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Making a plan that works is easy, right? You simply need to collect ideas, prioritize, staff and execute them.

 The truth is: IT’S DAMN HARD!

 Please share your thoughts on what makes it so hard for your organization.

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Last month a few colleagues and I attended one of the biggest project management and project portfolio management conferences in Germany, the PM Welt (World) in Munich. Usually, as a vendor, we’re happy about any conversation going on at your booth - be it 5 or 10. This day we were overrun. The reason? We asked all of the conference visitors what keeps them from making plans that work. And everybody had something to say. Since I think these problems and ideas can also benefit project managers and people involved in portfolio management far beyond Germany, I shared the results in a blog post: https://meisterplan.com/blog/projects-and-plans-that-work/

Do you find yourself represented? What do you want to add?

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The "Matrix" organizational design makes task-based planning likely to fail. Person A creates a task plan for Person B, and Person C can assign work to Person B without consultation with Person A. Sure, we "empowered" Person B back in the 1990's, but it's strange how less empowered they became.

What I see in Meisterplan is an allocation environment that can preserve the "Matrix" design while showing deliberate intent to allocate the resources. It is a practical solution to a rather strange problem. 

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Setting priorities in Matrix organizations

***

Hey Barry,

Thank you for sharing your observations and interpretations! 

Here’s a story that relates closely to your thoughts but unfortunately makes matters worse.

I recently spoke to the PMO Lead of a large media company and, as always, I asked “Why is making plans that work so difficult?”.

Her answer really hit me. The issue she describes is so apparent we often loose it from sight. (And it’s so grave she would not want to read her company name here).

She said that in her Matrix organization, it was close to impossible to get an alignment on the strategic goals of the company. Hence, even if a central committee decided on project prioritization and staffing (with the help of a software tool or not), individual unit heads just told their staff to work on something else.

The two pieces of advice I gave were:

·         For company-wide projects, make portfolio and staffing decisions very explicit and very public (a key lean PPM activity). Monitor progress and make that very public, too. And make successful project managers heroes.

·         For everything else the individual units work on: Let them. And give them sufficient capacity. And don’t control what they do (another word for “transparency”) – it’s none of your business as a PMO. (By the way that’s where many Business Performance Management approaches go astray from my point of view).

 

To Barry / other readers: Would you agree? What other practical advice can you give? What have you seen other companies do to align their Matrix organizations to company goals?

Cheers

Christoph

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That's an interesting question Christoph. 

Many of our clients don't actually know their company goals, and even if they do know their goals the PMO may be overstepping their bounds if they try to impose alignment.

I strongly agree with your point about making portfolio and staffing very public. It's pretty common that the organization doesn't know their own resource capacity or utilization.

The common form of Matrix we see makes the individual employee accountable for the reconciliation of supply / demand imbalances. Simply put: the work piles on in an uncontrolled fashion that may actually be correlated to the worker's usefulness and value, and the individual knowledge worker is the only person on the planet who can see the entirety of the demand. Thus, they have to figure out what to work on, when. Thus, they decide what NOT to work on every day. 

If Management doesn't like the decisions being made, it's Management's fault since they're the ones who decided not to manage. Back in the 1990's when "Empowerment" was introduced, Management abdicated their duty to manage.

So if a company wants to align the projects with their goals, they should start by ensuring that the resource capacity is directed properly.

 

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