Most PMOs are born with a lack of visibility over the status of the portfolio and resource pool.
You would be surprised about the number of companies which don’t know how many projects they have in their portfolio or when their next big programme is scheduled to start!
Thus, most organisations call for a single source of truth, which is often a PMO.
While visibility leads to transparency, which in turn leads to accountability, surprisingly, not all organisations are ready to become transparent.
In fact, transparency can become a tricky situation, where everyone wants it until the moment they have it!
Have you heard of watermelon projects? Watermelon projects are a clear example where transparency can shed new light on uncovered, persistent unhealthy projects, but not everyone will be pleased about it.
These are projects which seem green on the outside until you look closer and realise that, in fact, they are red on the inside, with scope creep, unhappy stakeholders, and running behind schedule.
How many of these can you spot?
Fortunately, there are a couple of actions that you can start applying today to smoothly prepare your organisation to become more transparent. Check them out below:
- Ask for regular updates from your Project Managers: regardless if these are weekly or monthly updates – my recommendation is to base frequency on the project’s complexity, timescale and urgency – it is important that there are clearly defined guidelines of what Project Managers are expected to report on, when they should submit their updates and, likewise, to whom.
- Don’t call them ‘Status reports’. Status reports have a bad reputation and no one likes being chased for a report. A good way to minimise the impact of such a word is to replace the word or the approach. Instead of time-consuming Excel reports, why not have face-to-face 10-minute meetings?
- Set the right tone for exceptions: if resources are unavailable, it’s easy to understand why your project is late and, certainly, your Sponsor and the client will understand the situation. Being transparent about the reason for being late or for a cost overrun is more helpful and relevant for decision-making than the delay or overrun itself, so it is important that senior management sets the right tone for exceptions, creating a climate of trust and frank discussion instead of one of blame-storming.
- Accountability without consequences is the same as no accountability at all: it’s not rare to find Project Managers who don’t feel the need to report the status of their projects because they feel that the senior leadership team simply don’t bother. If you reach this point, something serious is going on! Transparency brings accountability but if there are no consequences linked to the achievement or failure to achieve objectives, then there are no incentives to do it the proper way.
- Share the knowledge and encourage fast failure: fail fast, learn faster! There’s no harm in failing and there’s nothing more detrimental for the morale of project teams than a climate where the shame game is always on and you are always put in the spotlight, subject to the influence of your peers. Instead, use your failures as a good opportunity to learn and, more importantly, share that knowledge. It can save your company’s next project.
Transparency is a key ingredient to advance the maturity of your PMO and the project management culture of an organisation but it takes time to embed and, more importantly, can represent a heavy change in the way the organisation operates.
Transparency is a change-maker but it also demands individuals to change their attitudes and behaviours, thus, don’t expect things to change overnight.
Remember: projects are all about people, for people, and with people. As with everything that really matters, it can be difficult to gain transparency in the beginning but it will pay-off in the long-run.
Ready to give it a try?
Contact us if you want to know more on how we can assist your organisation in creating a culture of project transparency!