Agile Maturity & Change Management: 3 Steps for Achieving Executive Buy-In

Author: Lindsey Marymont

Large-scale change is difficult for any organization, and no less so when it involves growing Agile maturity in project and portfolio management. These days, businesses are taking an in-depth look at their project management methodology and their PMO maturity and finding that both are lagging behind. When it comes time to change the way things have always been done, however, the fear of the change management process can cause the most important decision-makers — CIOs, CFOs, —to balk. And this hesitancy can create problems in allowing a PMO to advance its Agile maturity.

Often, the most important investment in PMO adaption starts at the top with the executives who hold the power to elevate or eliminate a PMO’s goals. Change, no matter how difficult it might be, is absolutely necessary for an organization to thrive. The key to making the process easier is to start with enthusiastic buy-in from all stakeholders involved — to overcome their objections and their fears and create buy-in to the process. Here are three steps for encouraging risk-averse executives to support PMO maturity initiatives.

#1 Show the Existing Pain Points

The growing pains that come with large change management projects are often a deterrent to getting your upper management to co-sign the initiative. This is often true because everyone has grown used to the existing pain points — like the old story about the frog in boiling water, they’ve adapted to the problems so they don’t realize the danger. To risk-averse stakeholders, abrupt change is mistakenly viewed as tossing the frog into the already boiling pot — they want to avoid any potential pain and they see change as potentially impeding success. What they often fail to realize is that the water they’ve been sitting in has also been getting mighty warm… Point out where the existing challenges are far worse than the brief discomfort of shifting direction.

Here are some common pain points in a PMO that is lagging in Agile maturity:

  • Failure to live up to expectations
  • Unable to keep the pace with rapid changes
  • Lack of clarity
  • Effectiveness inhibited by time-consuming, manual functions
  • Focus on deliverables, not customer satisfaction
  • Fragmented organizational structures or unbreachable silos
  • Skill and resource shortages
  • Inaccurate forecasting

When you lay out a clear picture of how problems are hindering growth and development, you begin to build the business case for PMO maturity and provide a proven path to creating buy-in.

#2 Illustrate the Benefits

In the iconic 90s movie Jerry Maguire, there’s the memorable scene in which one of the main characters shouts, “Show me the money!” It’s a phrase that has endured in pop culture for more than two decades because it resonates with people: “Show me how what you’re selling me is going to benefit me.”

When creating buy-in for PMO maturity initiatives, you need to show decision-makers how change will benefit them and the organization. The best place to get started? It just so happens to be that handy list of pain points you created. Show how your initiative will systematically reverse the challenges you have listed and drive real benefits such as: 

  • Reduced costs
  • Increased productivity
  • Proactive project and resource management
  • Faster delivery times
  • Innovation, growth and advancement
  • Better forecasting
  • Measurable data
  • Enhanced communication
  • Fulfillment on commitments — promises made are promises kept
  • Improved customer satisfaction

#3 Provide a Plan

Too often a great idea dies on the drafting table because of poor execution. When working to achieve buy-in for growing your PMO’s Agile maturity, it is important to bring a plan to the table that overcomes objections you know your decision-maker will have. The more answers you have available, the more competent and trustworthy you will appear in taking on the tasks at hand. Questions you might encounter include:

  • Timeline – How long should this take? What milestones should be set?
  • Investment – How much time and money should be invested in this? What are the limits?
  • Implementation – How will the plan be executed? One department at a time? All at once? Who will facilitate the process?
  • Desired Results – What do you expect this transformation to accomplish? What does success look like? 

Achieving PMO maturity is an endeavor that requires buy-in from the top down and the bottom up. Like any large-scale initiative, it is imperative to start with the executives who can make or break the initiative before implementation begins. Following the three steps discussed above will help create a strong foundation for gaining enthusiastic buy-in and pave the way for great success going forward.