The Clairvoyant PMO: How to Build the Support of the C-Suite

We have another PMO Flashmobber who attended Project Challenge the other week – Fran Bodley-Scott – and she shares some of the insights she learnt from Project Challenge.

Survey results might seem a bit dry and unexciting first thing in the morning but last week at Project Challenge I’m glad I made the effort to arrive in time for Michael’s Cooch’s presentation about the results from PwC’s Annual Global CEO Survey. I specialise in stakeholder relationship management, so I’m always on the look out for hints about what’s keeping the C-Suite awake at night, and this presentation didn’t disappoint. The reason I want to highlight it is that the insights were a real gem for any PMO seeking to engage more effectively with their CxO’s.

I don’t plan to reproduce PwC’s data here – the link above will lead you to lots of interesting stuff (disclaimer: I have no connection with PwC so this is my independent view). Consider this as a business case for why PMO’s should be plundering this sort of data shamelessly.

Delivering value by solving problems

Senior executive understanding and support is essential for PMO’s to be effective but in many organisations, rather than supporting, execs are challenging the very existence of the PMO. One of the key ways to build stakeholder understanding about the value that the PMO can deliver is to help solve their problems. That means understanding what their problems are and where they need help. There are two approaches you could take:

1. Reactive: wait for execs to ask

There are two problems with this approach.

  • What execs ask for is probably not what they really need (this was highlighted neatly in the PMO Flashmob presentation “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective PMO Managers”). Some people only ask for what they think you are capable of delivering; others may ask only for solutions they know and that are inside their comfort zone; others may be working on insufficient information about issues and consequences.
  • If the CEO does declare that the plan is to deploy automation bots in order to remain competitive in the marketplace, that is not the time to start researching what a ‘bot’ is and how it might be relevant to the business. The time to do research is before they ask. Not knowing what they’re talking about will not inspire confidence in the capabilities of the “Centre of Excellence” PMO.

2. Proactive: look over their shoulders to see what they see

This is the ‘clairvoyant’ option, anticipating what’s needed by forecasting the future.

I used to work for CarnaudMetalbox, market leaders in food cans and suppliers to the likes of Heinz and Campbell Soup. Operational effectiveness and efficiency required anticipating demand and changing production priorities so as to be able to fulfil customer orders when they came in.

However, to forecast demand for soup cans, it was not enough to look at historic purchasing patterns. We learned to look over the shoulders of Heinz and Campbells to understand what was driving their planning decisions – namely the weather.

Basically, in cold weather consumers buy more tinned soup, while in warm weather they buy less.

Food manufacturers’ priorities need to flex to get the right products onto the supermarket shelves at the right time whilst also minimising stock. So rather than being reactive to unexpected changes in demand from our customers, we were able to plan our resources better by looking at the weather forecast. (The challenge then is to get a reliable weather forecast but that’s a different matter!)

Seeing what is influencing strategic decisions in the C-Suite puts PMOs in a much better position to engage with individual executives and help them to solve their problems through:

  • Active listening: being able to ask the intelligent questions that will bring to light what execs need to achieve and where they need your help.
  • Talking the same language: being able to have a meaningful dialogue with CxO’s because you can help them think through issues, solutions and priorities in their language.
  • Planning for execution: thinking ahead about the factors that will affect the change process, the resources and capabilities required and the role that the PMO can play.

And this is what Michael Cooch’s presentation allowed us to do: to be proactive, to look over the CEO’s shoulder to see what’s coming down the tracks so that PMO’s can be ready to provide real value.

Connecting PMO’s with the CEO agenda

What I learned from Michael’s presentation is that the view from the C-Suite window shows changes ahead. He made the connections for us between trends that we read about in the papers, business strategy and the sort of options that business leaders are going to be faced with. But he also highlighted issues that are going to inhibit the ability of organisations to implement the changes required. Which suggests that PMOs will be more needed than ever:

  • Prioritisation: helping CxOs to optimise investments by provide insight and recommendations
  • Execution: building CxO confidence in delivering their agenda by building capabilities in delivering change
  • Realisation: providing the essential controls and visibility required by developing metrics for benefits and business outcomes

And all of this before I’d had my mid-morning coffee. I call that good value.

marketing-the-pmoFran has been working on a new Mini-Masterclass for PMO Flashmob – it’s packed with real practical advice on managing stakeholder relationships; communicating your value proposition; using a 5 step framework to remove the barriers to stakeholder engagement.

We’re looking to run it first in Scotland and then in London in the New Year. We’re currently looking for venues for these events – help us host one near you.

About Fran Bodley-Scott:

Fran is a relationship marketing consultant and founder of Marketing In Control Ltd. She works with business executives, project & programme leaders and internal service providers to design and deliver customer communications, stakeholder engagement and stakeholder communications solutions. Clients range from enterprises to SMEs in IT, manufacturing, professional services, transport, energy and social media. Fran is passionate about helping leaders to improve organisation effectiveness through better communications and is an active member of the APM Stakeholder Engagement Focus Group.

About Lindsay Scott

Lindsay is the founder of PMO Flashmob. She's also the creator of London's first dedicated PMO Conference; Director of Arras People and PMO enthusiast

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