PMO

PMO and Organizational Transformation: Crossing the Digital Rubicon

Henry Bennett

As we move into 2021 with a collective sigh of relief, all eyes at KeyedIn are focused firmly on the future. In the new year, we have made it our mission to help PMOs and the organizations they support make bold changes to thrive in the so called “new normal”. 

The events of 2020 brought sweeping changes to how we engage with one another and how we conduct business. The biggest change, without question, has been the new and unavoidable reliance on technology to manage our personal and business lives. It has been easier for some companies than others, but it’s safe to say that many have struggled to adapt. 

Is your organization one of those that are struggling to adapt? Are you looking for new ways to leverage new tech tools and trends to drive growth and value for your business? In our 4-part series titled “The 2021 Transformation Blueprint: Agile PM for an Adaptive World,” we’ll help you plan, prepare and perform in the year ahead. In Part One, we’ll start by taking a look at how we got here and share a few tips you can use to help you prepare for and manage change. Let’s get started.

 Crossing the Digital Rubicon

In a recent KeyedIn webinar titled “Agile Portfolio Management in an Adaptive World,” keynote speaker Harvey Neve referred to the dramatic digital adoption phenomenon of 2020 as “crossing the digital Rubicon.” In this case, the phrase “crossing the Rubicon” has been tweaked to reflect a modern trend. However, its origins date back more than 2,000 years when Julius Caesar defied the orders of the Roman Senate by crossing the Rubicon River into Italy, effectively declaring war on the Senate and permanently altering his future — and that of the world. Since that pivotal decision, “crossing the Rubicon” has become synonymous with embracing a course of action from which there is no return. 

 When applied to the new tech boom of the last year, it’s quite a fitting comparison. Just as Caesar could not trot back to Rome without consequence, many companies will be unable to step back into their old way of doing business. Remote working, for example, is here to stay for many companies. It’s going to be difficult to convince people who have done their jobs from home effectively that they must now return to a cubical model or daily in-person meetings are a necessity.   

 These changes are here to stay. And, as Neve notes, it’s worth considering why you would even want to go back. Neve asks, “Are you thinking about how you get back to normal once all this is over? Why aren't you thinking more about how you lead your teams to shape a future based on the learning and the experience that you've gained through these unprecedented times?” 

 Embracing PMO and Organizational Transformation

Neve isn’t one to make such a suggestion lightly. As a director with digital technology services consultancy Fitamix, he leads the application and adoption of emerging technologies and has a keen understanding of the need for change — and the difficulty. We’ve compiled some of his tips from the webinar along with our insights gleaned from years of serving our clients to help you lay the groundwork for embracing your own trip across the river of change. Hopefully, unlike Caesar, your careful preparation will help you avert a war, not cause one. 

 In general, humans are creatures of habit and we love familiar rituals and expected outcomes. When change disrupts our patterns, it can become distressing. If you’re in doubt about this, try switching the contents of two drawers in your kitchen and watch what happens. Or, think about how it feels when construction alters a regular commuting route and you must suddenly find a new way to get to your destination. This is why it is imperative that everyone approach change management strategically. As Neve notes, people may understand the necessity of change in theory, but actually executing it takes planning, preparation and performance.

Simple Tips for Creating Your Transformation Blueprint

1. Start at the top. Transformation requires a cultural shift within the entire organization. At KeyedIn, we refer to this as a top-down, bottom-up approach. However, it’s important that organizational leadership take their role seriously. That’s one reason we always advise that a PMO or PM start their lobby for change at the top. Leading by example is critical in change management because it’s difficult to convince skeptical adopters when the people in charge refuse to adapt!  As Neve put it, “A cultural shift is required to paint that new vision and align change activities to it. It demands real commitment and behavioral commitment, not just words — aligned behavior from the top”. 

2. Leverage an integrated approach. Digital transformation is found in the sweet spot where people, workspace and technology blend together in a symbiotic relationship. The last year has drastically changed what our workspaces look like, upended office cultural norms and increased our reliance on technology to get our work done. Crossing the digital Rubicon in your company will require your people and your leadership to reckon with that and adapt accordingly.

3. Start small. Harvey Neve shared a phrase in the webinar that’s helpful for framing effective change management: Don’t try to boil the ocean. His tip is to start small by building capability first. Nurture confidence in your teams and supply them with the resources and capacity they need to get the job done. Anticipating and removing small hurdles ahead of time will reduce discouraging setbacks that derail progress. It also helps to build momentum before a single process is altered. Get your teams to buy in early so they are more motivated to work through challenges that arise later. 

These are just a few tips to help you get your wheels turning. In Part Two of “The 2021 Transformation Blueprint: Agile PM for an Adaptive World,” we’ll provide you with in-depth insights, challenges and solutions from an expert PMO leader.