In my last post, I commented on Gartner’s points about the evolving role of the EPMO. Now, I’ll talk about another of their key points — that communication is key to PMO success, and that when communicating to executives, “it’s more important to be interesting than complete.”
As anyone in marketing knows, truer words were never spoken. Gartner illustrated the following common pitfalls when communicating (I’m paraphrasing their points below):
- Lack of Candidness (All good news):
For example, communicating the “all green dashboard” where everything looks rosy. To an executive, this raises warning flags. It also sends a message that the culture doesn’t allow for candidness in its reporting. It may even send a message that the project sponsor or manager isn’t being aggressive enough in their strategy or schedule if there are no issues at all.
- Communicating Problems without Solutions (All bad news): The presenters used the example of the “deeply troubled project,” where it’s late and over budget and problems are blamed on scope creep, low morale, unclear priorities, uncooperative sponsors, and so on. Without a recommended solution and evidence of effective leadership, most executives would lean toward either shutting the project down (ignoring sunk costs) or bringing in a new management team to rescue it and get it back on track.
- Missing the Value: Commonly, a PMO will communicate its charter and include goals such as delivering successful projects, increasing maturity, standardizing processes and tools, and so on. And any metrics included in the charter focus on things such as quality and timeliness of documents, process compliance, tool adoption, and project success. But there is nothing whatsoever about business value or the “products” of the projects. Executives want to know about business value. They also want to know about accountability. They want to know who’s responsible for what, and whether everyone’s headed in the same direction as a team.
Returning to the overall challenge posed at the beginning of the session — “Delivering projects that provide value in turbulent times” — the presenters cited two enablers: accountability and effectiveness. To achieve these enablers, they suggested focusing on:
- Reliable results
- Value-based prioritization
- Effective leadership
- Effective communication
- Organizational Change Management
Overall, I liked their focus on value. As Albert Einstein said, “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” Too many PMOs are inwardly focused, buried in minutia, and struggle to demonstrate value to the organization. If they looked at every bit of communication and asked “How does this portray value to the organization and relevance to the intended audience?” they’d be a lot better off. I’ll expand on this in future posts.
Also, I’d suggest that slides, charts and graphs need to be effective as well. Information presentation guru Edward Tufte states that effective visual or graphical communication:
- Encourages comparative analysis
- Shows causality
- Explains with annotations
- Avoids unnecessary noise
- Avoids distortions
In my next post, I’ll cover Gartner’s third point, how a PMO can help drive competitive advantage and innovation, not stifle it.