Every company measures success in different ways. They use baseline-reporting, slippage and earned value, issue reporting, risk analysis and tracking. Project Managers and/or the PMO are accountable to establish the metrics they will track and report the progress of their project.
I would like to go out on proverbial limb to say, that most of the time Project Managers take their metrics personally, and they should. However, to quote the quintessential line; It’s not personal, it’s business. Too often we tie ourselves to the numbers and the color status of the project, where we end up sending the report up the flagpole. With little thought, as to the political impact we are having on our project, on our team and on ourselves.
Unfortunately, PMO’s became the new four-letter word when it came to bureaucracy. Once upon a time, the PMO was viewed as the high-judge of project law. Status reports were getting submitted, but that was after the issues logs and risk analysis went through the spin cycle. It eventually resulted in a status that wasn’t very accurate. I am very happy to say that in the last few years this is changing. We are beginning to work with the project managers to report the metrics of the project and simply stating the issues they are encountering.
You might be thinking, so what exactly is the PMO challenge? Our challenge is to partner with our Project Managers and support them in bringing the good and bad news to our project steering committees. Well, let’s be honest here, it is very rare to see good news which requires a shoulder to shoulder presentation team. Like a classic car, good news never goes out of style. Now let’s define what I mean by partnering.
Preparing the Leadership
Help your Project Managers put the spin cycle to rest by educating the project steering committees about metrics. Have a meeting (yes, the dreaded M word) to discuss what metrics the company wants to put in place. Define on a corporate plane the agreed upon levels of risk and escalation. Establish the reporting systems, methods of communication and presentation and level of detail.
If a project manager understands the theory but controls none of the constraints, we are trying their hands. Inform the group that this information, whether positive or negative, is always an opportunity. It’s either an opportunity to maximize and celebrate successes or an opportunity to minimize a risk that has been uncovered, adding to the library of lessons learned. As the PMO, be a diligent voice and representation of these precepts at every project steering committee meeting. Leave no Project Manager behind!
Mostly risk is deemed as a negative outcome of a project. But we should understand uncovering the risk is a very positive opportunity; the negative is if the risk comes to execution. The entire point of planning a project, brainstorming, and careful execution is to deliver bad news before you implement.
I recently had an opportunity to go through an estimating class where they discussed the core of uncertainty, the theory being that until you reached the design portion of a project (which requires stabilized requirements), a deadline is a pipe dream. Try to encourage the notion that deadlines are only as good as the support system for the team. If an unknown risk rears its head, it very well may affect the holy trinity of resources, time and scope.
Asking for Help
The PMO needs to be lifelines for Project Managers, a safe haven to ask questions, get advice and back-up as needed. Building a reputation within your organization, as the walking PMBOK is easy; gaining peoples trust so they ask for your help is an undertaking, which sometimes eludes us in our day-to-day chaos.
The politics of metrics is a tricky tight rope to walk without a net. The PMO needs to be the net for the Project Manager. Corporate standards for reporting, and measuring the success of a project are an absolute must. Each company has different priorities and needs, also different departments and divisions may have different ideas of what success is. The Project Manager and the PMO need to work together to overcome the politics of metrics, and just get to the lessons learned.