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We Need a Project Management Intervention

pmo project delivery project management Nov 14, 2022
We Need a Project Management Intervention

Steve had a problem with alcohol. What made the problem worse was that everyone but Steve could see how it was affecting his health, work, family, and relationships. His friends and family realized it was time for an intervention. They met with Steve and discussed the problem with him, what effect it was having on others, and ways that he could get help. 

Guess what, Project Managers and PMO Leaders? We too have a problem! What makes this matter worse is that we don’t even recognize it. What are the symptoms? Check out the latest stats from the 2022 PMO Survey from The PMO Squad: 

  • Only 43% of PMOs would rate themselves as successful, 
  • 78% don’t have a process in place to measure PMO Value, and 
  • Only 59% measure executive leader satisfaction. 

These percentages reflect a problem that our industry has had for years. We may be good at project management, but we are terrible at project delivery. Project management is about the busy-ness of our trade (managing scope, budget, and time), while project delivery is about the busi-ness (aka business) of our trade (integrating our projects into operations and creating business value). 

Here’s what makes this problem worse. We’ve continued to be okay with delivering only 50% of projects on-time, in-scope, and in-budget for A LONG TIME. The statistics aren’t getting better. And, the definition of insanity (or stupidity) is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. 

We need a project management intervention!  

What Effect is Our Poor Behavior Having on Others? 

When projects aren’t getting delivered, it results in budgets being blown and benefits not being realized. This is a two-edged sword, because our companies spend the money on a project to obtain a return on that investment. Failed projects mean that not only has the money been spent, but the expected benefit disappears as well.  

It’s like going to the store to buy a lamp for your office desk. You spend money for the benefit of lighting your desk. Once you get the lamp home you find it doesn’t work. Now, you have a broken lamp doing you no good other than sitting there as a constant reminder of the money you wasted! Our executives and stakeholders feel the same way when money is spent on a project that doesn’t deliver results. What’s worse, they can’t get their money back. 

And, there’s the effect that not delivering projects has on our reputation as an industry. Is it any surprise that PMOs are usually one of the first departments to go when times get tough in a company? It’s a cycle. A PMO will last for 3-5 years before an executive starts asking why we need this administrative layer of busy-ness that may not be delivering results. The PMO is disbanded, project managers will go back to their functional areas (if they’re fortunate), and the dismal statistics above continue to mount. 

What Can Be Done to Break this Cycle? 

The above statistics and scenarios are part of a vicious cycle that needs to be broken. How? By focusing on project delivery rather than project management. As a matter of fact, that is The PMO Squad’s focus for 2023. We are going to transform how the industry DELIVERS projects in the years to come. 

You can start making this transformation in your career by following the suggestions below. 

  • Focus on the Sponsor Needs - Think about the last time you went out to eat at a nice restaurant. At some point, the manager stops by your table and asks how everything was. This is your opportunity to let her know what you need and what you liked or didn’t like about the meal. It’s also the manager’s opportunity to make things right if the meal wasn’t what you expected. If the manager never comes by and sees how things are going, you have a high chance of leaving that restaurant, never coming back again, and telling others about your bad experience. 
    Think about your business sponsor as your customer. Do you just take their order (“Yes sir, one well-executed project coming up!”) and never check in with them again until the project is hopefully delivered to their liking?  This is something you can change now. Check in with your project sponsor throughout the execution of the project. Are they getting what they need in the way of information? Do they understand what decisions they need to make to eliminate risks and issues? What can you do more or less of to make sure their experience with you rivals a three-star Michelin restaurant? 
  • Don’t Accept the Status Quo - The project team or individual’s performance may deteriorate over time. Let’s face it, life gets in the way. People deal with personal issues and circumstances that may impact their work. Are you quick to give a pass and say it’s okay that a deliverable is late, a status report is red, or quality is not up to par? Or, do you anticipate these types of things and put extra energy towards preventing them from happening, or getting things back on track when they do occur? 

How is this done? Get to know those on your team personally. Go to lunch with them and see what’s going on in their life. Include an agenda item in your one-on-one meetings that begins with, “How’s it going with you?” You’ll discover what’s bringing stress into their life, and work, and be able to preemptively make adjustments. They may feel they have too much on their plate and deliverables are beginning to suffer. You can identify something they may be working on that’s not that important and refocus their attention on only the high-priority tasks. Getting ahead of problems this way will set you up as not an antagonist or person hard to work with, but rather someone who is out to deliver projects, not just manage them.

  • Understand the Business Better - It’s easy to fall into the trap of treating business resources as separate from project resources. This is especially true in larger organizations with a dedicated PMO. You’ll hear statements like “That’s what Business wants,” or (the PMO) just doesn’t understand what we do.” Guess what? It’s all business! A PMO, or project resource IS a business resource. The money that makes it into your paycheck is from customers buying the goods or services your company has to offer.  

That’s why it’s critical to increase your business acumen. Some call it “working in the trade”. This means that you get out from behind your desk, or out of meetings in conference rooms with comfy chairs and hot coffee and go face-to-face with your customers. Listen to their problems. Understand the challenges fellow employees have in delivering your goods and services, especially as it relates to projects you are delivering. Set a goal for yourself to work in the trade a minimum of 40 hours a year. Investing just five days of your time in this activity will be a game-changer in your ability to deliver projects. 

PMO Leaders and Project Managers, we have a serious problem! We need to stop managing projects and start delivering projects. The first step towards this transformation is to recognize and accept we have a problem. Once we acknowledge that, we can begin our recovery and ultimately transition from Project Manager to Project Leader.  



How to Transform from Managing Projects to Delivering Projects 

Statistics show that for years our industry has struggled with delivering projects on-time, on-budget, and in-scope. The following are three shifts you can make in your career to transform you from Project Manager to Project Leader. 

  1. Focus on Sponsor Needs - Your sponsors are your customers. Check in with them throughout the duration of the project and see how they are doing. Are they getting what they need? Do they need more or less of something when it comes to knowing how their project is progressing?  
  2. Don’t Accept the Status Quo - Don’t be content with a bad status report or a late deliverable. Anticipate these challenges and have plans in place to get things back on track. Knowing your team better will enable you to foresee any problems looming on the horizon. 
  3. Understand the Business Better - Work in “the trade”, whatever that may be. It could be working in a store, riding in a truck, visiting customers in their home, etc. Get out from behind your desk and endless meetings and immerse yourself in the business where the rubber meets the road. This will give you the conviction and backbone you need to push back when necessary. 

Working on these three areas will quickly transform you from someone who just manages projects to someone who consistently delivers business results. 


Busy-ness - A feeling as if something is getting done by just managing scope, budget, and time. This is a false sense of accomplishment that comes from non-value add project management work. Could include activities such as endlessly checking emails, updating status reports, sitting in unnecessary meetings, manually putting reports together, etc.  

Busi-ness (Business) - This is what provides the money that makes it to your paycheck. You don’t get paid until something is sold and delivered. Make sure you understand this concept and focus all your efforts on making it easy to do business with your company. This can be done by ensuring that your projects integrate into operations and provide business value. 

Project Leader - The next evolution of a Project Manager is someone that not only understands how to successfully manage projects, but more importantly, delivers project results that benefit the business. 

Work in the Trade - Spend time on the front lines with customers and other employees who deliver your company’s goods and services. 

Are you lost or struggling to gain traction on your Project Management Journey?

Schedule a Complimentary Strategy Session with one of our experts so that we can discover your challenges, design your solution, and implement success in your projects!

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