Straight Talk on Project Management

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Movies, old favourites and cultural fit

Half Term, Easter Break and Bank Holidays are upon us, It’s time for chilling, and digging out old movies.  As my wife and I rummaged through the DVD collection (old school, I know) and argued over whether Die Hard is Christmas movie or not,  my Wife plumped for “ The Devil Wears Prada” a perennial favourite. And I had an idea for a blog …

“As luck would have it, they fitted in perfectly!”

This is one of my favourite bits of client feedback! It refers to a particularly successful deployment of Project Management as a Service resources.

The email as a whole talks about the effectiveness of the talent, the extra experience and skills that they provided, and how the project would have failed without them. What I really love about it though, is the notion that the project talent “fitted in” thanks to luck, rather than through intentional and meticulous research, assessment, reflection and positioning.

It reminds me of the scene in “The Devil Wears Prada” where Anne Hathaway’s Andy sniggers at the Runway team agonising over very similar items. Miranda Priestley delivers a withering monologue about Andy’s “lumpy blue sweater” and the concerted efforts behind how it came to be in Andy’s closet … Oscar de la Renta’s “collection of cerulean gowns”, Yves Saint Laurent’s “cerulean military jackets” and eight other designers quickly using cerulean in their collections before, finally, it “filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin.” Ouch!

As Streep says, “That blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and its sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing a sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff.” 

In the same way, placement of “cultural fit” Project Management as a Service talent should never be down to serendipity. Cultural fit should never be a happy accident. It should be an intended and stated outcome. Talent should be “selected for YOU by the people in this room.” It certainly is with Stoneseed and I hope that other PMaaS providers are the same!

Consider this from, “Project Management as a Service (PMaaS) provides access to project professionals, resources and tools at a flexible and predictable cost. Our services portfolio offers a true end to end service, from IT Technical Advisory, through to Programme & Project Delivery. PMaaS provides access to Flexible Resources on Demand, Project Management Office, Process and Methodology, Tool Sets and a straightforward Cost Model.”

Everything in this elevator pitch for PMaaS is vital to the success of your project and your business and at the heart of it all – people. None of this can deliver best results without careful matching of these people with yours and that means knowing your culture.

Looking for a suitable supporting quote, I came a cross an old article written for by Paul Oppong. What he said back in 2019 is still very relevant, so worth repeating, “Project Management as a Service is not without its risks. Unlike some other “as a service” offerings such as Software as a Service and Platform as a Service, with PMaaS you are buying in the help of people. While people may be very effective project managers, they may not necessarily be a good cultural fit for the organisation … people working within the culture already are likely to have a better idea of the “way things work around here” and how to get things done. With this in mind, in some cases, it might very well be preferable to gain the required project management competencies in-house.”

Paul’s article raises some good points and is worth a read but it misses a couple of points:

1 – Organisations using PMaaS do so usually because the competencies they need are not available in-house;

2 – PMaaS partners worth working with prioritise cultural fit. They won’t compromise. Cultural ‘bad fit’ and even ‘close fit’ talent won’t deliver your organisation’s maximum required outcomes – so what’s the point of bothering?

How do we do it?

First, we get to know you. I mean, really get to know you: your organisation; your industry; your unique story; and how YOU do business. We assess your needs; your in-house capabilities and we identify your capability gaps. Secondly, after careful consideration, we prescribe tailor-made solutions to your specific requirements. YOUR culture is at the heart of that process.  

Every business has its own DNA. How you do business might be very different to how your competitor across town operates. Same business – different approach. That’s your USP. Your culture and your ethos are key elements of this and should be respected and reflected in everything you do – including PMaaS. 

Similarly, every Project Manager has their own unique way of delivering ‘standard’ working practices. The same PRINCE2 certificates can hang on the walls of two PMs and mean completely different things to them both. How one operates might dovetail beautifully with your DNA whereas the other might jar with it like fingernails down a chalkboard.

Marrying the two together – that is when the magic happens! Why settle for anything less than magic!?

Culture matters. The effects of a cultural bad fit last long beyond a person’s time with you – weeks, months, even years! As a CIO friend once put it, “A single bad egg ruins the cake.” We are very mindful of this and take rigorous care to ensure that every PMaaS placement is in harmony with the culture and values of the client.

These days, more than ever, IT Projects deliver business goals. For PMaaS to deliver the necessary return on investment it has to be delivered through a partnership between you and your provider. The key to a successful partnership? Your provider has to understand your culture and deliver in sympathy with it. On this, just like Meryl Streep’s Miranda, refuse to compromise!

Find out more about Project Management as a Service from Stoneseed