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Earlier this year, I wrote a short article on the topic of “The Value of a Project Management Office (PMO) – Looking Beyond the Price of Admission” – (LINK). In the article, I discussed some of the functional concepts I believe are necessary for a PMO to bring value as an organization, and go beyond the basics of Project Delivery. It was great to see the response and continuing conversation that resulted from that article. In this article, I am hoping to stimulate a conversation on the topic of “TRUST” – and how your Project Management Organization (PMO) must be laser focused on the development of Trust as an organizational Core Value.

As a Project Manager, have you ever been approached by a member of your project team or even a project sponsor only to have them ask you to “fudge” the status of your project in your standard reporting? You know how the conversation goes, your project is in trouble, and you have relayed effectively to your project team that you feel it is time to move your project from a status of “Green” to a status of “Yellow”. You firmly believe it is time to raise awareness that you are experiencing a situation that has had a negative impact on your project delivery capability. All of a sudden, you are approached by a member of the project team. They ask you to keep the project status “Green” just one more week, as they tell you they can get the issues resolved, and if you turn the status yellow, they are going to get in trouble with their manager.

What do you do? 

Consider another view. Your Project Sponsor comes to you, and explains to you that he is having problems with another executive who has deliverables on your project, and he wants you to represent that this other executive team is missing their deliverables and the resulting impact is you will miss your project commitments. Maybe they are, or maybe they aren’t, but you are being asked to intentionally call it out as a major issue impacting your ability to successfully deliver the project.  This is your Project Sponsor, he can get you in serious trouble with your own leadership if he chooses to complain about your project leadership skills.

How do you respond?

How do you handle these situations? Do you “fudge” your status? After all, it’s only a week, what does a week really change? Do you report that a team is not meeting their commitments? You also have problems with that group, they are pushing you off and telling you to mind your own business, and they don’t need a Project Manager all up in their business to get the job done.

Would that little white lie really change anything?


Becoming the “Trusted Source of Truth” on project activity and status

What exactly does this statement mean, and why is it so important to your success as an organization or as a leader? In its most simple context, it means that people must be able to trust the information being represented as factual or accurate from the Project Leaders and the PMO. Are your reporting and analytic efforts factual and transparent? (Here is a great article on Project Reporting from Karl Hallgrimsson – LINK) Do your Project Managers understand what it means for them to behave like “Switzerland” in their interactions with their project teams? All of these topics are points of consideration in what it means to be the “Trusted Source of Truth” in a PMO.

Consider the statement “Project Managers need to be like Switzerland – NEUTRAL”. I have used it myself many times over the years. What exactly is the intent of this statement? What does it mean for a Project Manager to be “Neutral”? For me, when I use this statement, it comes back to the foundational concept of “Trust” and alignment to our goals of becoming the Trusted Source of Truth. It is the expectation of your role as a project leader, that you can be trusted to present the facts of a project. No emotional bias is associated to the information that you share about your project. You have developed a trust relationship with your project leadership and project team that is based on the belief that you will share with them the facts of the project, both good and bad, and that they can believe what you tell them. When you tell them something about your project they can count on that trust relationship that what you have told them is factual. There is no bias, there is no “fudge” in your position. Being neutral does not mean that you have not developed a strong relationship with your team, both at a work and personal level, it just means that you place your integrity and your neutrality as a foundation of that relationship.

That relationship is expanded beyond your “one on one” communication into all levels of communication and reporting that comes from the organization you are a part of. As your PMO grows and expands its value to your leadership, and the information provided by the organization is used to make data-driven decisions by organizational leaders, their ability to trust the information they are using to make decisions becomes more and more important. Decisions to “fudge” the truth or change the message take on greater and greater impact, like ripples in a pond. The more people use the information provided by you and your team, the greater the potential for impact, both good and bad. Take that into consideration when you are asked to “fudge” the message that needs to be told.

“The glue that holds all relationships together–including the relationship between the leader and the led–is trust, and trust is based on integrity.” —Brian Tracy


Tell me your thoughts in the comments and let’s open a dialog. I would be excited to hear other opinions on this topic.

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Don Clarke

Don Clarke

Co-Founder: Project Management for Today

As a Co-Founder of the website, Don Clarke has over 20  years of experience in the Project Management / Program Management space.  Having worked for a variety of companies over the last 20 years, he brings a strong base of knowledge in the industry.  Establishing or helping redefine multiple PMO's during this time, there is a unique perspective to his approach to developing the value of a Project Management Office (PMO), as well as his approach to leadership development within the organization.  Having been privileged to have multiple career defining mentoring experiences, Don realizes the importance of sharing that experience and giving back to the organizations where he is engaged.


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