Direct Efforts to Improve Organizational Culture

We developed a plan, including issues like these:

• Find projects that have a positive bottom-line impact on the corporation.

• Use proven project management principles.

• Determine and nurture individuals who already support project management.

• Learn to thrive in a political environment.

• Become comfortable communicating with senior executives.

The main improvements focused on two areas: first, that people use the PMO's services, and second, that all members of the management team be trained in sponsorship. Initially, some managers refused because they believed that they were performing well and acting in the right way as sponsors. The turning point came when the senior manager asked the management team to attend management meetings and participate in the training sessions. The sponsorship training focused on the following topics:

• The fact that every project needs a sponsor and that sponsorship is especially crucial and essential in complex and large projects

• That project sponsors should be members of the local management team, empowered by all businesses, assigned for the full project life cycle, and invest between 10 to 20 percent of their time in working with the project team and client

• Defining key responsibilities

• Establishing measures for the project sponsor

• Understanding and positioning client cultures

• Recognizing that sponsorship is a question of mind-set, commitment, and competence

Excellence in sponsorship has a direct impact on project financial performance. A sponsorship culture helps continue existing business and also generate new business. Five elements guide a technology implementation and change effort:

• Identifying stakeholders: Running a stakeholder analysis and identifying who is who in the organization. Qualify the degree of concern and authority of every stakeholder.

• Selecting stakeholders: Making a decision about which stakeholders can be assigned as sponsors, focusing on degree of authority, belief in the organization, and desire to perform that role.

• Coaching stakeholders in sponsorship: Training stakeholders selected as sponsors and clarifying roles and responsibilities during the whole project life cycle. Clearly define all measures for success. Identify owners in the company or organization.

• Mentoring stakeholders: To measure results during sponsorship implementation, monitoring deviations and taking agreements on action plans, defining dates and owners for each action item. Establish metrics that allow room for improvement and recognize the efforts and achievement of people involved.

• Executing action plans: To start up all action plans assigning the needed resources and using upper management support. The responsibility of each action plan is from the owner assigned. One of the problems found during the training sessions was that after people are assigned as owners for action items, nothing happens. Distributing meeting results or minutes as soon as possible, following up each action with the owner after the meeting, and talking with my upper manager after those sessions to review the action plan were extremely helpful. After training sessions, I persuaded upper managers to communicate, as a must, that every project in the organization larger than $1 million should have a sponsor assigned for the whole project life cycle. That process was implemented, and sponsors have been learning through the practice. At the end of those types of projects, we run a retrospective analysis to find out what went well and what did not go as well, what we learned, and what needs to be changed for the future. Retrospective analysis was positive and is strongly recommended for every organization that needs to manage a project portfolio effectively.

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