Change management (part one): An outsider’s perspective

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Poorly managed change and how it actually feels to those on the ground

Laura Handley, Business Development Lead, RedWizard Having taught in state education for twenty years–facing continual curriculum change, redundancy twice and two academy conversions–I’ve been at the receiving end of much change! Most of it extremely stressful and entirely without long term benefit to those on the ground. So, I thought I’d share my own experience with you to highlight the human side of change and what it feels like when faced with the unknown. Here’s my story…

The unscheduled, anxiety-provoking, mandatory meeting

A meeting is called, all staff must attend with no exceptions. The invite is brief and gives little away. I begin to wonder why my manager never mentioned it—warning bells go off. Before the meeting even starts, I feel anxious and my palms start to sweat. Even my fitness tracker beeps with a heartrate warning! Time for the meeting and everyone invited enters the room. I look around at all the worried faces, the atmosphere is heavy and stifling. The management team stand at one end–nervous, and fidgety. They tell us ‘the news’ and it sounds a bit like this… “we have to restructure, there’s no more budget, you’re not working hard enough, etc…” I start to worry and feel physically sick. Questions are buffeting around in my head, “Will I lose my job? How will the change affect me? What extra work are they expecting? Will I need to retrain? What happens if I can’t do what’s expected? I can’t possibly work any harder. I can’t cope with this change on the top of all the others and don’t want it…” At this point, I’m handed a weighty document or dreaded envelope with a letter, white to be non-threatening. It usually reads a bit like this, “please read the information providedif you need more information our door is open… we want your input…it’s important to us that you have the opportunity to contribute to the process…etc…etc.” I’m sure you get the picture. All these empty words have been heard many times before. It’s clear that the decisions made are final, and I have no say or influence over the outcome. This makes me wonder if I even matter! After the meeting, I have a whinge-fest with colleagues. We all feel the same way about the changes or if we didn’t, we do now. My mind is full of negativity. I try to find someone or something to blame, everything I hear after that becomes a point of contention. It’s the end of the day, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that change will undoubtedly occur, but one thing is for sure… I’m not happy!

So, why am I sharing my story?

It’s important to highlight the fact that many organizations still manage change poorly. When change impacts people’s lives, inside or outside of work, it can negatively affect a person’s health and wellbeing—if not managed in the right way. Organizations need to make sure they’re answering these questions: When we arrange a mandatory meeting due to change, how can we avoid people feeling anxious or negative? How can we share key information differently to encourage active participation in the process? How can we communicate key messages in a better way, to ensure people have answers and they know what to expect?

There’s definitely a better way forward

I’ll be sharing my thoughts regarding these questions in my next article. In the meantime, I’d love to hear yours! If you’ve insight into this issue just drop me an email. ____________________________________________________________________ We’re RedWizard, the missing piece. For insights, expert advice, and general PMO chatter, follow us!

Big changes in programme and project management have sparked conversation, but what impact have they had? Has anything really changed since the 90s?

By Jools Barrow-Read, Portfolio & Programme Management (PMO) Consultant, RedWizard The programme management office (PMO) sets its stall on being a dynamic feature of the project landscape, continually evolving to current times. It’s a badge we wear with pride. From the Scientific Management Method developed by Frederick Taylor about a century ago to the “institutionalisation” of our professional standards in the 90s, our history is a long and happy timeline of original thought and idea development. We might vary by name and in function, but we can always be trusted to support organizations through the turbulence of ever-changing conditions.


If we asked you what had really changed since the 1990s, what would you say? Are we, as an industry, pushing hard toward becoming a hybrid function as we move into the fourth industrial revolution? Or, are we so caught up with identity and acronyms that we’re forgetting about the one thing that matters—delivering real value? These, and many other questions have been left unanswered, so we’re placing a few under the spotlight.

Evolution as manifesto: A potted history of the PMO

You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been, as the saying goes. And one thing’s for sure, PMO has come a long way in the past 100 years. So, what significant changes were made during this time? About a century ago – scientific management method Frederick Taylor introduced the idea of increasing the number and complexity of projects managed by single organizations. 1930s – first project office Possibly the first recorded use of the “project office” expression, developed by the U.S. Air Corps (Crawford & Cabanis-Brewin, 2010). 1950s – US military complex missile systems PMO This PMO realised the benefits of centralising funding into work packages instead of separate components. So, the concept of improving budget predictions, creating a standard phased planning approach and identifying non-strategic initiatives before fund allocation was born. 1980s – Exported to construction and IT industries as a result of computer tech advancement Advancements in technology allowed the PMO concept to roll out across the construction and IT industries, as well as others. 1990s professional associations mobilised / industry standards met Professional associations and project management certifications gained traction and became recognised industry standards: Project Management Institute (PMI), PRINCE2 and the International Project Management Association (IPMA). The need for a standardised and coordinated approach gained momentum to improve the efficiency of project delivery and eliminate delays and overspend.

The 1990s, the decade that never ended

Like any type of evolution, each PMO advancement has stood on the shoulders of its predecessors. In the ‘70s, technology made the creation of project management software possible, thanks to Oracle. With the ‘80s came affordable PCs for project work; the ‘90s gave us project management degrees and specific methodologies for standardising PMOs. Now we are here, a couple of decades into the 21st century. And… it’s amazing how little has changed. For the most part, today’s PMO is still considered an administrative reporting function in many organizations, following a specific methodology, supporting change and transformation by following a set of standard processes aimed at increasing efficiency–process driven, inflexible, lacking passion and fundamentally losing sight of the bigger picture. Forward-thinking organizations understand that mature PMOs can be a trusted change partner, an enabler, a strategic think tank of transformation and innovation! However, not all PMOs have reached this maturity level and there is still confusion around what a mature PMO should look like. For many, evolution seems to have come to a halt, and that’s why most PMOs fail within the first four years.

Today’s PMO can, and should, go much further!  

With many PMOs failing, it’s time to stop talking about methodology, standards and governance, and start talking about what really matters—VALUE. Here are a few areas to focus on in order to ensure that your PMO is evolving and becoming a ‘mature’ PMO asset that is valued.  Build relationships The difference between a mature and an immature PMO lies in the quality of its relationships. Gain trust by connecting and listening to your key stakeholders—earn their trust and support. Deliver results Move away from producing lengthy reports and don’t deliver problems—deliver solutions. Be innovative Being innovative requires a bit of creative thinking, and you need to be inspired in order to think creatively. How? Research, learn and develop your skills. If you remain passionate about what you do, it’s easier to deliver innovative solutions that make a difference. Have empathy! If there’s a mantra here it is this: PMO is not all about the process! Put yourself in the shoes of the organization, understand the pressure they’re under and where the pain points are for them. What’s most important to the business? How can you go the extra mile?
Traditional PPM roles and structures have to change. Bureaucrats will be banished. Zombie project management offices (PMOs) will be slain – Robert A. Handler, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner 2019

Where are we now, and where do we want to be?

We’re standing on the brink of the fourth 4th industrial revolution that will fundamentally change the way live, work and relate to one another. Technology-led innovation is constantly opening doors that were previously closed, making the impossible possible and forcing us to rethink our approach to strategy development. The big question now is where we, the people, fit into the organisations of the future.
 No one can predict exactly what life will look like in 2024, but there are a few things we do know. Our technology will be a thousand times more powerful than in 2004 and a million times more powerful than in 1994. So change of all kinds will happen exponentially faster than it ever has before. – Forbes 2018
We’re not sugar-coating the future and for sure, the ‘mature’ PMO faces challenges going forward, with data security and integration being top of the list. That’s undeniable. But for the immature PMO, these concerns are moot. The key takeaway is that to even survive, PMOs need to be flexible, innovative, strategically focused and aligned. Most importantly—they need to create long-lasting relationships, built on trust. ____________________________________________________________________ We’re RedWizard, the missing piece. For insights, expert advice, and general PMO chatter, follow us! and join in change conversations in our Champions of Change Facebook Group:
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Are you ready for the revolution?