But is it experience or certification that counts? Is it more meetings or fewer meetings? I've had a decent amount of experience with PMOs...both building them and participating in them. I have hired and worked with my share of good (and a few bad) project managers.
What I've come up with is this list of 11 reasons why I have had PMO and PM leadership success along the way when assembling and working with teams of project managers. Sometimes you find them under a rock, but that isn't always a bad thing. Keep an open mind and go for the best, but not always the shiniest. And best practices with good logical management usually wins out.
My PM's are better than yours because:
1. Rely on Experience, Not Certification
Stocking your PMO with Project Management Professionals (PMP) certified through PMI (and other types of PM certification) may sound like a great idea, but I consider it a very lazy idea. You are choosing based on certification, not on past success or character. Experience and character always prevail in my opinion, and it hasn't failed me yet.
2. Give Me More Dashboards
Dashboards are a great way to give lots of high-level information at a glance and will satisfy most execs curious natures and need-to-knows about your project in seconds. I have PM's load the front of their weekly status reports with green-yellow-red type dashboard reports for a fast update needed by executives in the company as well as the senior leaders that the project sponsor on the customer side will need to be accountable to.
3. Meetings, Meetings, and Fewer Meetings
Fewer productive meetings are far better than more unproductive and inefficient meetings. Start with a good agenda, start and end the meeting on time, and always follow-up with notes after the fact to ensure a common understanding of attendees as to what happened and decisions that occurred in the meeting. Without the common understanding, it would be almost better if the meeting had never occurred.
4. The customer isn't the expert
Remember, the customer hired us to run the project. It is ok, and in fact, it is necessary to overthink the customer's issues, project needs, and desired solution. They are not the experts, we are! It is our job to do the planning and digging into the customer's current business processes and the requirements for the project and determine what the “real need” and what the “real project” needs to be. Don't just run with what the customer says we should be doing because, in the end, they may not be satisfied with the results.
5. A Kickoff is Crazy Important - Never Skip a Formal Project Kickoff
On a big project, it should be with the whole team in person for a 2 to 3-hour meeting, but even if it's a 20-minute phone call, it needs to happen. Conduct the kickoff meeting to go over a common understanding of budget, effort, how changes will be handled, draft delivery dates, and overall what is going to be accomplished. Come out of this kickoff with everyone on the same page to start the heavy work.
6. Communication is Number One
To me, communication is Job One for the project manager. Project management success begins and ends with effective and efficient communication – on both ends of the communication including listening. I will always look for that in a project manager including the way they handle an interview and follow-up after the fact. Says a lot about the candidate.
7. Financials Make It or Break It
A good project manager must be a good financial manager on the project. The budget can get out of hand quickly if not managed properly. The project manager needs to be forecasting and re-forecasting the budget every week. A 10% budget or cost overage is usually acceptable and can be fixed quickly if necessary. The unmonitored budget that gets out of hand by 50% cannot be fixed easily or not at all. A project with an unmonitored budget will always fail.
8. The Customer Comes First
My motto is “You're only as successful as your last customer thinks you are.” Keeping those words in mind as I'm consulting, running projects, assembling PMOs, and managing PMOs have always helped. There have been times when management's direction seems to contradict what is best for my staff or project customer. I always fight for the project customer. What the project needs is always what's most important in my mind.
9. Manage as If Every Other Customer is Watching You
Once again, “You are only as successful as your last customer thinks you are.” References are a good or bad thing depending on how you are performing on the project. Manage each engagement as if every other past, present and the future customer are also watching. I don't mean to make anyone paranoid, but if you act like you're trying to be good for Christmas, then likely you will be good. You won't get that lump of coal at the end of the project. You'll get a good referral or reference. And more business with the same client, too.
10. Rookies are a Good Thing
First-time Project Managers are not a bad thing. Plan your staff so that you have some good mentors in there. You can save dollars on staffing and still be growing the type of staff you want and need. Experience must come from somewhere. Sometimes it is best if you give the experience yourself. Or at least help guide it and grow it. Worked for me a long time ago!
11. Do Not Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
Choose your successes. It is ok to go out on a limb. That's how you learn and grow. Choose your battles carefully. But you want wins – wins are good for PM confidence and morale as well as your reputation, your PMO's reputation, and your company's reputation.
Summary / Call for Input
This is my list of reasons why I can assemble – and have assembled – good PMOs and Project Management infrastructures that performed well and stayed intact while I've watched others fail. Good people, best practices, logical management, and good communication are all good ingredients to real, experienced project managers performing real-world Project Management.
What are your thoughts and experiences? Do you agree with this list? What would you add, delete or change? Please share your thoughts and let us discuss.