The Artistry of Project Management: Enabling a Strategy for Organizational Transformation

A Project Management Article by Mike Landry, MBA, PMP

How do you manage to create change and incorporate PM processes when stakeholders are telling you to minimize change as much as possible? Below, please find how my team and I were able to make successful changes that established a Program Risk Management Office, implemented an Organizational Taxonomy for Risk, and created a learning environment designed to build capabilities that ensure successful project execution.

How do you manage to create change and incorporate PM processes when stakeholders are telling you to minimize change as much as possible? Below, please find how my team and I were able to make successful changes that established a Program Risk Management Office, implemented an Organizational Taxonomy for Risk, and created a learning environment designed to build capabilities that ensure successful project execution.

The Challenge:

Our new PMO was a combination of multiple and reinforcing siloe’d vertical structures and siloe’d processes. We were faced with the challenge of merging these silos into a single organization, which itself was moving to a matrix structure. The result was extremely strong barriers to horizontal linkages, which were absolutely required to facilitate an effective matrix structure. “Inter-organizational collaboration works against and obstructs traditional lines of accountability”[1], which often makes participation in the organizational transformation uncomfortable as individuals struggle to preserve their norm (i.e., vertical structures and processes).

Background:

The new PMO was created through the consolidation of three program offices, which each provided distinct products and IT functional capabilities that were designed to meet specific business needs in the areas of clinical processes, medical logistics, and business intelligence. The PMO provides 28 automated information systems used globally to track billions of dollars annually in healthcare services to nearly 9.4 million beneficiaries.

The drivers for the consolidation include standardization of processes (institutionalization of best practices), risk mitigation, and creation of operational efficiency which is underpinning three goals (1) reduce product delivery time to market, (2) reduce sustainment cost, and (3) increase quality of product delivery to market.

This article describe the challenge we faced, our conceptual approach to meeting the challenge, the tools and skills used, the progress made and the results of our successful transformation activities.

Concept Statement:

Our concept was to achieve the blending of the former program offices best practices across the new PMO while establishing a baseline for benchmarking, measuring performance, and driving consistent results.

To effect a migration from parochial attitudes and norms, we identified several ingredients as essential to ensuring a successful transformation. The ingredients are made up of several simple elements – i.e.,

  • A vision – identifying with a common cause,
  • Clarifying goals and expected results,
  • Developing shared understand,
  • Surfacing differences and commonalities in approach, culture, and perceptions.

These four elements served as the glue binding the organization and served to create a new identity that fueled the organizational change necessary to instill new norms. 

The artistry of project management, which is derived from the interpersonal skills that we as practitioners provide, coupled with the use of the project management system model, defined by J.P. Lewis, was used to form of a systematic approach that enabled the concept to actualize.

J. P. Lewis defined the Project Management System as consisting of seven components.

  1. Human
    1. Motivation
    2. Leadership
    3. Negotiation
    4. Team Building
    5. Communication
    6. Decision Making
  2. Methods
    1. Practices
    2. Tools & Techniques
  3. Culture
    1. Values
    2. Beliefs
    3. Attitudes
    4. Behaviors
    5. Traditions
  4. Organization
    1. Authority
    2. Responsibility
    3. Accountability
  5. Planning
    1. Define Project
    2. Pick Strategy
    3. Schedule Work
  6. Information
    1. Historical
    2. Current: (cost, progress, quality)
  7. Control
    1. Check Progress
    2. Compare to plan
    3. Take corrective action
    4. Audit performance

Project Management System Pyramid

The Approach:

COMMIT – COMMUNICATE – EXECUTE

We identified three primary keys to transforming our organization, which are commitment, communication, and execute.

Inadvertently, organizations breed lack of commitment by intentionally being ambiguous about their expectations. This stems from a fallacy in thinking that “the less I direct them the more they will be creative in achieving results” (commonly referred to as the resting on our laurels syndrome). It is not unusual to witness this phenomenon in organizations that have been historically successful, but now find themselves operating within a new context (for example the merging of several organizations into one).

The cultural bias of each organization will manifest conflict within the organization as each culture attempts to re-establish their sense of identity and thereby reassert them as the prevailing culture. This is not necessarily a bad thing if you are looking for the dominant culture to overtake the cultures This natural evolution of culture is based upon the premise that only the strong survives and assumes that is what is best for the organization to be successful. However, history teaches us that this is usually not the best approach in getting results from human beings that have options about being a part of such an organization.

The breakdown occurs when we allow ambiguity in purpose to be overcome by our desire to maintain historical results while not investing the time to drive and empower the creativity and innovation of our resources toward a new culture. We lose sight of the reality that creativity and innovation is best stimulated when resources are focused on a common cause (i.e. real sense of identity). We tend to take for granted the pre-existing identities and assume that they will be the same in the new organization. Often this undermines the ability of resources to respond to business needs because they suddenly begin to realize a lost sense of direction associated with the demise of their previous social identity within the organization.

It is a common sense of identity which creates an opportunity for relationship to be developed, trust to be established, conflict (differing opinions and ideas) to be managed, commitment established, ownership and accountability adopted, and results derived within an organization. It is leadership’s responsibility to create that new identity and manage resources through organizational change.

Taking all this into account, we decided to create a new community, with a new vision, a “Community of Interest” forum for the exchange of ideas and approaches to applying the forty-four interrelated processes advocated by the Project Management Institute - PMI and published within the PMBOK Guide. This forum was in fact our primary communication vehicle to facilitate the transformation and begin the execution process of realignment of work expectations within our teams. Our strategy was designed to cross-pollinate tools and techniques for effective utilization of project management best practices.

Our method was to create a new sense of shared identity through conducting bi-monthly sessions with project leaders, each session being process centric and leader lead, utilizing facilitation techniques such as brainstorming and round robin, and ensuring that the sessions were a situational adaptation of process in our actual program office project environment.

We used some simple, commonsensical tools to facilitate the organizational transformation.

First, we made sure we had management commitment to the building of this shared community.

Second, we defined mission statements, goals and objections and expectations for the communities.

Third, we came up with a transformation implementation plan that included the all important “Whats in-it-for Me”, that addressed process change and defined the community of interest workflow.

Last and most importantly, I was empowered to drive the execution.

As with any change management program this requires assigning the right change agent to lead the charge. The reality is that senior management cannot do this alone, given all that they are responsible for.

Our Success

Below is a short list of some of the progress achieved over the course of the past fifteen months toward institutionalizing internal controls within the new PMO:

Established a Program Risk Management Office:

We implemented a Program Office Risk Management Plan that has established a repeatable process for balancing cost, schedule, and performance goals within program funding, especially on programs with designs that approach or exceed the state-of-the-art or have tightly constrained or optimistic cost, schedule, and performance goals. Effective risk management mitigates the potential for crisis management, a resource-intensive process that is typically constrained by a restricted set of available options. Our plan defines:

  1. Risk management approach characteristics
  2. Principles for effective risk management
  3. Roles and responsibilities
  4. Practice standards
  5. Organizational Taxonomy – Software development and Operational support
  6. Tailoring guidelines

Implemented an Organizational Taxonomy for Risk:

We defined and implemented an “Organizational Taxonomy”. Taxonomy is the practice and science of classification, and thus our Organizational Taxonomy is used to create a common language across the PMO to enable more effective communication and stakeholder management. Relative to the risk management process, the taxonomy is used to classify many different factors associated with the development of software-dependent systems such as development tasks, quality procedures, or sources or consequences of risk. Additionally, the taxonomy of operational risks provides a structure for classifying risks to operational aspects of the program office. It defines the key sources of risk associated with the mission, work processes, and constraints of an operational organization and establishes a structure for representing operational risks by grouping them into distinct classes, element, and attributes.

Conducted PM Workshops:

We conducted a series of 26 project management workshops that cover topics such as project and risk management, configuration management, testing, requirements management, information assurance, communications, and team development processes, practices, tools and techniques.

Documented our Process:

We re-calibrated program office guidance via the following:

  1. Project Management Process Manual
  2. Requirements Development and Management Process Manual
  3. Test and Evaluation Process Manual
  4. Configuration/Change Management Process Manual
  5. Measurement and Analysis Process Manual
  6. Risk Management Process Manual
  7. Risk Management Practices Manual

Created Useful Tools for PM:

We oriented and enabled the use of a new tool set.

  1. Taxonomy-based questionnaire that we adopted from the Software Engineering Institute (SEI), a federally funded research and development center conducting software engineering research in acquisition, architecture and product lines, process improvement and performance measurement, security, and system interoperability and dependability. It is a ten step process to facilitate a taxonomy-based risk identification process that has proven effective and efficient in surfacing both acknowledged and previously unacknowledged risks in a wide range of domains and across the life cycle of software development.
  2. Project Planning Tool - Integrated Master Plan (IMP)
  3. Programmatic and Technical review Guidance
  4. Integrated Master Schedule (IMS) Guidelines
  5. Preliminary Design Review Practice
  6. Critical Design Review Practice
  7. Integrated Baseline Review Practice

Benefits Derived To Date:

This work has enabled us to be highly successful. Within 15 months we’ve aligned our best practice approach across the new PMO, added consistency in project life cycle management methodology, increased capabilities of Project Leaders, increased awareness of tools and technique, and identification of continuous improvement opportunities.

[1] Challenges to Organizational Change: Facilitating and Inhibiting Information-based redesign of Public Organizations; White Paper by Jane E. Fountain; National Center for Digital Government; Harvard University - 2006

About the Author

Mike Landry, MBA, PMP

Over the course of the past thirty-four years, Mike Landry, MBA, PMP has progressively advanced his professional career through a series of transitions that transcend several functional domains - operational support of call centers; product development and operational integration; process engineering and organizational change management; network development and implementation; and IT/IM software development and integration. Each transition has broadened and increased the depth of knowledge that enables his ability to facilitate strategic planning in support of project and program execution activities.

He is an experienced advocate and implementer of PMBOK® best practices, team development concepts, and professional mentoring and coaching programs that are designed to drive organizational performance.

Mike Landry is the 2009 PMI Washington, DC Chapter PM of the Year.

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