PMO Development…

Working on setting up and reforming PMO’s over the years has shown me some common themes that’s always arise when doing this work.

  1. Understanding the true value of a PMO and ensuring that is communicated and understood
  2. Always focus on the basics in terms of Project Management – strip back the complexity
  3. Make things simple and easy to understand – not just for Project Managers but for those engaged in the project process

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Wanting to Disconnect and Focus

In the middle of 2017 I read this…

“If you are like the typical owner, you’ll be pulling your phone out and using it some 80 times a day, according to data Apple collects. That means you’ll be consulting the glossy little rectangle nearly 30,000 times over the coming year. “

There is so much now being written about us all falling prey to our hand held devices and having a constant distraction around us. This environment where we get constantly tugged in multiple directions by alerts, notifications, accessibility and interruptions can bleed over to every aspect of our lives.

If we all take a step back and really, honestly look at how our lives have changed with these powerful devices in our hands we may get a shock. In my opinion we are becoming detached and less human. We have traded our social nature as human beings to become disconnected with each other and easily distracted.

Have you sat in meetings where there is a room of people pretending to participate in the discussion but in reality have their laptop open, their phones in front of them and are blatantly checking them and responding while trying to convince everyone they can ‘multi task’? They cant and they don’t – their minds are elsewhere and all of a sudden our calendar full of meetings is not only a nightmare to manage but we are not getting what we can out of them. People are leaving not understand what has been discussed and decided and the content and decisions will get repeated many times later.

We decide to institute rules around having laptops closed which can last for a short period but what we haven’t realized is when we try to disconnect we become anxious about what we are missing and so don’t concentrate anyway.

Test yourself – put your phone away, turn it off and spend a few hours or even a day without it. Does even the thought of it make your pulse quicken, do you start to perspire and feel anxious? It does mine and I don’t want to be a slave to the electronic notification.

What I really want is to interact with people, to talk, share ideas, news and feelings, tell stories, and smile in company. I want to become human again and feel connection with people. The problem I have is persuading others to do the same as this is something we cant do on our own.

Imagine how not just ourselves but the organizations we work for can thrive with a new approach – think about how bold it will be to ‘buck the trend’ and focus on each other and solving problems in real time with each other.

Things to do about that:

• Turn off notifications on your phone and take back control for checking
• Look up, notice people and smile
• Focus on a task you want to get done and finish it
• Sit down and talk to people and relish the human connection
• And even if you have alone time pick up a book and read

Feel empowered and in control. Feel connected with people having shared with them and ultimately get back to feeling human.

Read this –

…and start today to make a change

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A storyteller in action. Woodcut engraving, published in 1872.

SAs the new year is underway I am reminded of a book I read many years ago about a seanchai (Irish story teller) who use to go round the different communities in Ireland and tell stories to the villages in exchange for food, drink and accommodation with the locals.  The reason I am reminded is that many are involved in setting their yearly goals in their role and that are meant to reflect their contribution to the overall organization and tell a story for them.  

When these goals are set up and reviewed with the teams and individuals what is often lacking is the ability of the department/division or individual leader to communicate effectively about these goals. Individuals and teams are left to reflect the basic questions of ‘why’ we are working towards these goals and how this will impact the organization or those the organization serves.

They haven’t grasped the vision, their role in it and the biggest flaw is they haven’t been told a story that they can relate to and follow. It had been distilled into a bullet list and become one dimensional. 

The result is that teams aren’t pulling in the same direction, they don’t have the engagement in the company vision and without that we all fail to move forward as much as we expect. 

Think about in our daily lives how much we can be enthralled by those with the ability to tell stories. We remember how much it grabs our attention and imagination regardless of whether those telling them are true story tellers, comedians looking to lead us to a punch line or salespeople hoping to sell us on an idea of product. They create a picture, a memory and something to literally grasp. 

One of the basic flaws I see in leadership is the inability to tell a story, create a vision, communicate a direction. We have become enamored with electronic communication and are starting to see the art of face to face communication diminish. 

Story telling involves planning, ensuring we can envision and see the goal and the art of engaging people on that journey through bringing them along with us. It is a ‘vision’ that we have to develop, but it also has to be a process where we can connect with people and their imagination and leave them with a memory. 

So as we sit to communicate goals take the time to develop the story, look at how you engage the team and how we bring people along with us on the journey.

Help bring back the lost art of the seanchai.

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Heed your wake up call…

I was reminded recently about this quote as I completed my move and I encouraged others to embrace and take a risk to be where they wanted to be.

There are moments in our lives when we say we have had a wake up call, something has happened that impacts who we are down to our core. At these times we feel moved and we feel energized to change for various reasons. We start to share ideas and plans with friends and family about making changes that could involve them, habits to break or start, moving location and jobs, changing career etc.

However what happens is those feelings fade and we find ourselves sinking back into our daily routine, our present life and it is a distant memory to dream of those changes. Change is hard and change is risky but I have found myself that I cannot live with regret. When your wake up moment is so strong it should and will move you.

That is how I found myself – I was shocked into action and driven to change. It has been some time coming in terms of making plans and following through. It has been some time building up the resources to be able to do it. It has been some time to take that step and make it happen.

The time came and I took the step to drive me in the direction I wanted to go and where i wanted to be. It hasn’t been easy but I wont regret it as I build my new life.

My lesson for those reading this is :

  • If you have a wake up call – truly wake up and listen.
  • Don’t fall back to sleep – see if those feelings persist and dont ignore them.
  • When you are ready make the change – always remember ‘Life is not a dress rehearsal’ – it is the one and only act you have and you dont want to live with regret.

Want to find out more – let me know.

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Recruiting – stop checking boxes and become more human

I have been a strong believer for some time that we just have to challenge ourselves to look at what we currently do and ask whether we should change and improve based on wanting to be more successful and grow.

In my roles I have been involved in building new teams and introducing new disciplines into organizations. This requires forming a new team and having the right skills, and more importantly, the right teamwork and collaboration to make it successful. This in turn requires the ability to meet and talk to people in the hope of finding out more about them and for them to discover more about you and what you want to achieve.

One of the challenges is the need to get out of the old way of recruiting and start to focus more on soft skills recruiting and recognize those are the skills of the future for leaders in an organization. We have tended to focus on a job description, listing experience and skills required, and try to be data driven i.e. number of years using certain skills, experience in managing people etc. And really all they show is that someone held a job for so many years and that a team they use to, or currently, manage is a certain size – but does that mean success?

The way to find out about soft skills is to meet someone and chat to them for a start – that requires making it a priority in the job you do – and what i mean by that is getting out regularly (regardless of whether you have open positions) and meeting people for coffee, lunch or drinks just to chat. Again how things have been done is to only go and look for someone when you had open positions. This just wont work – we cant be so focused on open positions and must be more focused on what our teams and our organization needs in terms of skills. We will live by FTE numbers but won’t focus on whether we have the leadership and subsequent skills to drive the organization forward. It is a skills gap we need to recruit for and not a gap in our FTE numbers.

What I have done in the past is work with trusted recruiters and made myself available to meet people and go in with an open mind and chat. Wanting to find out more about the person and always looking about whether the fit would be right but not focused on a Resume/CV. In doing so I have met some great people and also passed on recommendations to colleagues if I saw a fit in some other parts of the organization.

Now I find myself out looking for my next adventure and challenge, looking for like minded people wanting to just meet and talk, who want to find out about me and let me find out about them and see if there are ‘fits’ in terms of skill gaps and whether I want to work within that culture. But there is still that gap….

…let’s stop the checking of boxes and become more human – lets chat.

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People, People, People

We talk so much about how finding and retaining people as the ultimate challenge we have today. They are our key assets and the market is tight. So the question is what are we doing about it from our first contact to the last time we spoke with them? What are we doing every day to attract the best and keep the best? And we need to ask ourselves whether we have shown appreciation for our resources and whether they know it.

Attracting resources nowadays is hard due to the competition of other organizations and the ability for those resources to check out our organizations from social media. Do many organizations have a strategy to project a positive image of the organization or are we taking a chance? What do we want that image to be? Someone interviewed with me last year and they said they had read what could be seen as ‘negative’ comments on line about the organization but it fitted into the narrative that we were going through Change and that is what excited them.

What are people finding on our websites? Again does it convey what we want?

More to come as I write about the initial meet and greet and how to attract them with that first meeting…

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It is key as a leader to show enthusiasm for what you do. That can come in the form of being vocal, being energized, excited and mostly being fun. That enthusiasm is contagious (not might be or could be). That contagion spreads and therefore generates enthusiasm across your teams.

What we have to be aware of is what threatens our enthusiasm as a lack of it is also contagious. Once we know what threatens it we must look at what we do to reenergize and build it up when it wains. Think of ways to inspire yourself especially early in the day so your enthusiasm is shared

Read an article on leadership and be inspired, check out photos of trips and loved ones, smile at memories and plan to make more.

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Team Work

In my younger days i did a lot of track and field. I ran the 400M hurdles and proved to have some success in it. I would attend track meetings most weekends during the summer. What i use to feel, and what is reinforcing it self now, is how isolating running my race could be. It was me against others and as much as people may support on the outside it was down to me on race day. I warmed up and got into the zone ready to race and felt the nausea of the adrenaline before a race and quite a few times the high of winning at the end but that was always just me with those feelings.

In some respect it is the loneliness of every runner who runs an individual race. A few years ago i did a relay with a team of 12. We were one of over 400 teams running this relay. It went on for over 24 hours and covered more than 200 miles. It was a remarkable experience and one i will never forget as you form bonds with a group of people, some of whom i didn’t know, and encourage not just your team members but others. Many people during that run achieved more than they ever thought possible including me. I felt accountable to finish my legs of the relay as part of my role in the team – it wasn’t a race but an event to complete. It was meant to be a team event and truly was.

It made me realize how much being part of a team means to me. How we have our roles to play but to have others around encouraging you, supporting you and you support them means so much and creates a ‘high’ you don’t get on your own. I crave the same at work – the ‘high’ that comes from being part of a team and from the pure human interaction and camaraderie of working together for a joint goal regardless of personal gain. There seems to be so much focus on the individual and the isolation that comes from us all using our personal devices and believing we have team work without the human interaction.

We all need to take a step back, form relationships that build teams and start to enjoy the ‘high’ that comes from that basic human desire to socialize and collaborate – make it a goal of 2018.

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Plan or Act

For sometime I have been thinking about making a decision and you have been analyzing that in your head and talking to friends and colleagues for some time. Being someone with a Project Management background you procrastinate about really planning things out to the point or even developing a plan. By doing so you are getting frustrated by the lack of action and suddenly realize that same frustration comes from business and IT leaders when confronted with project management asking them to plan.

You have to get the balance right – you have to make time to plan, talk, analyze and then you have to act. You cant be seen to hold action up because inaction is unacceptable. 

So I have the outline of a plan and a vision and I have begun to do and check and finally act for the long term. 

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When you lead a Project you need to ensure your team has all the right skills but more importantly all the right team attributes to be successful.

  • If the team is to succeed it needs to be acting as a team and not a collection of individuals. 
  • For individuals to act in unison with one another they need to be confident in their abilities and contribution to the team
  • Confidence comes within but can be coached from you as well.

As the Project Manager your job is to ensure your team members act with confidence and that is especially hard when things aren’t going well as happens on every project. Look for the signs when confidence wains in individuals and use your leadership skills to take that person aside and bolster them up. Share concerns but also instill the confidence back into them. You will see the difference if done well and your team will thrive from the confidence displayed by them. 

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