Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Anti-maturity; When It Just Isn't Worth the Investment

How often, really, have organizations started down the roads of project management, governance, enterprise architecture, internal controls .. you name it, they've tried it; but after the dust settles, the initiative has failed and faded like so many before it.  And now, you, lucky you, have been named to lead the next new fad.

Let's face it, a lot of organizations manage in spite of themselves to ride market forces to a place where corporate resources can absorb a lot of mistakes.  For optical purposes they may have to satisfy oversight groups, regulators, shareholders etc. by trying out some new approach, but they don't see any terminal consequences of paying nothing more than lip-service to the idea.  You, however, will join the long list of casualties.

Is there a way to tell whether an organization simply isn't interested in the types of benefits that these initiatives might create?  Kudos to Kik Piney for developing the Anti-Maturity Model.  You can read his approach (which he says isn't fully developed but you will find it pretty informative just the same). The gist of it is that you are wasting time trying to climb off Level 1 of any maturity model if the overall organizational culture is going to actively undermine most of the key elements of any process or discipline.  Immaturity suggests that you want to get better but don't quite know how; anti-maturity means you don't really want to improve.

This model might be also be helpful for many PMs in career considerations.  As you work your way up the PM ladder, the sign that you have actually arrived is that great interview where the panel emphasizes how the organization has come to really value the benefits that some aspect of PPFM can bring, and how they need someone with your experience to really bring it to life.  On the strength of an hour or two, how will you find out whether this is really the job you've been working towards for years, or the beginning of a 2 or 3 year nightmare featuring broken promises, carer threats, and endless wrangling?  You'll live through it, and be the stronger for it in the end, but how much nicer it would be for all concerned if you could determine in advance of taking the gig. Maybe a working knowledge of the symptoms of anti-maturity would help ask some penetrating questions during this same interview.

Kik doesn't get into why an organization would choose to behave that way.  It's often useful to observe the behavior and respond based on a knowledge of how an actor will behave, rather than speculating (often incorrectly) about why.  Having said that, recall that people rise to the top of an organization because their particular skills and preferences fir the way that organization works; once they rise to the top, they pass those same predispositions onward. For instance, IT organizations should in theory be run by managers with experience running IT operations; but all too often IT operations are run by people with a history of seeking to be responsive to customers  and other stakeholders by making undocumented on-the-fly changes that bring the whole system down -- and then build their "team player" credits by coming in overnight to fix the problem that they would never admit to having created.  Then, of course, they are promoted because they always got the extra mile.  Then they read a book about how great ITIL is, or maybe an external audit forces it on them. Do you really think there is any chance of success? Do you think it is a coincidence that something as inherently obvious as the precepts of ITIL has had rather limited adoption? The whole scenario is anti-maturity at work.

Enjoy the read!  

Monday, February 2, 2015


In a separate post we discussed several different views on the appropriate level of accuracy to include in meeting minutes.  I also noted that even more prevalent than different ways of taking minutes is for a meeting to have no record at all.

We all know that spies and politicians do this, but surely the entire PMBoK is about transparency, consistency and making a record. Yet so many PMs are among those who seldom document a meeting (at least for public consumption; what goes into your little black book for self-protection does not count!)

Why so little practice of transparency?

  • Some PMs perhaps think that taking minutes (and more importantly, typing them up) is a secretarial function and they're much too important for that. Bad thinking. If you put the meeting record together you can make sure that the important things are included and that the needed actions are assigned. I certainly wouldn't want to say that you can remember the meeting sort of the way you want to ... but it happens that way sometimes ... don't overdo it.
  • I know I often forget, or maybe a day or two of back-to-back meetings overcome your good resolutions, and the next thing you know you are twelve meetings behind and what the heck, nobody will notice missing a week. Which may well be true. And the next thing you know it's a month.
  • The committee holding the meeting doesn't bother to read the minutes, offers no corrections or clarifications, and never votes to approve them. Why bother? {Ahem. See the first bullet).
  • The committee members don't want to be held accountable for their decisions.  Now we're getting somewhere. Is it that they really don't want anyone to know what they decided? Ask them how anyone is supposed to do what they decided if nobody knows what that is. If you're still not getting any sensible answers after going down this road, consider whether your organization is so process-phobic that trying to implement PPFM is pretty much a waste of time (see the Anti-Maturity posting)
  • Actually it's more likely that the members are OK with having votes etc recorded but they don't want a record of who said what in the deliberations leading up to the vote. Well, all right. If that's the only compromise you have to make in implementing your governance process, you are well on your way.

Here's another old favorite: our team is small and everyone knows what's going on. Why waste time on administrative overhead?
Hmm. Ever heard of turnover? Ironically, the logic is almost the reverse: the tighter your group, the harder it is for a new person to come up to operating efficiency. It's amazing how many processes that "everyone knows" turn out to be known in a different way, or not at all, by almost every member of the team. When a new person comes on board, it is of enormous help to be able to take a few hours reading through an abbreviated life history of how we got to where we are. Of course the minutes won't tell you everything you need to know (nor, unfortunately will your new team-mates) but within a few hours hours the newbie is at least familiarized with the issues and the stakeholders.

I'm not insisting that senior managers be the actual scribes or document typists. Go ahead and have someone else do it. As long as it gets done.