Tools, tools, tools – why does no one ask about culture?!?

If you visit LinkedIn’s project management Answers forum, you may see inquiries on recommendations for the best tool for a given project management or PPM purpose.  Its amusing to see the high percentage of business development staff at PPM or PM solution vendors who respond to such inquiries as compared with the lower percentage of responses from true end users.

Unfortunately, I have almost never seen people ask the better questions “How do we know if we are ready for a tool?” or “What culture is required to take advantage of a tool?”.

This is a good instance of a lesson that has not been learned – many of these people who are asking about PPM tools have likely experienced the challenges of implementing other enterprise applications such as CRM, ERP or ESM (enterprise systems management) solutions so you’d expect that there would be an awareness of the need for having the right environment in place to exploit tool capabilities.

Culture has become a much abused word in management circles so what environmental attributes are needed to achieve the benefits of introducing a PPM or PM tool?

  • Visible organizational recognition of the value of project management – if the people that are entering or pulling data out of the tool don’t believe project management adds value, it will negative affect their usage.
  • Accountability & consequences – Staff should demonstrate accountability and ownership for complying with project management practices and there should be instances of consequences for non-compliance, not just at the front-line worker level, but all the way up to senior management.
  • Talking the talk AND walking the walk – if senior management doesn’t use the information outputs of project management & PPM to support their decision making, or if they agree on decisions within portfolio governance committees and then go back to their departments and do what they please, a tool won’t make any difference.
  • Functional managers who put the needs of the organization ahead of the needs of their teams – if functional managers are spending more time propping up their silo walls which is causing project managers to channel large green, gamma radiation-affected scientists (Slight segue: There can’t be a better superhero tag line than “Hulk SMASH!”), those tool costs may be better spent on influencing behavioral change.

My fellow IT management soothsayer, Vaughan Merlyn, wrote about this issue a couple of years back, but the message bears repeating: culture trumps tools, (and to a lesser degree) process and people.

Categories: Facilitating Organization Change, Project Management, Project Portfolio Management | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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