Archive for category Horizontal Empowerment

Executive Sponsorship: Key to Project Workforce Management Success

We listen carefully to the challenges that our customers experience in deploying Project Workforce Management solutions. But one common challenge is not one that we can address with better software or implementation services.  That challenge is executive sponsorship.

Whether it is for eliminating the costly habits of meetings, email and spreadsheets, or simply getting employees to enter their leave requests using the workflow system, change is unlikely unless executives not only speak in favor of it, but embrace it in their actions as well as their words.

In a recent report from Forrester Research (cited here on, executive sponsorship is cited as the number one way for companies to re-invent their business intelligence (BI) strategy–and the same goes for a project workforce management which, like a BI strategy, is all about keeping executives informed about the productivity of the organization. I also cited in the book, The Rise of the Project Workforce, an Aberdeen study that showed resistance to changes in work standards to be the number one implementation problem.

We advise our customers to enlist their executive sponsors early on in the implementation process, and keep these sponsors highly involved long after the implementation.  Executive sponsors should:

  • Be the system’s "Power Users." Nothing works better than leadership by example. And when executives truly understand a project workforce management solution’s reporting and analysis capabilities, they can streamline their processes significantly.
  • Participate in the same end-user training as the staff. Lead by example: show openness to learning and changing, and demonstrate a commitment to the solution in a public way.
  • Evangelize the system, and the benfits for the employees, not just the organization. For example, to get employees to use a time and billing system, stress how much easier it is for them, explain the benefits for them, not for Accounting.

Higher user adoption, led by active sponsorship from the executive level, enables the highest benefits of a project workforce management solution: better data capture for better decision-making, and more efficient business processes. But more so than other enterprise solutions, project workforce management, when adopted properly, leads to true empowerment of the teams who use it.

The executives who sponsor project workforce management need to be comfortable with this empowerment shift. Then they can whole-heartedly endorse the organizational changes that are necessary to get the greatest benefits from the solution.

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Tenrox Webinar: Workflow for Project Workforce Management

Project Workforce Managers in the flat world need automated workflow to manage sets of tasks as steps in real business processes, and to engage people from any location in those processes. Graphical Workflow also helps keep these processes streamlined, makes bottlenecks apparent, and eliminates the MESS (Meetings+Emails+Spreadsheets).

Tenrox is hosting a webinar to demonstrate graphical workflow in action:

What You See is What You Get:
Graphical Workflow for More Manageable, Adaptable Business Processes

Tuesday November 13, 2007 at 10 a.m. Pacific, 1 p.m. Eastern

Please read more about the webinar here, and register online.

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Project Workforce Management: Empower Horizontally with Dashboards

In an earlier post entitled "Empower Horizontally of Die," I described how we at Tenrox have pushed accountability downwards in our org chart, giving our business process and project managers the accountability and the authority to affect key metrics that are truly important to the organization. By empowering horizontally, we not only get more accomplished as a team, but we also keep our staff involved and energized.

Tracking the right metrics, and making those metrics visible on dashboards,  are critical tactics to our ability to empower horizontally. Without real time visibilty into what’s really going on no one can make good decisions. Like many companies, we used to spend a lot of time in status meetings. But when you add up the number of person-hours that status meetings require, and divide by what actually gets accomplished in those meetings, it is easy to see that they are not a great value to the organization.

In our case, I was based in California for 4 years along with our marketing and professional services teams, some of our R&D teams are in Montreal, and other teams and offices are scattered across the globe. Physical status meetings became as impractical as they were ineffective. When we did have meetings, people got defensive about having to explain their results in front of the group. Frankly, the meetings were boring, even for me.

Under our new approach, each manager has a simple dashboard that we have agreed upon. For example, as Mike McRae, our VP of Professional Services, explained recently, our project managers in professional services use dashboards that include both utilization rates and customer satisfaction metrics. In addition, managers also provide brief descriptions of what they have accomplished for the week and month.

The beauty of the system is that we can all look at these dashboards quickly and understand what needs to be done. A review or call between the accountable manager and his or her boss is rarely necessary. If metrics do not look positive, people generally know already what they need to do to improve their results–they don’t need a weekly one-hour meeting for me to tell them. When a meeting is needed, we meet in small groups to discuss very specific topics. This works out just fine for everyone!

Freedom from status meetings (part of the "MESS" of Meetings, Emails, and SpreadSheets) has saved Tenrox much valuable time, has empowered our workforce, and has liberated our managers, including myself, to do more productive work.


Project Workforce Management: Empower Horizontally, or Die

I recently blogged about the younger, faster generation entering the project workforce. This is the generation that Jim Carroll has written about in his foreword to the book Rise of the Project Workforce, entitled "Don’t mess with my powder, dude." These people want to go snowboarding, or do whatever else they like to do—and they don’t have much patience for hierarchical “matrix” organizations that are not agile.

I use the term “horizontal empowerment” to describe how companies must push the decision-making processes “down the org chart” if they want to be agile and competitive. If decision making is slow, not only will the new project workforce lose patience and work somewhere else, but the new generation of extremely demanding and highly informed customers will lose patience, too.

At our user conference September 26, our own Mike McRae, VP of Professional Services, used the Tenrox service delivery teams as an example of “horizontal empowerment.” Mike described how we tie the compensation of our project managers to both utilization rates and customer satisfaction, and give the PMs full ownership of the team that delivers our services to the customer.

Before this change, we were in a never-ending cycle of "passing the buck": our support managers and staff would blame the consultants when things went wrong; and consultants and the consulting manager would blame the enterprise solutions team (who works on customizations, integration and reporting).

But today, Mike has implemented a new structure. The project manager directly manages a customer project team that consists of a business analyst, a technical consultant, an enterprise solutions developer, and a support representative. By creating cross-functional teams and empowering their managers, Mike was able to move the responsibility and decision-making down, where it belongs, in a flat world.

Mike said in his talk:

“I used to have to worry about customer satisfaction and billable utilization. Plus, I was constantly revising processes and controls to balance these two often conflicting metrics. Now, it’s up to our project managers to balance them for each project. As a result, Tenrox saw both utilization and customer satisfaction jump in the past year. And, by empowering the project managers and their teams they are more motivated and re-energized."

It is not enough to just push down the decision making authority: project managers need access to the right information for making informed decisions. In a future post, I will describe how we have accomplished this by replacing time-consuming meetings with informative dashboards.