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Straight Talk on Project Management

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Choreograph your IT project backstage to maximise your audience’s experience

Something on the radio, completely unrelated to IT Project Management, leapt out the other day and planted a project leadership thought starter.

My inspiration was John Brant, producer of touring musical “Come From Away” who was sharing backstage secrets with Matinee, the musical theatre radio station. Now, it’s obvious when you watch a play that what happens on stage is choreographed to the max, but it didn’t occur to me how much attention to detail goes into what happens off stage too – to make sure props are where they need to be, actors have the right clothing on for the scene and are positioned in the right spot to make their entrance.

“Everything is choreographed, everything that’s going on behind the scenes is choreographed as well,” Brant explained, “It’s 100 minutes of basically beautifully choreographed theatre … we see half of that … you know the audience facing that … but there is so much going on behind the scenes with our crew and with our cast. There’s no fat on it, it’s all so precise because it has to be … you’ve got to put that chair down and, maybe, walk over to a person who’s going to hand you a jacket or go over to someone and give them a phone.”

“THERE’S NO FAT ON I.T.”

In IT Project Management we put so much effort into choreographing our deliverables and outcomes, the part of the process that our “audience” sees, but how much thought goes into what happens out of sight, behind the curtain?

Are there “unseen” aspects of our IT Project delivery processes that don’t get the love and attention afforded to the more visible areas, and could that be costing us in terms of returned value? What if there were no fat on our I.T. projects?

Choreographing these areas felt like an obvious and easy win, so I asked a handful of colleagues and project leaders for their thoughts.

Three clear themes emerged – three opportunities where we could all channel our inner Arlene Phillips.

1 – TALENT RESOURCING

A more mindful approach to project talent resourcing came top of the list, with many confessing to having adopted a “just in time” approach, citing either post-Covid or post-Brexit talent supply issues, and more frequent staff absence as the key reasons.

BUT … What if talent gaps and shortages, rather than providing an excuse for becoming more reactive, were to inspire a fresh, proactive, more choreographed approach? How might our backstage operation become more organised?

Stakeholders don’t know when you’ve got a Project Manager burning the candle at both ends to be across a handful of projects, they don’t know that you had to call in external talent resources to make up the numbers and get a project over the line, often they don’t care either, until the cost is counted in terms of staff burn out or the bill from the temp agency needs paying!

Stoneseed’s Project Management as a Service (PMaaS) can help.

Our PMaaS team is a large resource pool of Stoneseed employees, all Programme and Project Management specialists, all experienced practitioners from across the complete portfolio of IT change. This experience, gained from multiple sectors, means you benefit from a practical, hands-on approach to programme and project delivery that works.

PMaaS can be adapted to address the different challenges that you and your projects and portfolio face. Our services range from simple resource provision, to a fully managed service, providing access to a wide portfolio of project skills. PMaaS gives you access to quality people, when you need them.

With some reasonable planning (ideally, we aim to work to a 6-week forward forecasting timescale), PMaaS provides access to a wide portfolio of project skills, made available against your demand schedule, from a single Business Analyst or Project Manager for a few days, right through to a large team of fully utilised project professionals, with peace of mind guaranteed thanks to our memberships and accreditations that include PRINCE2, Project Management Institute, P3M3, Agile Project Management Certification, and MSP.

The 6-week timeframe model allows advance planning for resources to meet your portfolio needs but, for some, this can present a challenge … sometimes you can plan ahead, and sometimes you can’t and need very quick resourcing response times. This is where the flexibility of Stoneseed’s PMaaS model delivers great results. To achieve optimal resourcing, we work closely with you, and we get to know your portfolio so that we can mobilise talent more quickly – we are specialists in providing remote Project Management resources, for instance.

Stoneseed’s PMaaS model is an evolution from conventional contractor models, thanks to targeted planning and forecasting, you only pay for resources as you need and use them and thanks to our simple and predictable pricing structure (with a rate card) you can remove any uncertainty around variable costs.

Programme Management, Project Management, IT Advisory, Business Analysis, PMO resources, all these “backstage” functions can be better choreographed via PMaaS.

2 – PMO SERVICES

The Project Management Office is probably the team in your organisation who most people look at and wonder “what do you actually do?”

The truth is that they pretty much do everything, but so much of it is unseen.

Your PMO team is busy safeguarding your most precious assets, your resources, and ensuring they are allocated efficiently. They are providing the all-important governance and making sure that the agreed top-priority work is done in a timely manner, they are processing work requests, understanding and clearly communicating scope to your project’s architects and builders, and they are constantly monitoring your projects in motion, and reporting progress to stakeholders.

Writing on LinkedIn last year, Robert Burns, a PMO Lead, coined this rather wonderful phrase: “They are the eyes and ears of leadership on the ground.”

Sadly, because much this PMO magic is unseen, it can also be neglected. PMO teams are often the unsung heroes of an organisation. When you’re brilliant at choreographing projects, organising and monitoring everything, often no one checks in to make sure you’re OK!

Is anyone choreographing your PMO? As one CIO once put it to me – “it’s like, who’s policing the police?”

Taking time to refocus your PMO functions can pay big dividends, the resulting efficiencies spread like ripples across a pond, quickly touching all aspects of the portfolio. Your PMO links your business strategy to the projects initiated to deliver it, introducing economies of repeatability and best practice to delivery of these projects. Stoneseed’s resources and team are managed and supported by our own Project Management Office and toolset (which are available to our clients) and we constantly review our PMO protocols and processes to ensure best practice.

Efficient Project Delivery needs an effective PMO. It’s the ultimate in backstage choreography!

In our experience, clients’ needs vary when it comes to PMO. Some come to us for provision of a complete PMO, others need a lighter touch approach, perhaps with a remote or virtual PMO service, and many organisations come seeking assistance maximising their own existing PMO – all of this is available via the PMaaS model.

3 – POST-MORTEM OR LESSONS LEARNED

As projects become more complex and data-rich, and portfolio management approaches (like Stoneseed’s P3MO platform) become more transparent and intuitive to use, we are now in an age where feedback from our projects is more abundant and accessible than ever. This means that lessons can be learned and put into action faster, more thoroughly and more efficiently but some organisations don’t have a choreographed process for post project introspection.

This is just conjecture on my part, but I think it might be partly down to the negative connotation of the term “post-mortem”.

The thing is, if I’ve delivered a project on time, in budget, that met specific business goals – that project is alive and kicking! I sort of resent being asked to attend an autopsy! Invite me to a retrospective where we celebrate the successes and shine a light of what could have gone better – and I’m all over that!

The trouble is that many organisations are doing neither, and crucial lessons are going unlearned, or they’re doing something ad-hoc, like having a cosy chat over a brew, and aren’t realising the true potential value of a more formal approach.

“Lessons Learned”, a “retrospective”, an “introspection”, or (yuck) “post-mortem” needs to be as transparently a part of your project process as creating the scope, allocating resources or choosing a methodology.

The scope of the meeting or session should be clear, for example, to establish what went well, what not so well, what we learned, and what are some action items for improvement to bring to the next project or phase. The event should be a collaborative, objective review for stakeholders and participants and, to maintain objectivity and openness, blame should be explicitly prohibited from the agenda, the communications process, and all documented findings.

That’s three areas my little panel of project leaders came up with, if you have any to add – I’d love to hear from you.

Henry Ford once said, “Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.” I think he was on to something. Going the extra mile on the parts of your project process that no-one sees can feel a little pointless at first though, whereas deliverables feel like they happen in a blaze of glory. I mean, who’ll be there to tell you “well done” when you do a thing that no-one knows you do … but better?!

You’ll know though!

Furthermore, doing things like resourcing, PMO and “lessons learned” just 1%, 2% or 5% more efficiently has an impact across the rest of your project estate, allowing those deliverables to reach new heights of glory! So, improving the things no one sees improves the things that everyone sees – aka the things that you get judged on. So … More glory!

But don’t just take my word for it.

“Come From Away” producer John Brant went on to say, “Kelly Devine and Chris Ashley (director and choreographer) rightly won the Tony and the Olivier award for a beautiful piece of art.”

A Tony and an Olivier … for choreographing the backstage.

I wonder what doing that could win for IT Project Leaders!

 

 

Find out more about Project Management as a Service from Stoneseed

 

Sources

Matineeradio.com

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/unseen-force-behind-success-give-thanks-invaluable-your-robert-burns-ybdyc/