Positively Managing Ourselves – PMO gets Personal

Look in any bookshop (okay, perhaps remember looking in any bookshop for the time being), and amongst the self-help titles, you’ll see many on change. And why? Because we struggle with it. In fact, human beings are designed not to be very good at change, because change means uncertainty. When presented with news of a change, the brain’s source of fear, the amygdala, interprets that as a very real threat to survival and releases hormones to support the fight or flight response, hence a racing heartbeat or butterflies. But as we live in constantly changing times, whether benign or otherwise, it makes sense that we try to get as good at coping with change as we can. So, this month, our part two piece on coping with change focuses on how, as business change professionals, we can take the lessons from PMO and the corporate classroom to help us deal with change better in our own lives.

1 – Structure your struggles

Okay, so perhaps Donald Rumsfeld didn’t say it best when he said,

‘…as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know…’

…but there really was considerable merit beneath the madness of that quote. For, if change means uncertainty, one of the greatest mitigations against that is to put in place structures around those things that you can control. And PMO, with its roots in governance, is brilliant for creating structures; from planning and sticking to a budget, to meal planning, or perhaps the very real struggles and juggles of home-schooling, understanding and implementing what you CAN do, can help empower you to stay the course in stormy waters. Our social media manager, Pippa Shakespeare, writes;

‘Some say that the main purpose of a PMO is to make sure that projects and programmes are run in a repeatable, standardized way, and this has fast become a winning formula for juggling home school and work in our household…..We made timetables for the kids, and agreed working patterns on a Sunday for the week ahead that gave me confidence (and a much needed sense of calm!) Slowly we became more efficient and more effective. I wouldn’t say we’re a well-oiled machine yet, but the principles of a PMO have been a bit of a guiding light!’

Another key point of PMO is ably demonstrated here, too; that of monitoring trends. By putting something repeatable in place, whether it’s a daily workout for us or a daily timeout from the home-schooling, we can identify our efficiencies – or, more simply put, what is, and isn’t working.

2 – Learn the art of leverage

People aren’t always very good at is asking for help, but PMOs positively love doing that, particularly if it means leveraging unusual partnerships to bring about rich rewards in the workplace. Since lockdown, social media has been full of the unity of community, and it’s a shift in attitude that’s set to last, so whether it’s helping out neighbours, swapping skills to assist each other through times of difficulty, or simply embracing your role in the bigger picture, leverage those around you to find new combinations of symbiotic support that you never knew existed until now.

3 – Manage your mindset

Whether you’re struggling with, or stalling on, personal changes, it’s less the logistics and much more your mindset that’s causing the problems, as we’re wired to focus on the negatives of any given situation, not the positives, a tendency called ‘the negativity bias.’ Evident in infants from as young as three months old – yes, that baby is judging you harshly – this tendency to look badly upon things is again an atavistic throwback which alerts us to possible risks in our environment. But from a business change perspective, this mindset can make the very real difference between success and failure, as the story of the Manchester Shoe Company, as told by Benjamin Zander in his book, ‘The Art of Possibility,’ ably illustrates;

‘In the early 1900s, inspired by a desire to enter a faraway market, two traveling salesmen were sent as a beachhead into the region. A few days later, two telegraphs came back independently. One said, “Situation horrible. They don’t wear shoes!” The other said, “Glorious opportunity; they don’t have any shoes yet!”’ [1]

4 – Find your flex

We at RedWizard are passionate about flexibility, as it permits us, quite simply, to do our best. Some of us are night owls, some of us have children, and all of us have dogs who need their daily walk(s), so rather than blanketing ourselves in a staid schedule that would work for appearances only, we work collectively as individuals, bouncing off each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and creating our working days around what works best for us. But for many of us, still bound by traditional expectations, we’re forced to work against our own strengths, whether your circadian cycle means you have your best ideas at 3am or you could role-swap with someone else for better results. Simply put; don’t fight a formula that simply isn’t working any more – find your freedom and flex by embracing what works best for you.

5 – Prioritise for perfection

An external partner brought in to help solve a company’s problems are going to assess and prioritise before doing anything else, and at times of personal change, that’s a great skill to emulate. If you’re juggling different balls, which ones can you afford to drop? Or if you honestly can’t, who can you recruit to catch them for you? What really matters right now? And what doesn’t? Tying into flexibility and positivity, prioritising means having the confidence to put boundaries in place to keep what’s crucial and ease up on what’s not.

Though a business acronym, PMO is, at its heart, an attitude of positivity, agility and fearlessness, which enables difficult change to foster brilliant and beautiful results. And some of its best lessons, as detailed above, have very real and life-changing applications that can support us all, beyond the boardroom and into the hearts of our families and homes. And if you’d like to read more, our literal A-Z of how PMO can help with just about anything, be sure to check out our PMO Growth Mindset.

[1] https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/getting-personal-about-change