Convert your executive sponsors and leaders to staunch supporters of your PMO
If your leadership team does not understand your PMO capacity and corresponding strategy, they may have a difficult time trusting you with their most crucial business goals.
We recently hosted a webinar titled “Modern Capacity Planning – Putting the Strategy into Resource Management” in which many attendees cited this problem as paramount in their organizations.
The leadership perception issue, as we call it, usually comes in two forms:
- Executive sponsors do not possess top-level visibility. They hold the opinion that you can do many more projects than you are already engaged with and/or;
- If something goes wrong or deadlines are missed, some executives retain a perception that the PMO or project managers themselves are “not very good”—and rarely understand that capacity issues are at the bottom of these missed opportunities.
Here may be a difficult truth to accept: It is your fault. Not in the way leadership might characterize it, but because you’re not spending time developing your own PMs or PMO leaders to communicate well, in the right way, to executive stakeholders and sponsors.
As you probably already know, the key to reporting to these groups is to maintain a “no surprises” policy and to always be prepared. As a smart PM blogger cautioned: “Be prepared to be taken off course or to suddenly be dropped from the agenda (or call). Be prepared for seemingly random questions and for scrutiny of figures and data.”
Once you possess the data to create change management and communication collateral, executive-facing PMs will need training to identify the most effective way to communicate and manage change among business leaders. If you don't have everybody aligned, based on solid information from real-time data, you're not going be able to change poor perceptions that may exist. These efforts usually require two primary focus areas:
- Communication: If leadership thinks that the capacity issues they're experiencing secondhand are caused by poor execution then you are not telling them the right things in the right ways. Of course, your organization must ensure resource capacity data is accessed by PMs and PMO leaders for day-to-day use. However, you must also use this data to run reports that are simplified for leaders. After all, these leaders hold the purse strings for assessing and aligning resource demand behind the most strategic and mission-critical projects you must deliver.
Your PM software tool must roll these metrics up easily to the executive suite, without any confusion. They want topline, results-oriented numbers and they need the business case. If you’re not sharing these items via the proper analytics, your best opportunity to gain their support will be lost.
Let’s be honest: If leadership thinks the poor execution they perceive means you’ve planned poorly, the onus is on you to prove that they’re making inaccurate assumptions. You’re stretched so thin, it’s a wonder you’re able to complete any projects at all. They can’t help you if they don’t know about it.
- Visibility: You are always going to field conflicting demands from customers to do more, and experience unforeseen changes in the operating environment. Even something as tangible as a flu outbreak working its way through the office can impact your ability to execute. Ensure that leaders have the appropriate insight -- major milestones as well as changes in strategy and in priorities must be captured and visually managed. These portfolio checks and balances are also auditable and easy to see downstream when they potentially impact budgets or delivery.
Be sure to manage capacity transparently, in a visually impactful way, and present it armed with the appropriate reporting and analytics that speak executives’ language and address their concerns. Keep in mind that you must take charge of communication processes as well, by including all stakeholders and creating the appropriate cadence so as not to overwhelm sponsors. This level of visibility and communications helps leaders understand capacity and is a surefire way to gain buy-in. You will also eliminate the risk of them formulating their own opinions about your competency.
For more best practices about communicating capacity and managing resources in-flight, please access the recording of our webinar, “Modern Capacity Planning – Putting the Strategy into Resource Management.”