Gignac 2010 (2)


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The strategic Project Office: The organizational Central Nervous System

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Gignac 2010 (2)

  1. 1. PMI Virtual Library© 2010 Francine GignacThe Strategic Project Office: TheOrganizational Central Nervous SystemBy Francine Gignac, MBA, MAOM, PMPL et’s start by investigating your situation. (1) Are you office is one way to avoid further degradation and provide a overworked? (2) Are your efforts diverted on many cure for the disconnect between reality and the capability to projects? (3) Do you feel you are losing focus on deliver.the corporate vision and goals? (4) Are you managing risksadequately? (5) Are there The Strategic Projecttoo many projects in the Office—The Centralpipeline? (6) Are you putting Nervous System ofyour efforts in the right place the Organizationand at the right time? (7) The strategic projectAre your projects running The strategic project office, office, also associatedover budget? (8) Are your also associated with an enterprise with an enterprise projectprojects generating the center or a center ofexpected benefits? (9) Do project center or a center of excellence, representsyou find yourself putting the next step towardout fires and cutting costs excellence, represents the next organizational maturity;that prevent proactive it is an extension ofplanning? (10) Do you have step toward organizational the former project ”the team with the skills and management office andcompetencies to deliver? maturity. entails more than the(11) Are you supported management of theby methods and tools that project portfolio and theimprove your capability methods and tools forto deliver? (12) Are you delivering them.delivering quality? (13) Are The strategicthere other people working on similar initiatives elsewhere in project office provides the following key objectives for theyour organization or have there been similar initiatives in the organization:past that can help you now? • Aligns projects with corporate goals and objectives; These are some of the questions that may be posed to • Offers a coherent upward reporting to the executive team,identify the symptoms of organizations that have weakened which enables effective decision making;the control and lost the pulse of their vital functions (i.e., • Ensures that the projects are prioritized and deliveredpeople, effort, time, and money). Setting up a strategic project successfully;
  2. 2. • Optimizes the utilization of human and financial The Proactive State resources; The central nervous system in this state is well developed• Improves the capabilities, skills, and proficiencies of and experienced in anticipating and responding to external human resources; triggers. The proactive organization with this higher level of• Supports quality assurance and continuous improvement; autonomy and agility is rarely caught off guard because it not• Provides and improves best practices, methodologies, only sees the punch coming, it can block it and fight back processes, and tools; aggressively.• Drives knowledge and intellectual capital management initiatives and encourages collaboration; and, The Adaptive State• Manages risks and reports on performance. The adaptive state of the central nervous system implies a phenomenal ability to anticipate and respond to events. The In many ways, the strategic project office acts as the organization has all the mechanisms in place and the power tocentral nervous system of the organization, governing all sense and deal with its environment. In this state, the adaptiveits movements and reflexes. The strategic project office organization can predict the punch and, instead of deployingprovides the ability to react, act, and even predict situations the effort to fight back, it uses it agility to move away and aheadand it links the corporate strategy to projects so that the of its assailant, leaving him or her disoriented and stunned.whole system is balanced and the organizational health isprotected. In today’s changing world, there is more and Improving Organizational Reflexes andmore pressure on organizations to be alert and agile so they Performancecan ensure their survival and, ultimately, their evolution. In By improving the organizational reflexes, the strategicthis context, it is imperative that organizations take special project office acts directly on performance. Before this newcare of their central nervous system (i.e., the strategic project framework can be established, the organization must haveoffice). a clear definition of its goals, indicators of performance, There are four states for an organizational central nervous processes linkages, skills, and common tools and technology.system. In turn, the organization can deploy various initiatives and derive many benefits from the establishment of a strategicThe Reactive State project office:In this state, the organization takes action on a stimulusbut its poor structure and level of coordination prevent it • Project Portfolio Managementfrom responding efficiently and effectively. This is similar to • Prioritizes projects;someone receiving a punch in the stomach without seeing • Analyzes and reduces overall risks;it coming; he or she might simply be unable to fight back • Ensures alignment with the corporate plan;or only be capable of responding with a kick that does • Eliminates redundant work;not necessarily hit the target. This state often leaves the • Consolidates project information; andorganization shaken and destabilized. • Improves performance reporting and decision making.The Trained StateThe trained state implies that the organization has received • Human Resource Managementsome basic training so that its central nervous system is more • Maps resources profile, location, roles, skills,aware of its external environment. The training may involve competencies, and proficiencies;best practices, methods, processes, and tools, which make it • Allocates resources more efficiently and with respectmore capable of reacting. In other words, the organization can to capacity;see the punch coming and be ready to fight back; yet, hitting • Plans workforce requirements;the target is not necessarily guaranteed. This state provides • Manages effective training programs based onsome confidence that the organization is more coordinated workforce planning; andand capable of responding, yet it does not provide speed and • Increases retention rate through improved employeeagility. satisfaction. PMI Virtual Library | | © 2010 Francine Gignac 2
  3. 3. • Quality Management project-based philosophy and to the centralization of • Aligns quality practices and business goals; the responsibilities relative to project portfolio and risk • Offers best practices, metrics, processes, and tools, management, human resource management, quality thereby contributing to the reduction of costs and management, and knowledge management must be lead time to market; accessible. On the operational side, the level of maturity • Encourages a culture of quality and provides of each unit must be detailed, and the impacts on the leadership for quality processes, consulting, and processes clearly defined to allow for the development of support services; a change management strategy and plan. Finally, adequate • Coordinates the continuous improvement program; funding must be budgeted to support the deployment and effort, to staff the strategic project office and to carry on the • Improves the image of the organization. strategic initiatives and projects. Once the readiness and action plans have been• Knowledge and Intellectual Capital Management completed, the implementation can start. The transition • Collects and organizes explicit and tacit knowledge involves managing the deployment of the strategic project (also referred to as structured and unstructured office like a project in itself. This includes getting executive information) on the core areas of the business; participation and proper sponsorship and communicating • Deploys and integrates knowledge repositories and the changes on a continuous basis through many activities, collaborative environments (discussion forums, chats, such as progress reports to the executive team, formal electronic libraries, etc.), thereby contributing to the training, lunch-and-learn events, and information about the reduction of costs and lead time to market; website dedicated to the strategic project office. • Provides leadership for knowledge sharing and Remember: not everything needs to happen at once! collaboration; and Avoid growing too quickly so that you can respond to • Supports continuous improvements initiatives and feedback and be able to realign, if necessary, the change enhancement of the organization’s image. management activities accordingly. Plan for continuous improvement! Target quick wins and allow for the evolutionMonitoring the Pulses and Taking Care of of the strategic project office’s organizational structure overOrganizational Impacts time. This approach will help to manage the resistance toMany organizations have deployed or are currently in change and will contribute to building a positive image andthe process of deploying a strategic project office. This is increasing the buy-in steadily.not a passing trend, but a corporate initiative to improve Most importantly: Communicate, communicate, andoverall performance. In this context, it is imperative that communicate! There is no such thing as over-selling. Sellingthe transition to a strategic project office be carefully and re-selling the strategic project office are necessary tomanaged throughout the organization. It is also important gaining and keeping the buy-in across all organizational acknowledge that all organizational units may not have Managing the changes also involves communicating thethe same levels of maturity to endorse a centralization of measurable objectives and reporting the successes, not onlythe processes, methodologies, and tools. In this context, the to the executive and steering committee members and theorganizational readiness must be assessed in all objectivity; stakeholders, but also to the internal and external communities.indeed, the establishment of a strategic project office should As a matter of fact, promoting the strategic project officenot be built on wishful impulse, but sustained through a and its positive contribution through public conferences andstrategic approach and rigorous planning. industry events can only increase the organizational buy-in and On the executive side, the commitment to a project develop pride in the initiative and the results.approach to every corporate initiative must be confirmed.Moreover, this commitment must be reflected in a high Conclusiondegree of understanding, an agreement on the office’s In conclusion, a strategic project office, like a centralmission, position, and role within the organization, and a nervous system, helps organizations move quickly and staywillingness to delegate governance roles and responsibilities. alive despite markets growing globally, competition gettingFrom an organizational standpoint, the adherence to a more aggressive, and challenges becoming more complex. PMI Virtual Library | | © 2010 Francine Gignac 3
  4. 4. To better illustrate this, Rodolfo Llinas, a neuroscientist About the Authorfrom New York University School of Medicine once said Francine Gignac, MBA, MAOM, PMP, has 25 years of“Basically, there are two types of animals: animals, and animals experience working in the field of information technology.that have no brains; they are called plants. They don’t need a Ms. Gignac is based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and hasnervous system because they don’t move actively; they don’t pull worked in medium and large enterprises in several industries,up their roots and run in a forest fire! Anything that moves including manufacturing, aerospace, telecommunications,actively requires a nervous system; otherwise it would come to a energy, media, distribution, retail, public services, andquick death.” 1 education. Her roles have varied, from manager, project manager, change management specialist, business, and system1 Llinas, Rodolfo. The Electric Brain. architect, to advisor and coach. She is the author of a book onnova/mind/electric.html. Retrieval date, 1 November 2005. eCollaboration, titled Building Successful Virtual Teams. PMI Virtual Library | | © 2010 Francine Gignac 4