impactful, they may decide on their own that you aren’t.  So you give them the positive answer.  Give them the proof.

Then your EPMO won’t fail – your EPMO will be a success.

You will be irreplaceable.

Net Promoter, NPS, and the NPS-related emoticons are registered service marks, and Net Promoter Score and Net Promoter System are service marks, of Bain & Company, Inc., Satmetrix Systems, Inc. and Fred Reichheld
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Your EPMO is Ugly

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This wayAsk everyone in your EPMO where the EPMO is headed, and you likely will get a different answer from each person.  Ask everyone how they know if the EPMO is getting better, and they likely will struggle for an answer.  Ask them what the EPMO wants to be in the future, and they probably assume it will pretty much be like it is now.

So let’s review…

There is no agreement on where your EPMO is headed, you have no idea if the EPMO is getting better, and you don’t have any view of what the EPMO should be in the future.

Not a pretty picture, is it?  Actually kind of ugly, don’t you think?

You know why your picture is ugly?

Because your EPMO doesn’t have a clear vision of the future.

What You’ll Need to Fix This

To solve this problem, you need five things:

  1. Involvement of the entire EPMO in development of the answer
  2. A detailed vision statement
  3. Goals to determine if you are accomplishing your vision
  4. Targets for each goal
  5. A way to measure each goal

In today’s post, we will cover the first two items from the list above.  The other three will be addressed in a future post.

Note that the info below is a specific process on how to accomplish this.  If you are interested in the details on how to create a clear vision for your team, read on…

How to Do It

  1. Involvement of the entire EPMO in development of the answer

To be successful with this, the entire EPMO has to develop the answer.  The leader of the EPMO cannot just do this and tell the rest of the team what it is.

Through the process of creating the five items listed above, the team joins-in on the idea of what the EPMO can be, they agree on the targets for what they can do together, and they begin to believe that as a team they can achieve the vision.

So everyone in the EPMO has to be involved in this.  If you fail to accomplish #1, you will always fall well short of what you could have achieved.

If you fail to involve the entire EPMO in the development of the vision statement, you will always fall well short of what you could have achieved.

  1. A detailed vision statement

You can begin to draft your vision statement in a 90-minute working session with the entire EPMO.  In that session, do these things:

  • Share guidelines of good vision statements. Then review and discuss examples of vision statements.  What does the team like and what don’t they like about the examples?
  • Break the team into two groups. Give each group a flip-chart and have them write down their answers to this question:
    • “It is 5 years from today, and it is widely accepted throughout the enterprise that our EPMO has been extremely successful. Describe what it looks like.  What is happening that makes the EPMO so successful?”
    • After 15 minutes have each team present their answers.
    • Compare and contrast where the two teams are the same and where they are different.
    • Discuss together the items on both lists that are the most important. Come up with 4 – 6 that are the most significant for the EPMO to be successful.
  • Have the two teams break-out again, and give the teams 20 minutes to write a vision statement, incorporating the 4 – 6 items identified above.
    • After the 20 minutes, have each team present what they have written.
  • Discuss the similarities and differences between the two different statements (Note: You will be surprised how similar the two statements are!).
  • Finally, get one volunteer from each of the two teams. Ask the two volunteers to get together over the next few days, and write one vision statement that incorporates the ideas of both teams.

At your next EPMO team meeting, spend some time reviewing the statement that the two volunteers developed.  With some discussion (and possibly some minor tweaking) the team should easily be able to agree on the final version.

Once the final version is written, get one more volunteer (it can be the EPMO leader) to take each phrase of the vision, and write a sentence explaining what each phrase means.  Since the entire team has been working together on this vision statement, and everyone knows why certain phrases were selected, anyone on the team should be able to create a good first draft of this.

Within a few days, the volunteer should have their sentences written.  Email the sentences to the entire EPMO team for review.  Then at the next EPMO team meeting, go through the statements together and finalize them.

Don’t skip writing the detailed statements that further define the vision statement.  Without these, the EPMO, and anyone else that sees your vision statement may interpret the vision differently than what you intend.  Defining each phrase in the vision statement clarifies the meaning and ensures alignment.  It also helps, over time, to remind the EPMO team of the details of what the vision statement means.

Note that you completed all of this work with just one 90-minute session, and parts of two of your EPMO team meetings.  Pretty amazing what you can do when you try, isn’t it?

What You Get

To illustrate what this looks like when you have completed the steps above, here is what my EPMO came-up with:

Vision Statement:

“The Enterprise Project Management Office (EPMO) strives to accomplish the goals of our customers by delivering projects and change through our unbiased, collaborative and innovative deeds.”

Key Point Descriptions:

  • “Accomplish the goals of our customers” means that we are focused on our customers and committed to assisting in their ultimate success.
  • “Delivering projects and change” means that we are driven to complete important work that positively impacts our customers and the University.
  • “Unbiased” means that we are a neutral team – our only agenda is finding the best solution for all.
  • “Collaborative” means that we lead and facilitate work across multiple groups to ensure that all parties are heard, valued, and work together effectively.
  • “Innovative” means that we help find answers when they are not apparent – that we promote new and original ideas to benefit our customers.
  • “Deeds” means action, completed work and on occasion, some great feats!

What your team comes up with doesn’t have to look like what our team developed, but it should have a clear vision statement, descriptions of each key point in the vision, and involve the entire team in developing the vision.

Conclusion

If your team doesn’t have a clear vision of where they are headed, and if they don’t have the same idea of what is important, the impact your team will have on the enterprise is limited.    If you desire to have a significant impact, you need the entire EPMO pulling in the same direction.  A clear and agreed upon vision is a great start!

Once you have the vision defined, then you can move on to the next three things you need:

  • Goals to determine if you are accomplishing your vision
  • Targets for each goal
  • A way to measure each goal

More on those three things in a future post.

In the meantime, get started on your vision now.  Involve the entire team.  Have discussion.  Think together.  Plan together.

This is easier, and much more fun than you might think.  You’ll be surprised by the results.

But you’ll never know until you start.  So get started now.

You Should Know This, But You Don’t

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Climbing UpHow many different places have you worked in the last ten years?  One?  Two?  Maybe three?

This means that most of your recent experience is based on working at only a couple of places.

Yet you would probably say you know a lot about your area of expertise.  But think about this – you are basing your conclusion that you know what you are doing on just a couple of personal experiences.  What if you had worked in places other than the ones you have – in that case, what you now know and do would be different.

And if that were the case, maybe you’d be even better at what you do.

Of course since you can’t work everywhere, your experiences will be limited.  So what are you doing to learn about what others are doing?  Reading books?  Reading blogs and magazines?  Going to seminars and classes?  Those are good things – but, you are still missing one key piece.

If you truly want to develop expertise in your field what is one more key thing that you can do?

The answer…

Talk to others.

You have to engage in conversation with others that do similar work as you to learn what they are doing.  How are things done at their company?  What ideas do they have that you haven’t thought of?  What is part of their practice that you should make part of yours?

How do you do this?  Two ways:

  1. Use your network to engage people in conversation
  2. Start/join a group of people in your field

How to do it

Here are ideas on both of these two ways:

  • Use your network: LinkedIn is a source of people you should be speaking with.  Look at your network specifically for people that hire/use the type of work that you do.  Develop a few questions to ask these people. Normally they will be executives.  Focus the questions on things you want to know more about.  Develop questions to learn about why they like and don’t like to use people that do the type of work that you do – where do they find value and what don’t they value.  This will help you learn to do more of the things that make you more valuable to executives.
  • Start/join a group: From the network of people that you know, find some that have jobs similar to yours, that you would like to be in regular conversation with.  Then invite them to meet together regularly to discuss topics that are of value to everyone in the group.

The beauty of doing this is that you are expanding your experiences.  Rather than just learning from the few places you have worked, you are now learning from your few places, plus the few places of everyone else you speak with.  With only a few people from each of the groups listed above you now can learn from the experiences of 30, 40, or more, different work environments.

Learning from the best ideas from 30 – 40 places will absolutely make you better at your job than just learning from the two or three that you have experienced.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?  Now you are wondering why you haven’t done this before.

Well, stop wasting time, and start doing it now.

Learning from the best ideas from 30 – 40 places will absolutely make you better at your job than just learning from the two or three that you have experienced.

The details

Here are two examples from my efforts in this area to gain more EPMO knowledge/experiences:

  • Use your network: I identified a large number of executives from my LinkedIn connections that I wanted to contact.  I then started individually emailing them, telling them I am interested in learning more about how executives view the successes and failures of EPMOs, and asking if they would give me few minutes so that they can provide me feedback/coaching.  As they accepted my invitations I then either set-up in-person meetings (for the local ones) or phone calls, to ask them a few questions.  Typically these are 20-30 minutes sessions.  Every time I have one of these meetings, I get one or two new ideas from an executive that I find very helpful.  My questions for the executives also change over time, as I find new things I want to explore with them.  And – the last thing I always ask them is who else I should speak with to learn more – either someone by name, or someone by position, that they think would be helpful to me.
  • Start/join a group: I realized that in the Kansas City area, I know five other people that lead project management teams.  So I contacted each one of them and asked if they would be interested in meeting with other people that lead similar groups so that we can share and learn together.  Everyone accepted.  We now meet every other month for 90 minutes.  Each session has a particular topic where we come prepared to share best practices, questions, experiences, etc.  We also add other project management leaders to our group from time to time – thereby expanding our experiences even further.

The benefits

Doing these two things is one of the best learning experiences I have ever had.

Getting outside of my own experiences, and allowing others to share with me what they have learned and experienced in my field has been outstanding.  My perspective has now changed from just the few places I have worked to now be the collective input from all of the places represented by the executives and project management leaders that I speak with.  I could never gain this experience on my own.  I don’t have time or opportunity to work at 40 or 50 different places.  But my contacts have.  And they are happy to share.

I just had to ask.

And you can ask too – and expand your own experiences.  Expand your knowledge.  Become even better in your area of expertise.

Look at your network right now.  Identify who you will contact.  And do it.  Now.

Don’t Be This Person

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Be PreparedI know this has happened to you:  You go to a meeting and someone presents a topic to the team.  They may even have a PowerPoint presentation or a Word document.  But as they go through their material, they start saying things like, “I haven’t really finished all of this yet” or, “I didn’t have a chance to completely put this together.”

You also notice that there are formatting issues – bullet points don’t line-up, some pages have very little on them, some typos, etc.

Or maybe they started the meeting by saying, “I really haven’t had a chance to think through exactly what we are going to do today.  Let’s see, where should we start?”

Okay, after these type of things happen in a meeting, it gives me two questions for you:

  1. How confident are you in the information that was just shared in the meeting?
  2. What do you think of the person that presented the information?

Here are the answers to those two questions:

  1. You don’t fully trust the information
  2. You don’t think very highly of the person

Have you ever presented information like this?  Ever gone to a meeting unprepared?  Ever led a session you weren’t ready for?  If you have, then you are the person described above.

Don’t be this person.

Think about it.  When you are this person, your information isn’t trusted, and people aren’t thinking good things about you.

Why have you been this person?  Two reasons.

  1. You weren’t organized
  2. You weren’t prepared

When you are this person, your information isn’t trusted, and people aren’t thinking good things about you.  Why have you been this person?  Two reasons: You weren’t organized.  You weren’t prepared.

The answer…

Be organized.  Be prepared.

What happens when you are organized and prepared?

People perceive that you know what you are talking about.  People believe you are good at your job.  People trust the information that you present.

Those are all really good things.  You want people to think all of those things.  So how do you accomplish that?

Be organized.  Be prepared.

Okay great, but what does that mean?

Spend the time to be ready for a meeting.  Never present something you haven’t finished.  Never lead a meeting you haven’t planned in advance.  Clean-up your materials – no typos, bullets line-up, same fonts, matching point sizes, etc.

I know you are busy and you have a lot going on.  Maybe you need to work extra hours to get ready.  The people in the meeting don’t have to know that you were working until 2 am to complete the information.  As far as they know, you were at the meeting and you were organized and you were prepared.

What happens next?

When you are always organized and prepared, everyone gets used to that from you.  They know that when you work on something, it goes well.

Do you know what happens then?

They accept what you say.  They believe you are correct.  They believe you know the answers.

They like working with you.  They are happy when you are on a team with them.  They like it when you lead a project or meeting.

They think highly of you.  They trust you.  They believe your information.

Why?

Because you were organized and prepared.

Unbelievable.  All of those good things are coming your way simply because you were organized and prepared.

Always be organized and prepared.

It really isn’t that hard.  Just spend a bit more time.  Work a little more.  Get yourself organized.  Get yourself prepared.

Whether you are meeting with your boss, with customers, with a project team, or just sharing information with co-workers in a team meeting – you have to be organized and prepared.

Always be the organized and prepared one.  That’s the person you want to be.

10 Questions to Ask Your EPMO Customers

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A better placeAre your customers thrilled with the performance of your EPMO?  Or do they hate the EPMO?  Are they lukewarm – take it or leave it?

Do you know how they feel?  How do you know their thoughts?

Maybe you don’t really know at all.

Additionally, do you have any idea of ways that your customers think the EPMO can improve?

I have two pretty good guesses for you:

  1. You don’t know how your customers feel about your EPMO
  2. You don’t know ways that your customers want you to improve

You really, really need to know those two things.

Not a good place to be for you or your EPMO.

So change it.

The answer…

You need to survey your customers after projects.  You may do post-project reviews, but I am not talking about that.  I am talking about a confidential survey sent-out by the leader of the EPMO to the members of the project team that worked with the project manager.  Ask for the project team members candid feedback.

In this survey, the project team will give the EPMO leader direct feedback that will never show-up in a post-project review.  And this feedback will tell you two things:

  1. How your customers feel about your EPMO
  2. Ways that your customers want you to improve

The exact two things that you don’t know now.

You don’t know how your customers feel about your EPMO.  You don’t know ways that your customers want you to improve.  You really, really need to know those two things.

How to get started

After a project, sit down with the project manager and identify team members that were involved in the project that will be surveyed.  Stick with team members that were involved enough in the project that they can give good feedback.  Someone that only contributed a very small amount to the project and wasn’t very involved can be left-out of the survey.

Since this was likely a cross-functional project, team members to be surveyed can be from all across the company.  You may have people from Marketing, HR, IT, Operations, etc. that all need to be surveyed.  And in some cases, people external to the company may also need to be surveyed.

Once you have decided on who to survey, you need to determine what to ask them.  I have a base survey that I use.  It can be modified as needed for a specific project, but my base survey is just 10 questions.

The 10 questions to ask your customers

For the first 6 questions, I ask for one of five responses:

  • Strongly agree
  • Inclined to agree
  • Neither agree nor disagree
  • Inclined to disagree
  • Strongly disagree

Here are my 10 base questions:

  1. (PM name) was always organized and prepared
  2. (PM name) worked well with all team members
  3. (PM name) did a good job of keeping the team aware of the project schedule and status
  4. (PM name) tracked issues and action items effectively
  5. (PM name) showed the proper amount of urgency in moving the project forward
  6. (PM name) was effective at helping the team identify solutions
  7. What are the greatest strengths that you saw demonstrated by (PM name) on this project?
  8. What are the greatest improvement needs for (PM name) based on your experiences on this project?
  9. I would like to work with (PM name) on a future project (yes/no)
  10. What additional comments would you like to share about your experiences with (PM name)?

Note that question #9 is just a simple yes/no.  In a survey I always like one thumbs-up/thumbs-down question.  That way, even if the person taking the survey has improvement needs for the PM, I still want to know if they were dissatisfied enough that they would never want to work with this person again.

Sending the survey

If you have an on-line tool available for the survey (I like SharePoint) use that.  But if you don’t, you can send each person a spreadsheet and have them take the survey that way.

In the email that I send to the project team members that will take the survey, I always include a paragraph something like this:

To make you feel comfortable in providing your candid and honest feedback, I want you to know that no one other than me will see your survey responses.  This survey is going out to a number of people that worked with (PM name) on (project name) – but I will use the feedback to provide (PM name) with an overall view of the feedback, and not to share individual responses with (PM name).

Survey Results

You will be amazed at the honest feedback you will get with this survey.  Hopefully much of it is positive, but what you are most interested in are ways to help the PM improve.

When I look at the survey results, I am looking for trends.  When only one or two people mention something I don’t give that the same weight as when a large number of the respondents say something similar.  So you will have to use your judgment to determine what is valid feedback to provide the PM.

And please provide this feedback to the PM as soon as you can.  The PM is always a bit antsy knowing that feedback on them is being collected, so let them know the results as soon as possible.

The end result

Surveys let you know how your customers feel about the EPMO.  They also let you know how to improve.  They provide you with more information to evaluate the performance of the PMs, and they help your team members develop into even stronger project managers.

And when handing our recognition at the end of the project, the survey responses often have great ideas that you can use to highlight the strengths of the PM on a project.

Just 10 questions.  10 questions that will open your eyes.  10 questions that will improve your EPMO.  10 questions that will tell you how your customers view your EPMO.

So what project do you have in progress right now that you can survey when it completes?  Find one and get started.  Ask the 10 questions.  Learn.  Improve.

Become an EPMO that your customers can’t live without.

Be irreplaceable.

You Don’t Know Squat About Your EPMO

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We Make It BetterOn projects, you no doubt develop a charter document – and in the charter, you define the scope of the project.

Why haven’t you done that for your EPMO?

Kind of ironic that you haven’t, don’t you think?

Without defining what is in-scope and what is out-of-scope for your EPMO, how do you know if a project is something that your EPMO should do?  How do you explain your reasons for accepting (or not accepting) a project request – if you have not defined the scope of your organization, decisions about which projects to take become subjective and very difficult to defend.

Just like for a project, you have to define the scope of your EPMO or you will be dragged into things that will derail your ability to be successful.  Your effectiveness will decline, your focus will be diluted, and your results will suffer.

The answer…

Create a scope document for your EPMO.  Your document should include at least five things:

  1. An intro paragraph about your EPMO that includes the roles within the EPMO
  2. A list of what is in-scope for your EPMO
  3. Examples of activities that are performed by your EPMO
  4. A list of what is out-of scope for your EPMO
  5. A tag line, which in just a few words, conveys what your EPMO does for the enterprise

How to do it

Actually, let’s start with what not to do:  Do not sit down and write the EPMO scope by yourself.

Involve the entire EPMO in the creation of the scope document.  This is a great opportunity to have everyone think though this together.  Facilitate a conversation about what exactly is it that the EPMO provides for the organization.  What doesn’t your EPMO do?  What types of work do you do and not do?

You won’t figure all of this out in one session.  It will take a number of conversations to determine this, but in the end, your entire team will be in agreement (and have a deep understanding) of what the EPMO provides to the enterprise.

And here is the most powerful thing you can do with your scope:  Don’t create a scope that just covers the easy stuff (e.g., managing projects).  Write your scope so that your EPMO takes on high-value activities.  Improve processes, consult with your clients on solutions, help analyze problems and figure-out answers when the answers aren’t apparent.

Anybody can create an EPMO that just leads projects.  Don’t be average like everybody else – be better.  Be much better.  Be different.  Be bold.  Be irreplaceable.

After you have documented your in-scope items, your EPMO activities, and your out-of scope items, then think about a tag line.  Look at everything you offer, and decide how to sum it up.  What do you offer?  What do you do?  How do you easily explain it?

Anybody can create an EPMO that just leads projects.  Don’t be average like everybody else – be better.  Be much better.  Be different.  Be bold.  Be irreplaceable.

In my EPMO, we decided to use the tag line, “We make things better.”

Once you have documented all of this (It should all fit on one-page), review it with the executive of the organization under which the EPMO falls.  Get their buy-in and agreement on what the EPMO does and does not do.  Help them understand why a focus on the things you have documented are the most powerful ways to utilize the EPMO.

Then use your documented one-pager all around the enterprise.  Make copies of it and then when you meet with executives around the enterprise, help them understand what the EPMO does – discuss your scope with them, and give them a copy.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?  And now that you think about it, you are surprised you haven’t done it before.

Set a date 30 days from now when you will have this complete.  Now go do it.

The tag line speech 

A beautiful way to utilize your tag line goes like this…

You meet someone from your company, and they ask what you do.  If you start with, “Well, I work in the Enterprise Project Management Office….” Before you even finish that opening, they are already bored, and to top it off, they don’t understand a word of what you just said.

What if you led with your tagline instead?

Here is what I do when someone asks me what I do.  “My group makes things better.  We do that by helping our customers across the company identify and implement solutions to their problems.  I work in the Enterprise Project Management Office.”

Wow.  Much better.  Don’t you think?

When I start with “My groups makes things better,” people listen.  If my first words are “Enterprise Project Management Office,” they immediately lose interest.

So work with your team.  Complete your scope document.  Create a tagline.  Be bold.  Get agreement from your leadership.  And then start spreading your message and see how much more influence your EPMO will have on the entire enterprise.

3 Things Customers Want from Your EPMO

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successWhy does your EPMO exist?  Why should anyone care about your EPMO?

You have to be clear on these types of questions if your EPMO is going to be irreplaceable to your enterprise.  And your answers have to be big – they can’t be boring.  If your EPMO is just something basic that your enterprise needs (like electricity) then your EPMO is just a commodity.  And who wants to be a commodity?

I don’t.

I need commodities – I just don’t want to be one.

I want my EPMO to be something that our customers are excited about.  I want customers in every corner of the enterprise to know that the EPMO has been critical to their success, as well as the success of the entire enterprise.

Having customers excited about the EPMO is good for the enterprise – and it is good for me.

And when something is good for the enterprise and also good for me – well I’ve got to say, I pretty much like that.

You Might Be an EPMO Customer if…

Our enterprise is large and our EPMO is relatively new, so I am regularly out-and-about telling different groups about the EPMO and what we can do for them – to help them understand how we can help them.

I tell people that they should contact the EPMO anytime they find themselves thinking one of these three things:

  • There has got to be a better way to do this. Anytime someone is in the midst of some process and they are thinking how horrible it is, they should contact the EPMO.  Whether they own the process or if they just play a part in it, if it is a bad process, we can analyze the process and the pain points and find a new process that works much better for everyone.
  • We are stuck and not making any progress. Anytime someone is part of a team, and they just aren’t making any real progress, they should contact the EPMO.  Likewise, when there is that project they have been hoping to spin-up for the past year, and it never gets off the ground, they should contact the EPMO.  We are great at organizing teams, putting structure to a project, and getting things going.
  • I have no idea what the answer is. Many times people find themselves at point A, and they know that is not a good place to be – but they have no idea what point B even looks like, much less any idea of how to get to point B.  They should contact the EPMO.  We will help them determine what point B is, define the road to get there, and guide them down the road until they successfully arrive at point B.

I tell people that they should contact the EPMO anytime they find themselves thinking one of these three things: There has got to be a better way to do this; We are stuck and not making any progress; I have no idea what the answer is.

Can you imagine how popular your EPMO will be if customers can come to you for any of these three things?  Fix things that don’t work – get things moving that aren’t going anywhere – find a solution that they couldn’t see.  You consistently help customers all across the enterprise with these three things and your EPMO will be the toast of the town.

And who doesn’t want to be the toast of the town?  Everybody loves the toast of the town.

Be the toast of the town.

Be irreplaceable.

The really big stuff

You may be thinking – wait a minute, those three things don’t address the big stuff.  How can I not tell people that we also do the big, gigantic, complicated projects across the enterprise?  Why didn’t I mention the large software development project, or the gigantic, disruptive package that we can help install?

I don’t go around telling people across the enterprise to think of us for those types of big projects, because we will be involved in those anyway.  Anything that big will always come our way.  So I don’t spend time reminding people to involve the EPMO in those.

I spend my time reminding people of all of the other things we can do for them.

Doing the big things is valuable.  Every EPMO does the big stuff.  But to be irreplaceable, you need to do more.  You have to be valuable to everyone everywhere.  Solve problems.  Find answers.  Make things better.

Be irreplaceable.

Be the toast of the town.

4 Reasons Your Meetings Suck

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A better placeMost people think a meeting is a bunch of people sitting around a conference room table talking.  And that is a meeting – just not a good one.

People constantly express frustration with meetings, yet most people don’t do anything about it.  It’s like they just think that’s the way it has to be.  That it is what it is.  But you can do something about it.

You can do it by not having meetings that suck.  Meetings that suck usually have all four of these things in common:

  1. People aren’t clear what the meeting is for, or what it is intended to accomplish
  2. During the meeting, conversation is unguided, goes on too long, and wanders all over the place
  3. After the meeting, no one is really sure what exactly happened
  4. Action isn’t taken as a result of the meeting

More about the four reasons

Let’s look at each of these in more detail.

#1:  How many times have you been invited to a meeting and all you know about it is the title of it.  You don’t really know what the meeting is about.  This happens with meetings you set-up too.  People arrive, and when they find-out what the meeting really is about they aren’t happy – they wish they had known this before, as they would have invited others that would be more helpful, and/or they wouldn’t have attended at all.  But they didn’t know that – so now they are thinking your meeting is a big waste of their time.

#2:  At your meeting that sucks, you’ve got the long-winded guy that never stops talking – and he is sitting next to the woman that thinks this meeting is her chance to bring-up anything and everything that she wants to cover.  No one is really leading the meeting, and so the conversation just wanders.  Since no one is leading the session – people are thinking your meeting is a big waste of their time.

#3:  Your meeting is over, and as people leave they are wondering, “Did we decide anything?”  “Is anyone doing anything based on what we discussed?”  They don’t know the answer to those questions – people are thinking your meeting was a big waste of their time.

#4:  It is a week after your meeting, and no one has done anything as a result of the meeting – that is because no one knows they should.  So nothing moves forward.  Nothing changes.  Nothing gets done.  People are thinking your meeting was a big waste of time.

So let’s review…

The right people weren’t at your meeting, conversation at your meeting wasn’t helpful, no one knows what was decided at your meeting, and no action was taken after your meeting.

You know why?

Because your meeting sucked.

And even worse – people think you can’t lead.

The right people weren’t at your meeting, conversation at your meeting wasn’t helpful, no one knows what was decided at your meeting, and no action was taken after your meeting. You know why?  Because your meeting sucked.

The answer…

There is an easy fix to each of these four problems.  In fact, if you fix these four problems, people will think you are amazing – they will like working with you, as they’ll feel that your meetings produce great results, and things really seem to move forward when you are in charge.

So here is what you do about each of the four reasons your meetings suck.  It is the acronym ALAN, and it is:

  1. A – Agenda: When you send your meeting invite, in addition to the title of the meeting, include a statement of the purpose of the meeting.  Then prior to the meeting, send-out a detailed agenda (with times for each topic).  If you know the agenda when you schedule the meeting, include that in the meeting invite – but it isn’t unusual that you schedule meetings far enough in advance that you don’t know your detailed agenda at the time that you schedule the meeting.  Either way, an agenda must be sent prior to the meeting.

Do these things, and you will have the right people at your meeting.

  1. L – Lead: When the meeting starts, be clear that you are the leader of the meeting.  Demonstrate this in several ways.  First, call the meeting to order.  Second, review the agenda with the team.  Third, start the conversation on the first agenda topic.  Fourth, when someone wanders off the agenda topics, steer them back.  Fifth, when someone is long-winded, stop them, and stay on time (according to the times you put on the agenda for each topic).  Sixth, end conversation as appropriate on each agenda item, and lead the team to start conversation on the next agenda item.

Do these things, and the conversation at your meeting will be right on point.

  1. A – Action Items: At the end of the meeting, review the meeting decisions and action items (all action items should have an owner and a due date) with the team.  In the days/weeks after the meeting, follow-up with the people that have action items to ensure they complete their items.

Do these things, and everyone will understand what is to happen next and will see that things are moving forward.

  1. N – Notes: After the meeting, send-out detailed notes from the session.  The notes can be taken by you or someone else in the meeting, but notes are critical to ensure everyone has the same understanding of what was discussed and decided.  And the notes must be helpful – not cryptic notes that no one can understand.

Do this, and everyone will be clear on what was decided, and those decisions and action items are now documented.

None of these things are rocket science.  Easy to do, actually.  Yet the bar is set so low for meetings, that just by doing these four things (ALAN), people will think you are doing a great job.

Oh, and one more thing – your meetings won’t suck.

Is Your EPMO Changing the World or Just Keeping the Lights On?

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A better placeIf your EPMO is going to dramatically impact your organization, it has to do much more than manage projects.

Managing projects means things like going to meetings, ensuring dates on the work plan are being hit, ensuring the issue log is updated, etc., etc., etc.  All necessary things, but not really earth-shattering – required things, but not changing the world.

We all know that successfully managed projects are key in successfully delivering for our customers.  But what happens before your EPMO typically gets involved?  How can your EPMO be much more valuable to the organization than it is as simply a manager of projects?

The answer…

Your EPMO needs to help your customers find the right solution – help them answer the questions that they don’t know the answers to – help them solve problems when they have no idea what to do next.

In short, you need to be consultants and advisers to your customers.

Additional things your EPMO should be doing to significantly impact the enterprise include:

  • Conduct process improvement / process re-engineering projects
  • Facilitate brain storming sessions and solution identification sessions
  • Lead your customers to find answers to their difficult questions
  • Take on projects that don’t look at all like something a project manager would typically do

If you only manage projects, you are helpful to the organization, but you are more like a utility that keeps the lights on – nice to have, but when is the last time you went around bragging on your utility company?

You haven’t.

Ever.

The utility company is doing a good job at keeping the lights on, but nothing to jump up and down about.

If you only manage projects, you are helpful to the organization, but you are more like a utility that keeps the lights on – nice to have, but when is the last time you went around bragging on your utility company?

On the other hand, if you help your customers improve their world, help them answer questions they don’t know how to answer, and help them find solutions when they have no idea what to do, you are no longer the utility company.  You are now their trusted adviser that they cannot live without – someone that they will brag about – someone that they will tell their colleagues about.

You will be irreplaceable.

How to do it

In order to become an EPMO that can change the world, you need to hire some different people.  You need people that know how to lead and facilitate large groups to find answers.  You need people that know how to evaluate a process and help define a better one.  You need people that know how to lead customers to find answers, when the answers aren’t apparent.  Those are the types of skills you need.

But you also need more than that.

You also need people that want to change the world.  People that want to make things better.  People that like to lead projects – projects that tackle things that a project manager normally wouldn’t do.

So it takes the right background, the right skills, and the right attitude and approach to work.

Where do you find these types of people?  Frequently they have management consulting backgrounds.  They will have been around for a number of years, and have completed lots of different types of projects – and not just as a project manager, but leading and facilitating projects that help their customers develop answers.

And, as you might expect, they likely are going to cost you more than what you are paying your project managers now.

So the questions to ask yourself are – do you want to keep the lights on, or do you want to change the world?  Do you want your EPMO to be seen as another expense item or do you want your EPMO to be irreplaceable?

My answers?

Change the world.

Be irreplaceable.

That’s what I choose.  What are your answers?