Stakeholder Relationships and the Agile PMO

Back in October it was the annual Agile Business Conference in London and we asked PMO Flashmob regular Brenda Nombro to go along to the conference to find out more about what the PMO community could learn from the conference. Brenda already gave us one insight in Agile PMO – How Much is Enough?

Here’s Brenda’s second article on a more behavioural side to the work the PMO does, here she is to tell you more

Another session I attended was run by Agnieszka Gasgperini who was an enthusiastic and engaging speaker. While there are many ‘what colour of personality are you’ assessments and models out there, the Relationship Awareness Theory takes this a step further into the business context, and more specifically into how we react to stress.

The more I read and talk to people about the PMO in an ‘Agile’ environment, the more I see how we need to redress the balance of our skill set. In some more traditional settings we have become really focussed on our technical skills; on planning, managing dependencies, identifying risks, writing reports – this is great as we are really good at it and experts in our field. But do we need to shift now to our people focussed skills?

Facilitation, bringing the right people together, getting the decision makers and sponsors engaged, managing and resolving conflicts – this is what we do, but can we do it better and show how, when it is done well, that the PMO has a greater role to play?

Agile PMO

Relationship Awareness Theory

The Relationship Awareness Theory was developed by Elias D. Porter on the premise that “The more a personality theory can be for that person rather than about a person, the better it will serve that person”.

The theory specifically focuses on how people’s motivation and subsequent behaviours change when they move from a situation where things are going well to a situation of stress.

Some time was spent at the session discussing the seven different ‘types’ on the Motivational Values System (Blue, Red, Green, the hub and the cross/ hybrid types) and identifying where we felt we fit as individuals.

These followed a similar format as most ‘personality’ indicators, differentiating between assertive, nurturing and analytic types. In this system, identification of type is based entirely on motivations and behaviours in the workplace.


Behaviour is driven by motivation to achieve self-worth

How often do we have conversations where people smile and nod and tell us they will get on to it straight away? How often does it happen?

Well, it probably depends on many different factors and more often than not, it does get done because we generally work with nice helpful people. But it can often feel like an up hill struggle.

We are so busy with boxes to tick and proformas to complete, that we often miss opportunities to really understand our stakeholders. We must start to fully understand what our stakeholders are trying to achieve for many reasons, but mainly to enable us to do our main job – to provide assurance of the integrity of the projects or programmes within our remit.

In order to be more collaborative in our agile environment, we must now focus on understanding what motivates those around us in order to have an open and trusting relationship. The PMO must take some responsibility for success by getting the best out of all of those involved in delivery.

Talking, communicating and collaborating are incredibly important and the time needs to made and prioritised to do this. And it works both ways, if people understand us better and what motivates us, they will be in a better position to help us achieve our goals.

Motivation changes in conflict

Is conflict always a bad thing? I am not so sure it is?

In fact, arguably, it is conflict that creates the need for change and creative solutions – which can mean the best solution is achieved. But how can we encourage this without demotivating and discouraging individuals?

This is when it is important to be able to use our understanding of people’s motivations to resolve conflicts, rather than focus on the area of conflict itself. As PMO, there is a unique opportunity to think more broadly than the immediate challenge or argument, but we can always be better armed to deal with some of the behaviours that arise. Knowing how people’s behaviour is likely to change is a good start.

Fully understanding our colleagues and stakeholders means we can keep once step ahead – knowing the behaviours that are going to change, when and how – predicting this can save a situation before it becomes an issue.

It is important to remember that the goal of all our behaviours is to feel like we have done something worthwhile for ourselves – and this is incredibly subjective – we can’t make assumptions based on our own experiences or bias’.

That said, the theory presented at this session suggested that the pattern of change that our behaviour takes is consistent (the dot v. the arrow) which we all have when placed in a stressful situation.

Your pattern can follow one of thirteen possible sequences and will be the same every time.


How does this all help us become ‘Agile’?

For PMO to be effective, this means that we need to combine a better understanding of the behaviours and motivators of individuals, with the tools and process that are already at our disposal.

We need our dependency logs, RAIDs, change control, and, using the skills and expertise we have in reading these, we can determine where the areas of conflict will lie and with whom.

We can plan and intervene earlier in the conflict sequence, to modify the focus and change outcomes for individuals, before their behaviours become extreme and potentially damaging.

Our ability and skills in reading and assurance the progress and health of projects is key, and means there can be no baby out with the bath water.

There continues to be some nervousness around ‘Agile’ – something that perhaps a) makes us believe it is more complicated than it actually is and b) that to be truly agile, we must ‘move on’ from processes and controls. But, I’m afraid, without challenge, assurance and governance, projects just won’t happen.

So the next step in the evolution of the PMO – balancing our insight of people, motivations and behaviours and the control and assurance of the delivery of our project value.


brenda-picBrenda Nombro has 13 years experience across a variety of PMO roles, predominantly in Financial Services. She is passionate about the significant value PMO should add through demonstrating a real impact on the success of reaching business and organisational goals and objectives. Brenda is based in Scotland, however loves to travel and work in a variety of locations. She enjoys running, hillwalking and all aspects of fitness, traveling and meeting new people. She really enjoyed attending the PMO and Agile Business Conferences this year.

\\ Connect with her via Linkedin


Agile Business Consortium Annual Conference 2016

Agile Business Consortium Annual Conference 2016

About Lindsay Scott

Lindsay is the founder of PMO Flashmob and a Director at PMO Learning - the sister company to PMO Flashmob and the best training company for PMO people in the world! She's also the creator of London's first dedicated PMO Conference; Director of Arras People and PMO enthusiast. Loves dogs and gin.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *