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How Does Your Project “Taste”?

pmo problem solving project management Dec 20, 2022
How Does Your Project “Taste”?

Think back to your local pizzeria as a kid. Maybe the whole family climbed into the station wagon, where of course you were stuck on “the hump” between your siblings in the backseat. On arrival, neon signs flashed in the window, everyone piled out of the car, and you caught just a whiff of something delicious. 

Inside, Pat Benatar’s song “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” played over the loudspeaker, followed by Foreigner’s “Cold as Ice”. Booths were packed, lights dim, conversations loud, and the waitstaff hustled. Video arcade games could be heard in the background, and in the kitchen, a chef spun dough over his head. 

You loved that place! 

Then and now, when a pizza at your favorite pizzeria is delivered to your table, you experience the same joy you did as a kid when melted cheese leaves a trail between the pan and your plate.  And, perhaps the slice is still in your mouth when the owner stops by and asks, “How does your pizza taste? Everything okay?” What you think tastes good may be very different from what someone else thinks tastes good, but in this case, you enthusiastically shake your head up and down and give two thumbs up for, “It’s great!” and take another bite. 

When’s the Last Time You Asked Someone How Their Project Tastes? 

Fast forward a few years and you are now a Project Manager or PMO Leader. When’s the last time you (metaphorically) asked someone how their project tastes? In other words, are you delivering what is expected? It could be during the lifetime of a project when communication, updates, meetings, and reports are important. Or, it could be once the project is delivered. This is where you could ask them if they had enough to eat or did the project satisfy their hunger. 

Who has the answers to these questions? The project sponsor. This is the person who has the need for the project, is paying for it, and expects results. They have come to your restaurant, placed their order, paid for it, and want to walk away satisfied. 

And, just like people’s tastes in pizzas are different, each project sponsor has different tastes. One may care less about scope and budget, but is very concerned that the project be done on time. Another won’t care about time and scope, but that the project is under budget because it is directly tied to their performance review. Or, they may care about something else entirely different.  

The principle is that one project sponsor’s preferences may be very different from another’s. Don’t assume everyone has the same taste. Some like pineapple, some like anchovies, and others will stick with the classic pepperoni and mushroom.  

Tastes are Changing 

One thing you can assume, however, is that tastes change over time. It was only ten to fifteen years ago that projects delivered on time, under budget, and within scope were all the rage. That in itself was ‘tasty’ to business sponsors because they had not previously experienced that. Now, they want more.  

What do they want? Below is an excerpt from The PMO Squad’s Project Management Office Hours podcast interview with Dr. Harold Kerzner from the International Institute for Learning. He said: 

You now measure the success of a project based upon benefits realization and business value created. Project Managers no longer make presentations to the first floor of the building. Project Managers now make briefings and presentations to the top floor of the building and even the Board of Directors. That’s a significant change!” (timestamp 17:30) 

Yes, that is a significant change. Did you see anything about time, scope, and budget? Nope. Benefits realization and business value created is going to be different for every project sponsor and it’s up to you to find out what it is. This is also going to require that you transform your PMO to operate differently. 

4 Ways to Deliver a Transformative PMO Experience 

Childhood memories of your local pizzeria include the entire experience. The sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of those Friday nights with your family are all part of what made it so great. Provide the same experience for your project sponsors when they work with your PMO. 

  1. Ask them What They Want - If this is the first time you are working with a new project sponsor, find out what they want. What’s high on their list of important project management capabilities—good communication? Good reporting? Minimal questions? Being involved in all decisions? It will vary from sponsor to sponsor. 
  2. Ask them if Their Project Tastes Good - Once the project is underway, come back and check on them regularly. “You ordered ABC, and we delivered ABC. How did we do?” Or, even better, ask how they perceive you to be doing along the way. This will give you and your team time to make adjustments. Maybe the pizza wasn’t piping hot when it came out. Your team will have time to fix that before too much time passes and the customer leaves upset. 
  3. Immerse Them in the Sights and Sounds of the Project - If you’ve been part of a successful project launch, you know there’s nothing like the energy and excitement that go along with it. A go-live for a project many times looks like NASA’s mission control with so many people involved, a carefully orchestrated plan, and everyone constantly checking in along the way. Invite your project sponsor to these events. Or, if that’s too much to handle, bring them along to project meetings, updates, and other important conversations along the way. It will give them a greater appreciation for what is involved and brings the experience to life for them. 
  4. Don’t Be Prescriptive - The one thing you DON’T want to do is to tell the project sponsor what they are going to like. “See, we delivered this project on time, in scope, and under budget, doesn’t it taste good?” “Well,” the project sponsor says, “Like I told you, I really needed it to integrate smoothly with operations. That didn’t happen and we experienced a lot of friction along the way.” 
    It’s like when a person who is allergic to mushrooms receives a pizza with mushrooms, when they clearly didn’t order mushrooms! They’ll find a new pizzeria if that happens more than once. Don’t let that happen to your PMO! 

So, if you haven’t asked the question, “How’s your project tasting?” recently, give it a shot. Yes, you’ll be met with a confused look the first time you ask. But, explain what you are trying to do and that their feedback is critical to make sure you deliver business benefits and create value. That will leave a good taste in anyone’s mouth! 


How to Determine if Your Project “Tastes Good” 

Different people have different tastes when it comes to what they like. This is true for pizza and it certainly holds true for projects. What makes a project successful to one project sponsor will be very different from another project sponsor. Follow these steps to make sure your projects taste good to your sponsor. 

  1. Ask Them What They Like - Don’t guess when it comes to what makes a person’s project successful. It’s like guessing what someone wants on their pizza. Ask the project sponsor how they like to interact with the PMO and then reasonably accommodate their request. 
  2. Check In with Them Regularly - Regular conversation with your sponsor should include the questions, “How are we doing?” and “How did we do?” This is your opportunity to see if the project tastes good to them and then make any necessary adjustments.
  3. Immerse Them in the Project - Think about all the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of your project and make sure your project sponsor has the opportunity to experience them all. It’s not just the pizza, it’s the whole experience!
  4. Don’t Be Prescriptive - This is one area where you don’t want to tell people what to do. It’s up to them to determine what they like, and what they don’t. If they don’t like mushrooms, don’t put mushrooms on their pizza!  


Benefits Realization - Provides organizations with a way to measure how projects and programs add true value to the enterprise. 

Value Creation - The process of turning labor and resources into something that meets the needs of others. The needs of others will vary and it’s important you understand what’s important to them. 

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