An organization will not deliver value to their customers without the people. I’m of course referring to the people we have on our teams such as architects, developers, testers, etc. I’m also referring to our customers as they are the people we work hard to deliver great new products and processes for. Really as leaders we need to think of all the people impacted by or involved with our projects.
So why are there so many organizations doing such a poor job with their people?!? Think about your organization and its dealing with people. Do any of the following apply?
- There are empires or towers of power where the decisions are made. Often the people doing the work are excluded for participating in the decision making, as the managers of the department know how the work should be done
- Key team members are excluded from working directly with the team regularily. A common example I’ve seen is where the developer is kept at arms length, and told what they need to build rather than being a part of the discussions
- People are not free to make decisions in their day to day activities. When decisions are required they generally need to adhere to the rules, or must escalate to a higher power in the organization for a decision.
- Your organization doesn’t involve the people doing the work in defining how to do the work. At one organization I talked with management would define and implement a process for all occasions (even pizza parties believe it or not). The result is the real process went underground as people didn’t see management’s process as workable.
As a member of the PMO your primary focus should be to provide your teams the environment needed to deliver great value for your customers.
‘People’ are arguably the most important attribute we manage as PMs. I always believe people genuinely want to do a good job, and take satisfaction from their efforts. If you don’t believe your people want to do a good job, then it’s time to re-evaluate things at a whole different level!
Aside from these exceptions why is it PMOs continue to downplay the importance of people. Unfortunately people’s results and satisfaction are subject to the environment they work within. When PMOs create an environment with the wrong attributes, the results can often be quite detrimental to the results of the organization. So what do I see as some important things to consider? Three key items I see are:
- Be a servant leader – becoming a servant leader means you become empathetic to your people, and focus on enabling their success. Your job needs to be to enable the success of those in your organization who really deliver value
- Collaborate – first figure out who in your organization is involved with delivering value. Once you have clear sight on this ensure they are directly connected to the right people at the right time. Any time people hand off information you create waste, and interpretations of the message.
- Empower the people – Let those doing the work define the work. Like it not you do not know the bst way to do their job. They may need coaching & facilitating but make sure they are engaged with the discussions. Most organizations have constraints, which is your job to ensure the people are working with them.
Recently I was fortunate to have listened to a keynote address and talk with Donald Gray, one of the founders of WestJet in Canada. WestJet is one of the few successful airlines around, and certainly the best in Canada. The story is very similar to the ones Mary Poppendieck will tell about SouthWest Airlines (they should be … WestJet modeled themselves off of SouthWest). It is repeated proof that if you focus on the people, the people will make you wildly successful!
WestJet proudly tells you at every opportunity their people are also owners. Do you ever wonder why? I did and I dug deeper and it explains a lot about their success. When you call Air Canada’s call centre the person answering the phone is seldom empowered to make many decisions. At WestJet they’ve empowered their people. For example, if you’ve had a death in the family and cannot go on your trip at Air Canada you will have to talk with multiple people to get a full refund. At WestJet the person answering the phone can make the decision and refund your full ticket price. WestJet employees are empowered to make decisions like owners, and like any business owner they understand and accept the impact.
If you’re scoring low with your people, I would suggest you jump on this one quickly. If you don’t address the people issues nothing else will really matter. If you’re having product problems it’s the people who will help get you out of it. If you’re having process problems it’s the people who will help get you out of it. You hired them so maybe it’s time to start trusting them to help your business succeed!