How to Lead People Through Change – Part 1: Intro to the ADKAR® Series

Ah yes, another elusive acronym for us to add to our business vernacular. If you stay with me on the following ADKAR blog series, I promise this acronym will become one of your favorites. Why? Because it is simple to understand and can make a big impact to helping achieve project success.

Before we get into the details of ADKAR, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the importance of Organizational Change Management (OCM) and introduce you to the global leader in change management solutions, Prosci ®.

What is Change Management

Prosci® defines change management as the process, tools and techniques to manage the people side of change to achieve the required business outcome. Change management incorporates the organizational tools that can be utilized to help individuals make successful personal transitions resulting in the adoption and realization of change.

That statement of a personal transition is a key part to understanding the methodology of change management. If you think about a project, there may be a significant percentage of the project’s success relying on a person changing how they work. For example, when implementing a new PPM tool, a project manager may need to be change how they track and report their project plan, financials, risk & issues log, etc. If they have been doing the same process in Excel or Microsoft Project, they probably have some sort of an autopilot and learning how to use a new system will be a disturbance to this autopilot. Some people may have a little blip when they come across change, others will have a colossal reaction to this adjustment.

Not to throw another acronym at you, but OCEAN or The Big Five Theory is one that I’ve been interested in lately as it relates to how people emotionally react to and process change, based on their personality. The range where someone falls on each of the Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism spectrum could be an important tell of how they react to change.

Change management is getting out in front of this disturbance – anticipating it – and planning to help people successfully journey through their current state to their future state.

Importance of Change Management

Prosci has 20 years of research into Change Management and their surveys have consistently shown that you are 6x  more likely to meet or exceed your objectives when you implement change management. You are also more likely to stay on budget and achieve the results ahead of schedule.

You can learn more about the details and benefits of OCM in Kelly’s blog: Managing Change: Absent Processes Hurting Your Projects Future or check out the recap of our OCM webinar: Change Management Fundamentals.

ADKAR – An Introduction

As mentioned, Prosci is the global leader of management solutions and there are a lot of tools that Prosci has, but the one that I think complements project management the most is ADKAR since it focusses on an individual’s journey.

ADKAR stands for

  • Awareness

  • Desire

  • Knowledge

  • Ability

  • Reinforcement

It represents the five elements of change that must be achieved for that change to be a success. There are a lot of ADKAR resources available outside of attending a Prosci training. Jeffrey M. Hiatt wrote ADKAR: A model for change in business, government, and our community. It’s a short, easy read that can be purchased online.

Lien, wrote a great article that describes how to coach individuals through each section of ADKAR in her blog – Coaching Through Change

Over the next few blogs, we’ll take a deeper look into each one of the ADKAR milestones, starting with Part 1 – Awareness

How to Lead People Through Change – ADKAR® Series Part 2: Awareness

Today, our focus is on the first milestone – Awareness in the ADKAR acronym. As you just read in our last blog we introduced ADKAR, which stands for

  • Awareness

  • Desire

  • Knowledge

  • Ability

  • Reinforcement


In order to get people’s buy-in on the change they must first understand the why. Awareness is all about helping people understanding the “Why” of the change.

Simon Sinek has a book and TED Talk called “Start with the Why” – How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. He bolds the fact that when you communicate the why (the purpose, the  ADKAR: Awarenessreason) rather than starting with the what (benefits/features) then we are focusing on the part of the brain that controls decision making. Nearing in on the “gut-feeling” part that we tend to draw on when we are making a decision, and our emotional reaction to it.

According to Prosci, this message is best communicated by a trusted, visible, and active Sponsor within the organization and this makes perfect sense. As Project Managers, we are often leading the team on some pretty cool initiatives, but it’s when the CEO takes center stage at a town-hall and speaks to the heart about Why they are going in that direction, that people take notice and listen.

I’ve seen some great examples of how to generate buzz around a new application that was being rolled out. It started with a very friendly message “have you heard the word” that started to gain everyone’s interest and excitement for what may be coming. One company I worked with, had a great idea for a Sponsor Roadshow where the team got a little cart and went around the office handing out ice-cream as the Project Sponsor walked around and started planting the seed about a new department the organization was developing and the benefits it could offer to the organization.

When we do not communicate the why, people will fill in the knowledge gaps themselves. The rumor-mill can be strong, so we want to own the message from the beginning by communicating the Why early on.

Join me next time, where we talk about Part 3 – Desire.

To learn more about how Kolme Group can help you with your Organizational Change Management needs, click here!


Taking the Best Parts of Agile: Part 4 – Continual Learning

In the first three parts of this series, we started with sharing the secret sauce of Agile is understanding that Agile is a framework built on strong principles you adjust to fit your organization. The goal is to make the right adjustments while not losing the underlying strengths that Agile brings.

The four key Agile principles we have identified are:

  • Breaking projects into smaller bites

  • Connecting with customers

  • Leveraging the power of teams

  • Building in continual learning

If you haven’t had a chance to review our previous blogs on the first three principles, check it them out here: Breaking projects into smaller bites, Connecting with Customers, and the Power of Teams

Continual Learning

It’s cliché that the world is moving quickly. A key element of this change is companies, many whom are your competitors, continually looking for better ways to serve customers. Just ask Sears, Kmart, or Toys R Us and they’ll tell you – If you’re not finding a better way, someone will.

The problem is our current structures are not built for learning – they are built for control. Hierarchies are built to increase efficiency and stability in the organization, not leverage great ideas. We need to change this. We need to build companies of entrepreneurs, where experimentation and innovation are an integral part of what we do. We want good ideas to get the same attention, no matter where they originate.

How to do we foster continual learning into our organizations

Before you even start, one of the first things to consider is understanding what is the clear goal of what you want when you are finished. Do you want more efficiency, do you want more customer value, do you want more sales, do you want more revenue, more profits? As we discussed in Part 3 – Teams are amazing idea engines – set them loose on a problem and they will come up with incredible results, but you have to start with pointing them towards the right problem. As a leadership team – it’s your responsibility to understand where you want innovation in your organization and what is going to make a difference, so your teams can focus on how to get you there.

The next thing you need is the right environment. Looking back again at Part 3 the Power of Teams, we mentioned psychological safety is important. But, that isn’t just safety within the team. Ironically, for the team to succeed they also need to be able to fail. With innovation, people need to feel safe in the organization as a whole, knowing that ideas may not work every time, but when they do, it will be worth it.

You also need an idea meritocracy. Often when you start a new team, members come in wanting to know what their tasks are and when they are due. They know they are usually asked to leave their brain at the door and just do the tasks as asked. What a waste of good people! Teams need to know that great ideas can come from anywhere or anyone. It shouldn’t matter if you are in accounting, you might have a great idea for operations. Operations might have a great idea for sales. You may see great ideas come from facilities, customer service, or accounting. We need to be able to judge ideas on merit, not rank or role.

This next part is a little more controversial since it has to do with money. To entice entrepreneurs, you need to be able to share rewards for great ideas. To find the best way to serve customers, you need to measure the value the team is delivering to them. Taking that one step further – as teams deliver great value, there should be some direct rewards, sharing the value of those ideas that made it possible.

It’s rewarding to see the value customers are getting but if organizations don’t share a portion of the benefits, team members may end up feeling cynical that they’re doing a great job, but the owners are the only ones seeing rewards. Nucor Steal pays employees 75% of market wages, but with bonuses they can make 125%.  At Google, employees can make as much as 300% more than someone in the same role, based on the value of their contributions.  Haier, a Chinese appliance company, has broken departments into small mini companies where employees are encouraged to think of new revenue streams and there can be significant rewards when those ideas payoff.

Continual Learning

Beyond the right environment, the last element is room to process and digest thoughts. Agile is the only methodology I’ve seen that does continual improvement effectively. The reason is that there is time built into every iteration to take a step back, discuss where to improve, and build those tasks into the next iteration.  We all know that improvement is important, but we’re not scheduling time to do it.

In one of the departments I managed, I thought I was doing a great job delegating and communicating with my team till we had our first retro. I was surprised to learn that wasn’t the case. Over the course of a year, we were able to eliminate, automate, and delegate my administrative overhead from 20 hours a week to 4. It left me a lot more time to focus on strategic value and the team was much happier with the growth they were seeing. You have opportunities, but you won’t know where those opportunities to grow are, or what is possible, until you take time to ask.

Benefits of Continual Learning

People talk about an Agile transformation like it is a destination that you get to.  However, Agile is a journey. It’s about building an organization that is continually changing and adapting to better fit the world around it. Continual learning is really one of the key principles to Agile because it builds a truly flexible organization.  That means:

As an organization – you don’t have to worry about driving results. A key job today for leadership is to drive the organization to be more effective. Agile puts in a structure where everyone is focused on being more effective. That means leadership has more time to focus on strategic direction.

As a customer – the company is always growing and adjusting to better fit your needs. Every iteration, they are asking how they can serve you better.

As a team – you get growth. Too many times we think people aren’t satisfied because of money or benefits. But a key reason employees leave a job is because they don’t have an opportunity to grow. Continual learning gives you the opportunity to not just do more, but to be more, increasing the value you add. If you’re with a good company, it also means you get to take the results of some of those ideas home as a well-deserved thank you.

The idea of continual improvement isn’t new. Toyota started quality circles after WWII leading to its popularity in the 1950’s. But, 70 years later, it seems we’re still not doing it well. Most teams meet regularly to discuss status. It’s not hard to add some reflection time to those meetings. You can google fun retrospectives to get some ideas of how to get people thinking more creatively. Whether you borrow the approach from Lean or Agile, building continual improvement will help your company grow.

As we have gone through the four key Agile principles, you’re probably thinking they aren’t new. You’re right, they’re not. Agile is really just a collection of good business practices, and rather than a detailed practice, it’s a combination of good principles that companies should leverage to improve what they do.

As you look at Agile, rather than thinking that’s not for me, or that would never work here, do what Agile did —  Take a bunch of great ideas and make them your own.

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Taking the Best Parts of Agile: Part 3 – The Power of Teams

In the first two parts of this series, we described the secret sauce of Agile is understanding that Agile is a framework built on strong principles you adjust to fit your organization. The goal is to make the right adjustments while not losing the underlying strengths that Agile brings.

The four key Agile principles we have identified are:

  • Breaking projects into smaller bites

  • Connecting with customers

  • Leveraging the power of teams

  • Building in continual learning

If you haven’t had a chance to review our previous blogs on the first two principles, check it them out here: Breaking projects into smaller bites and Connecting with Customers

The Power of Teams

As kids, I think everyone of us wanted to be superheroes. Teams give us that ability – they turn ordinary people into top performers. In his book Scrum Twice the Work in Half the Time – Sutherland explains the difference between your best and worst individual performers is 10 times. That means the best performers get 10 times more done than the worst. That sounds impressive, until you hear the difference between the worst and best teams is 2,000 times (2,000 times better starts to sound and feel a lot like a superhero).

Part of the difference might be in existing team structure. Most of the time, we think about teams as individuals working on similar items with a manager directing traffic. That’s not a team. And, it won’t provide the advantage of leveraging the intelligence of the group. In his book Turn the Ship Around, Marquette talks about how, traditionally in a submarine, you have one captain thinking for the 140 crew. Marquette discusses how he got each individual to think for themselves. By doing that, he outperformed every other submarine in the US fleet. It was easy for him to see that no other captain, however smart they may be, is going to be as smart as 140 people.

How to harness the Power of Teams

 Best Parts of Agile

For those who have worked in a solid team, it’s a great experience.  However, teams need the right elements to be successful. An example I like to share is a research project called Aristotle looking at successful teams that Google conducted. They started with an assumption that great teams would be made of great individuals, but couldn’t find any correlation. What they did find were five key elements that did correlate with team performance:

  • Psychological Safety

    Can we take risks without feeling insecure or embarrassed?

  • Dependability

    Can we count on each other to do high quality work and meet commitments?

  • Structure and Clarity

    Are the goals, roles, and plans on the team clear?

  • Work Meaning

    Does our work provide us with an individual sense of purpose?

  • Work Impact

    Do we believe the work we’re doing matters?

If you’re looking for structure, Scrum, the most popular Agile framework, provides teams a simple approach on how to plan, touch base regularly, review work against plans, and implement regular retrospectives to identify and make needed adjustments.

Benefits of Teams

There are so many benefits to high functioning teams, but one of the most valuable is innovation. New ideas often come from leveraging existing ideas in a new way. When you present a problem to a group, each person comes with a different perspective, a lifetime of different experiences, and the more diverse your team is, the more diverse those experiences will be. Great ideas come from one person seeing the problem in a different way, and then others in the group building on those ideas till at the end you have a completely new solution.  This means:

As an organization – innovation is the lifeblood of any good company. It is the ultimate source of competitive advantage. It is why companies like Google and Amazon are so hard to compete with.

As a customer – it gives you the best product at the best price. Customers are so tired of hearing the word “or.” Would you like quality or would you like a price you can afford?  Innovation gives you the ability to give customers “and.” Toyota did this in the 50’s, providing the quality of a Mercedes for the cost of a Ford, gaining a decade of competitive advantage.

As a team – we talked about a key part of successful teams is meaning and impact. There is a joy of going home (or logging off our computer in our home office) at the end of the day knowing that, as a team, you did the impossible and the world is better because of it. Innovation makes the impossible possible, and it’s fun getting to do it.

You don’t have to be Agile to improve what your teams are doing today.  Look at the Google Aristotle aspects of a team and think about how you make groups more like teams.  Wherever you are today, leveraging the genius of the entire organization will help you be far more effective, with a side effect of much happier employees.

In the last part of our Agile Series, we’ll take a look at Continual Learning.



Taking the Best Parts of Agile: Part 2 – Connecting with Customers

Last post, we reviewed – the secret sauce of Agile and shared this important idea: Agile is a framework built on strong principles you adjust to fit your organization. The goal is to make the right adjustments while not losing the underlying strengths that Agile brings.

The four key Agile principles we have identified are:

  • Breaking projects into smaller bites

  • Connecting with customers

  • Leveraging the power of teams

  • Building in continual learning

If you haven’t had a chance to review our post on the first principle, check it out here: Breaking projects into smaller bites

Connecting with Customers

I had this epiphany when I came to Agile. As a solution architect I had been spending a lot of time getting sign-offs from customers to make sure we had the right solution before we started the project.

The problem is solutions are like art. Often customers don’t know what they want till they see it. Further, they may not even know what the underlying problem is. What they do know, is what is they don’t like what they have today.

While customers are not experts at understanding how to take a problem apart and find an answer, your solution team is, but, your solution team may not know what is most important to the customer. Worse, they often think they know and move forward to test that theory by delivering a finished product – that’s an expensive experiment!

The epiphany I had was: Take the customers who understand where their pain points are and know a good solution when they see it; put them together with teams who are experts at root cause analysis and developing innovative ideas and you create the perfect environment for innovative solutions that meet customer needs.

How to Connect with Customers

Whether you are developing software solutions, creating marketing campaigns, developing education curriculums, or changing a business process, chances are you are trying to think of the right solution for your customers. However, if you have ever delivered a finished project and the customer says “Oh, now I know what I want,” – this is the strong an indication that there’s an opportunity to improve.

Here are some steps to make this actionable:

  • Move from documents to conversations.

    Most of what we say is nuanced in inflection and body language. Get a conversation going between teams and customers to better explain what is needed, why, and allow time for questions. It’s even better if teams can watch how people are working today.

  • Break up the time

    Instead of trying to get all the answers at the beginning, provide space to let customers provide an explanation, teams to create a prototype, and customers to provide feedback (made possible by breaking projects into smaller pieces as mentioned in our previous blog ).

  • Test ideas with real customers

    Agile teams often create something new and then don’t take the time to get feedback. They’re missing a huge part of the value. The best feedback will come from real customers and you won’t get much value from the opinion of a higher-up – you need to know if the solution makes sense to those who will actually use it in their day-to-day work.

Value of Connecting with Customers

Connecting with Customers

The biggest benefit to getting customers and teams connected is it allows teams to focus on the right problems and quickly test solutions. That means:

As an organization – teams that understand customer needs and spend more time developing customer value. They also waste less time creating low value items, which also means a cleaner product that is easier to support.

As a customer – you get the right solution, the first time, without having to wait for the mythical Phase II. When teams and customers work together, they often provide solutions customers didn’t realize were possible.

As a team – it’s a lot simpler to have a conversation with a customer than to try and guess on a document. It’s also satisfying to see when you hit the mark and have a chance to change it when you miss.

As a project team, it’s your responsibility to figure out where to focus your time. There are elements to any product that customers don’t see that make the end result possible. You don’t need customer feedback on those, but for anything that is customer facing, it’s better idea get feedback from the people who are using it. You may be surprised at what you find.

Next post, we’ll cover Part 3: The Power of Teams.


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Taking the Best Parts of Agile: Part 1 – Smaller Bites

Agile is getting a lot of great press lately as we see companies like Amazon thriving by leveraging the concepts. But we also see push back from other business leaders on why Agile won’t work for them, or companies that have tried going Agile but are not seeing the expected improvements. Instead of realizing Agile as an all or nothing idea, we should analyze each of the Agile principles, taking a pragmatic approach to leveraging Agile within our own organizations.

This focused segmentation on each Agile principle is key since no individual practice will provide a competitive advantage. If something is easy to replicate, everyone will do it. Also, what organizations do is not simple – each one is completing a complex combination of different tasks to create customer value.

That leads me to this – The secret sauce of Agile is: It’s a framework built on strong principles you adjust to fit your organization. The goal is to make the right adjustments while not losing the underlying strengths that Agile brings.

To do that successfully, you need to understand each of the principles in depth. The four key Agile principles we have identified are:

  • Breaking projects into smaller bites

  • Connecting with customers

  • Leveraging the power of teams

  • Building in continual learning

Join me over the next few posts, as we delve into each one of the principles throughout this Agile blog series. Today, we start with: Breaking Projects into Small Bites.

Best Parts of Agile

Smaller Bites

The first principle is breaking projects and initiatives into smaller bites, following the old adage that the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. As we think about how to break up projects, we need to also answer:

  • How will this project deliver value to the customer?
  • How will it deliver value to the organization?
  • How do we do it, including how long will it take, or how much will it cost?

If you think about construction, where traditional project management comes from, these questions are fairly easy to answer. If you are looking at building a new bridge, for example, to see if there is value, it’s easy to see what those who would use the bridge are doing today, and if they are willing to pay for a replacement. This answers the first two questions, so then the real focus is on how we do it. Since this isn’t the first bridge that’s been built, we can get a reasonable idea and estimates from previous projects to help us answer the last question. If we found ourselves without previous information, we would need to experiment. That’s much harder on these types of projects since there may not be an easy way to break the project up into smaller bites. We could start with a rope bridge, but chances are it’s not going to add any value till we have a four-lane highway ready to use, thus failing the first question.

Construction projects are not the only ones that may provide this complication. IT infrastructure or software upgrade projects are often similar and are quite a bit different from software projects – which is where Agile came from. Software projects are far more unique and have their own conditions to be considered. You see similar issues in marketing, educational design, business process changes, or any project where we don’t have a good, previous solution to copy.

The problem with these types of projects is:

  • We may know what people are doing today, but we don’t necessarily know the best approach to solve their problems or how much value the customer will get.
  • Without knowing the customer value, we don’t know the organizational value.
  • Without knowing the solution, we don’t know if we can build it, and if we do, what it would take.

Even with this complexity, there is some good news. Unlike construction projects, these projects are easier to break up into experiments where we can test our assumptions and reduce the risk to the organization. The key is to focus on breaking the project up into the right pieces, that will help answer these questions as quickly as possible.

How to Break Projects Into Small Pieces

Let’s talk about how to break that elephant up with a real-life example. A company I worked with had a hypothesis that they were paying generous benefits but employees weren’t seeing that value since they didn’t know what those benefits cost. For the three questions, the hypothesis was:

  • How will this project deliver value to the customer?

    If employees knew the cost of their benefits, they would be more satisfied

  • How will it deliver value to the organization?

    Satisfied employees would provide more value to the organization (in this case reduced turnover)

  • How do we do it, including how long will it take, or how much will it cost?

    We have access to the benefit information and can present it in the right format to make it easy for employees to understand.

Looking at how to break this project up, we would want to:

  • Present employees an example of a current benefit to see if this increases satisfaction. If possible, we probably want to start with the biggest benefit.
  • We don’t have time to wait for turnover, but we still need to measure satisfaction, perhaps with a questionnaire, targeting a group of employees that have the most turnover.
  • We need to test if we can get access to the data and test different ways to show the information to make sure it is easy to understand

As you lay out what you want to learn, it gets easier to understand how to break the project into the right pieces.

Value of Breaking Projects into Smaller Pieces

So whether you’re agile or not, let’s talk about the benefits of this approach:

As an organization – testing the value of ideas early lets you focus on the good ones. It also helps to uncover big technical risks quickly so you get a picture of the real effort projects will take. Finally, delivering the projects quickly, and in small increments lets you deliver value faster, speeding return on investment.

As a customer – teams are already testing on real customers today; all of them when they release. Smaller testing means you get to see what approach a team is considering early, provide meaningful input on finding the best approach, and only a small group of customers is impacted.

As a team – testing early means you waste less time on bad ideas. It’s demoralizing to put your heart into a project and then not find out till the end it didn’t deliver the value you expected.

By taking this approach, Agile is pushing an empirical tactic, pressing you to think like a scientist, understand what ideas are really theories, and find ways to test the theories early.

As you look at getting this same value with your own projects, think about the three questions around organizational value, customer value, and the approach. If you have good evidence to support your ideas, it may be more similar to the construction project example, and focusing on how to efficiently put the project in place could be the best approach. But, if there are a lot of assumptions like we described above, it’s worth the time to set up a quick experiment and validate them.

On our next post, I’ll be reviewing the second principle, Connecting with Customers.


Don’t forget to view our Agile Transformation Services to learn more about how Kolme Group can help!

If You Are Not Doing Hybrid Projects Yet, Chances Are You Will Be Soon

Traditional project management has been around for a while. Taylor’s scientific management, which provided a way to define, analyze and improve workflows, was published in 1911 and Henry Gantt created the Gantt chart in 1917 (in case you ever wondered why it’s called a Gantt chart).

But despite the long history, we still have a ways to go before a project methodology hits the mark. PMI’s pulse of the profession shows 69% of projects meet the original goals, 57% are on budget, and 52% are on time. As if 48% of projects coming in late isn’t bad enough, 15% completely fail. That’s a lot of lost time, money, and effort. Every one of those failed projects started with a vision that just didn’t turn out the way they planned.

Before we get too hung up on failure, remember that just like the Starship Enterprise – each of those projects aimed to go where no one had gone before. In normal business operations, process improvement specialists have the advantage of taking a repeatable process and improving it, but with projects, we are working with something different every time. That’s not an easy job.

Traditional project management

In his book Accelerate – Kotter suggests that every company started out as a network; a few individuals finding a way to get everything done. As the company grows, it needs more repeatable, controlled structure, so it adds a hierarchy. Often, the hierarchy takes over. Kotter suggests the most effective companies figure out how to run both at the same time — a network to quickly react to strategic changes, and a hierarchy to maintain the control and predictability for operations. I would argue that project management is the same. The best project managers understand what tools are available and choose the right one for the right job.

Maslow is credited with saying, “when all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.” With all of the management innovations in the last hundred years, we have far more than a hammer today. So, let’s talk about the right tool for the job and discuss Traditional vs Agile Methodologies and where we might meet in the middle with Hybrid.

Traditional Strengths

Before you throw traditional project management out the window, look at some of the accomplishments it’s given us, such as:

These traditional projects are marvels at human ingenuity and each involved:

  • A clear design to understand what the end product would look like.
  • Planning to understand the materials, people, costs, and timeline, as well as how everything would fit together.
  • Strict controls during the delivery process to ensure needed tasks were completed and the project remained on time and on budget.
  • Quality assurance to ensure the project was delivering to original needed design requirements.

This works where:

Traditional project management

  • We know what the end project should look like. Construction is a great example.
  • We’ve done it before, so we know what’s needed.

The key here is efficiency. Since we know what the end will look like, and can figure out how to do it –finding the best way to integrate all of the different people to get the job done within in the shortest time/budget can be possible.

Agile Strengths

Since the Agile manifesto was drafted in 2001 and the concepts have been in place since the 1990’s, I don’t know that we can still call Agile new, but it’s much younger than the traditional approach. Where traditional project management focuses on the most efficient way to solve a known problem, Agile focuses on creating a solution when we may not completely understand the problem or what the end product will look like. Because of the unknowns in these projects, they are often funded in stages. For example you may approach the solution as – let’s see how much progress can be made in 3 months and then reevaluate from there.


These Agile projects involve:

  • Starting with a problem, an idea for a solution, and a set time and budget. Instead of scope being fixed like it is in a traditional project, we’ll see what the team can get done in the allotted time.
  • Creating a prototype quickly that will let everyone see and feel the ideas to speed the learning process.
  • Adjusting the prototype along the way, adding depth to the parts that work and letting go of the parts that don’t.
  • Evaluating progress at the end and deciding the next steps, i.e. it may be good enough or it is worth continuing to invest.

This works where:

  • We’re building something new – so we are not sure what the end solution will look like. This often applies to products like software, new reports, marketing, or training materials.
  • Innovation is important in finding the best way, and in building a solid architecture, to make it easier to support the product in the future.
  • The solution can be built in small increments. If you think about an analytics project – there are a lot of different pieces, but any insights found along the way could be used and add value now.
  • Instead of efficiency, the key is learning. There is no point in being on time and on budget if you’re building the wrong solution.


Combining the Two – A Hybrid Approach

This all sounds great on paper, right? Well as we know, most projects are not purely Agile or purely traditional. Rather than getting religious about which one to choose, good project managers can grab the right principles from either to apply to their projects.

In addition to the two approaches discussed here, there are other methodologies, such as Design Thinking, Lean Product Management, and Servant Leadership, that also have great concepts but we won’t get into the details of those this round. Join me on an upcoming blog for those.

Scrum, one of the Agile methodologies, breaks projects into 1-4 week Sprints. Each Sprint starts with a planning meeting where the team commits to what they will accomplish and then ends with a review where they show customers or stakeholders what was accomplished. Lastly, there is a retrospective, where the team reviews and makes recommendations on improving their overall process.

Similarly, every traditional project I’ve seen (and even most business units) have a weekly meeting to discuss progress and plan the next week. It’s a simple change to formalize these meetings to “Sprints” and commit to what will be done during the week, review last week’s commitments, and then take some time to think about how the process is working to build in continual improvement.

From a traditional perspective, it makes sense to incorporate at least some kind of a plan for an Agile component in the project by defining what will be done during the project (but understating it could adjust). Combining some of the traditional project skills, for example thinking about what resources will be needed outside of the team, risk management, or procurement, along with the required order of tasks are great skills to leverage for managing a project.

Whichever methodology you use, the key isn’t what you call it. It’s thinking about the results you want and what way will be best to deliver them.


One of the hard questions PMOs have to answer is how we keep leadership up to date. Whether projects lean more traditional or more Agile, leadership still needs to know:

  • What’s the problem, what’s the proposed solution, and how does it link to our overall strategy?
  • How much will it cost, how long will it take, and what overall resources will be needed?
  • How are projects progressing, where are we at, and are we on track?
  • Are we getting the results or value we originally planned for?

Since we’ve been reporting on traditional projects for quite some time, most teams already have that figured out and you can leverage many of the same components for Agile projects:

  • Just like a traditional project, Agile projects should have a clear problem, solution, and tie directly to strategy. Both should have a measure of expected value before they start.
  • As mentioned with traditional projects – scope is set, cost and duration are variable. With Agile the opposite is true. Cost and duration are fixed. Teams should talk about how much the expected investment is before the project starts and that should be baselined. At the end of the allotted time, teams should have a conversation with leadership about where they’re at and next steps.
  • You can use many of the same measurements with both projects (money invested, expected finish date). Where traditional projects will have weekly written updates, Agile projects should add value delivered each week (or Sprint for Scrum) and invite stakeholders to come see the value in reviews.
  • Both projects should be measuring value delivered. In Agile projects, that value should be delivered sooner, and then measured as the project goes (instead of having to wait till the end). Tying progress to value will align the Agile team with customer goals.


Between Agile and Traditional project management approaches, it’s easy to feel like the world is far more complicated. It is. Having to choose between a wrench, a screwdriver, or a hammer is more complicated, but it’s also far more efficient. As a project manager, a department manager, or a leadership team, understanding what tools are available gives you more flexibility to evaluate and decide the most effective methodology for each situation and how to create the right mix of tools for your organization. It may not be as simple as we would like, but when you learn how to use the right tools, you’re apt to be far happier with the end result. Learn more about our Agile Transformation support!


We Want You To Succeed!

We are here to help! Schedule time with Kim Essendrup, for a Free, 30-minute consultancy to discuss your agile transformation needs and best steps forward.


Justifying a PPM Investment

Justifying a PPM Investment

Justifying a PPM Investment and running a project delivery organization is tough – and your organization is making this job even tougher if you don’t have a toolset. It’s hard to stay on top of the portfolio when your data is spread across dozens (or hundreds) of different spreadsheets, status reports, sharepoint sites and emails.

Fortunately, the current ecosystem of Project and Portfolio Management tools is a rich one – with over a hundred great tools available, every organization can find one that meets their needs.

But as with any great enabling tools, a good PPM solution requires investment. As we covered in our article “How much does a PPM tool cost,”  the investment can be substantial. But “how much does it cost” is just the first question – How much will it save me? How will this make my organization deliver better? How will it enable better decision making? And how will I get my organization to invest in this?

How Do You Get Investment?

Assuming you are already committed to getting a PPM, the first step in figuring out how to justify is to understand how your organization invests in new technology:

  • Who approves the investment? Is it a committee? If so, who is on it?
  • What is the process? Is there a formal submission process? Or is it more ad-hoc? Some organizations are shifting from an annual funding cycle to quarterly to support agility
  • How do they decide what to invest in? What criteria do they use to select investment? Strategic alignment; Time to market; Profit vs revenue; Cost, ROI, Benefits, Risk, Compliance, Resource Capacity management, Customer satisfaction, Employee satisfaction?
  • What are the things they deliberately do NOT invest in?

Pro Tip

Talk to stakeholders in the investment process 1:1, take them to coffee – what do they look for? Additionally, you can launch your own ‘grass-roots’ marketing campaign — Target influential people or groups in your organization. Get their buy-in quickly and count on them to use their influence to spread the word (evangelize) the PPM solution and the benefits to your organization 

Learn From The Past

If you have had a PPM implementation (or similar SaaS systems like time entry) that was successful or faltered, do some research and identify all the lessons you can learn.

Kolme Recommends that you look especially at the change management processes used for the previous implementation. What worked and what didn’t.

As you go through the process of looking at a PPM tool, you’re going to have to explain why your implementation will be successful.

  • Review past successful business cases
    • Note how they make their case, how they justify investment, how they describe the benefits and returns
    • Talk to people involved in past investments – get their advice
  • Ask the vendor
    • Ask them to provide case studies
    • Ask for customer references from other customers with a similar use case or similar industry or size

Strategic Benefits

As you start to investigate how a PPM can benefit your organization, the best place to start is the top, looking at the strategic benefits a PPM can provide

Project Alignment with Strategy

  • Projects not aligned to strategic priorities waste resources
  • PPM can:
    • Control project intake to ensure you only work on the most important work.
    • Force the deliberate evaluation of capital and resource investment over and over (quarterly) to ensure resources are spent on the most valuable work

For a recent engagement, we assisted a client in an analysis and approach of implementing a PPM tool.  In our analysis, we found that the client had nearly one initiative either in process or planned for every two employees, 75% of which were not even aligned to strategic priorities. Through this engagement, we two key focuses for their PPM implementation:

Help prioritize work to drive strategic priorities

Ensure selected initiatives are successfully implemented


  • This is for your organization if

    You are (or don’t know if you are) doing a lot of work that doesn’t align with strategic initiatives, or if strategic initiatives don’t seem to get met

  • Key ‘selling’ phrases include:

    We can ensure that our projects are all aligned with strategic initiatives

Organizational Agility

  • Ability to reprioritize and shift focus as organizational priorities change
  • Able to keep resources focused on current priorities
  • Understand impacts to the portfolio when changing priorities
      • “If we do this, how does that impact our other priorities?”
  • This is for your organization if

    You find you keep playing a ‘shell game’ with resources, moving them from one project to another. Or if you keep having new projects land all the time that have to be done ‘now’ and you don’t know how that impacts the rest of the portfolio

  • Key ‘selling’ phrases include:

    We will understand the impacts of new work as it comes in before we decide how to prioritize it

    • We will save money by being able to identify projects that are not going to achieve the return / present too much risk and kill them early

Resource Alignment

  • Internal resources are finite - work demand is infinite - so get them aligned
  • Identify skills gaps and manage resource levels
  • Ensure the team is scaled and skilled to meet the needs of the organization
  • This is for your organization if

    you keep hitting ‘choke points’ where a few skills or key resources are always over-allocated and it keeps you from getting projects done. Also if you feel like “my people are always busy, but I don’t know what they are doing / cannot justify more headcount.”

  • Key ‘selling’ phrases include:

    We will have a view of what our resources are working on and what capacity we have to take on new projects.

Automation and Simplification

  • Overall simplification of complex systems by consolidation into a centralized PPM
  • Most organizations use many tools, spreadsheets, manual processes to deliver - consolidating provides obvious benefits - but can be hard to quantify
  • Ensure the team is scaled and skilled to meet the needs of the organization
  • This is for your organization if

    if there is any project report in your organization that takes more than 1 minute to generate. You are wasting resource time – sometimes to the tune of hundreds or thousands of hours per year.

  • Key ‘selling’ phrases include:

    Complex, de-centralized and/or manual processes increase the chance of errors, reducing the value of data

Kolme Recommends using a spaghetti-bowl diagram if automation and simplification are key for your business case. Create a visual map of current vs future tool interactions

Spaghetti Bowl Diagram: Before and After

Spaghetti Bowl Diagram: Before and After

Strategic Benefits Summary

Savings Type Description


Project alignment to strategy Projects not aligned to strategic priorities waste resource on less important work Get control of project intake

Deliberately evaluate capital investment and project work against strategic priorities

Organizational agility Ability to re-prioritize and shift focus as organizational priorities change Able to keep resources focused on current priorities

Understand impacts to portfolio when changing priorities. “if we do this, how does that impact our other priorities?”

Resource alignment Internal resources are finite – work demand is infinite – so get them aligned

Identify skills gaps and manage resource levels

Ensure the team is scaled and skilled to meet the needs of the organization
Automation and Simplification

Overall simplification of complex systems by consolidation into PPM

Most organizations use many tools, spreadsheets, manual processes to deliver – consolidating provides obvious benefits – but can be hard to quantify

Hard Costs Savings

Hard cost savings are the most valuable and demonstrable, if you can identify them. These are quantifiable cost savings you can directly use to offset the cost of your PPM investment. Often times these are hard to come by – many benefits are strategic or soft. Furthermore, some of the hard costs require some assumptions and calculations which you MUST make sure you have aligned with your investment team.

Elimination of Other Systems

  • Reduce cost by eliminating other tools – licensing and support costs
  • Project or financial management, time entry, reporting, integration/middleware, hardware
  • Be aware of contract termination clauses – some will have deadlines that may or may not line up nicely with your annual investment cycle. There may be termination fees. There may be costs for getting your data

Improved Project Budget Management 

  • Justify savings by providing better management of project costs
  • If we can save X% capital budget, what is that worth?
  • If you can, cite current deviations from budget
  • If you can import project actual cost data from external sources, this will provide the best data tracking and accuracy
  • MUST get alignment with investment team on what savings they would find credible

Improved Resource Utilization

  • Reduced administrative, more real work getting done
  • If you charge for resource time on projects, a PPM can help you improve billable utilization
  • +X% utilization = $$ revenu
  • Be conservative – as the team learns the tool, utilization may dip at first, but should improve over time<

An analysis for a customer building a case for a PPM tool showed that their Project Managers spent over 20% of their time updating spreadsheets, creating PowerPoint presentations, and updating the same information in disparate tools.

Time to Market

  • Especially for R&D / Product Development, PPM can demonstrate a faster time to market
  • Works if you can quantify value for speeding time to market. E.G., every month we delay, we lose x% market share / miss out on $X revenue

Delivery Quality

  • Some organizations can quantify the financial impacts of poor quality

Hard Costs Benefits Summary

Savings Type Description Considerations
Elimination of other tools or systems Reduce cost by eliminating other tools

Project or financial management, time entry, reporting, integration/middleware, hardware

Improved project budget management Justify savings by providing better management of project costs

If we can save X% capital budget, what is that worth?

If you can, cite current deviations from budget

If you can import project actual cost data from external sources, this will provide best data tracking and accuracy

Improved Resource utilization If you charge for resource time on projects, a PPM can help you improve billable utilization

+X% utilization = $$ revenue

Be conservative – as the team learns the tool, utilization may dip, but should improve over time
Time to market Especially for R&D / Product Development, PPM can demonstrate a faster time to market Works if you can quantify value for speeding time to market. E.G., every month we delay, we lose x% market share / miss out on $X revenue
Delivery Quality Some organizations can quantify the financial impacts of poor quality If your organization provides a warranty for work done; any work against that warranty is a hard cost, reducing the profitability of the project

Soft Cost Savings

Soft savings are very hard to quantify, but can provide very real benefit for investment.

Time Savings through Efficiencies

  • Works if you can quantify value for speeding time to market. E.G., every month we delay, we lose x% market share / miss out on $X revenue
  • Get alignment with your investment team on how they quantify labor savings. Some orgs won’t recognize $$ savings for labor unless you are reducing headcount
  • Saying you will “save time” is great, but in some organization that doesn’t count as a savings unless you are going to save enough to fire someone, or demonstrate that you are going to make money with the extra time people save. So, if you are going to try to quantify any benefits, be sure that the people judging your case agree with your quantification methods and the numbers you are coming up with
  • If you can import project actual cost data from external sources, this will provide the best data tracking and accuracy
  • MUST get alignment with investment team on what savings they would find credible

Context Switching

  • Utilizing multiple tools and/or processes introduces the impacts of Context Switching.
  • Context Switching is the impact of loss of focus by multi-tasking – juggling multiple applications, emails, conversations, etc., necessary to get a task done.
  • A study by Carnegie Mellon University found most people average only 3 minutes on any given task and only 2 minutes on a digital tool before switching (voluntarily or involuntarily).
  • The amount of time needed for context switching requires an operational overhead, of roughly 20% and potentially higher, for a person to figure out where they left off and/or what needs to be done next.
  • The efforts lost to context switching are not just time, but also quality.

Project Success

  • Can be easy or hard to quantify
  • Cite our PPM study that showed correlation between financial tracking and project success

Data Accuracy

  • Automation and governance provides more accurate project data – delivery dates, financials, etc.
  • Improves decision making and financial planning

Data Transparency

  • Provides real-time access to project data to decision makers
  • Flying blind is often a pet peeve of management – PPM solutions can provide full transparency and accountability

Lessons Learned

  • PPM can provide a structured method for capturing lessons learned and improving
  • Not all PPM are setup to do this – if you use this justification, make sure lessons learned evaluation is part of your selection process

Team Satisfaction

  • Better satisfaction for valuable resources, helps with retention
  • Satisfaction = adoption = better data and process compliance

Customer / Stakeholder Satisfaction

  • Easier access to information, better collaboration
  • Preparation and delivery
    • Socialize your presentation first to individuals
    • Always have the backup info (backup slides)
    • Be very clear on your ask

In our 2018 PPM Data Consumption survey, launched at the 2018 PMO Symposium, we found that organizations with high levels of process compliance have a 4x better ability to close out projects successfully – resulting in higher customer satisfaction.

Soft Costs Benefits Summary

Savings Type Description Considerations
Time savings through efficiencies & automation Gaining efficiencies – example, reduce status reporting time for each project by 15 minutes per week =

15 min * number of projects * number of weeks = time saved per year

Get alignment with your investment team on how they quantify labor savings. Some organizations will not recognize $$ savings for labor unless you are reducing headcount
Context Switching Context Switching is the impact of loss of focus by multi-tasking – juggling multiple applications, emails, conversations, etc., necessary to get a task done. The efforts lost to context switching are not just time, but also quality.
Project Success How likely are your projects to meet their goals? (Scope, Budget, Schedule, Strategic Alignment) Consider your metrics for success: Scope, Budget, Schedule, Strategic Alignment
Data Accuracy Automation and governance provides more accurate project data – delivery dates, financials, etc. Improves decision making and financial planning
Data Transparency Provides real-time access to project data to decision makers Flying blind is often a pet peeve of management – PPM solutions can provide full transparency and accountability
Lessons Learned PPM tool can provide a structured method for capturing lessons learned and improving Not all PPM are setup to do this – if you use this justification, make sure lessons learned evaluation is part of your selection process
Team Satisfaction A good task tracking system will make your team’s job easier Satisfaction increased adoption, which leads to better data and process compliance (and happier team members!)
Stakeholder Satisfaction Are your stakeholders satisfied with your portfolio and project progress? Organizations with high levels of process compliance have a 4x better ability to close out projects successfully

At Kolme Group we care and want to help you get the best out of your PPM Tool. Join Kim Essendrup, Kolme Co-founder, for a Free, 15-minute consultancy to discuss your PPM Tool needs and best steps forward

OKRs: What are they?

What Superpowers Do They Give My Organization?

A while back I had a conversation with my father, who is in his seventies and has been retired for over 10 years. For the last 20 years of this career he worked as an HR manager for a global company. Now that he is retired, he reads a lot of newspapers and recently has taken an interest in the phenomenon where younger people seem to be prone to burn outs and other stress-related illnesses.

And in talking with him made me realize that the amount of information that the current generation of ‘younger people’ are exposed to during their careers – especially compared with my dad’s generation, is much higher. In this blog article you will learn what OKRs mean and how they better your business.

We live in a world that is moving much faster than we can. More information than we could ever consume is accessible on demand 24/7, and the opportunities for us are endless.

As much as this applies to people, it also applies to organizations: information is flowing around 24/7, you have on-demand access and an endless choice of business opportunities. It can seem like the harder decision isn’t what can you do – but what can’t you do?

And with so many opportunities available, how do you choose what to focus on? Each opportunity is better than the previous, and you can easily find yourself accomplishing none of them if you try to do it all!

For business, but also for individuals, OKRs are a method that can help you create a framework around your goals that nurture focus, alignment, accountability and transparency. OKRs can help your organization, its teams and the individual members reach the stars.

What Are OKRs?

OKR stands for Objectives & Key Results and is a management methodology for setting goals within an organization, although you can also use I for setting personal goals. It is different from other goal setting methodologies, as OKRs are much better equipped to implement changes at a higher pace and in iterative cycles. OKRs help you focus on the most important business priorities, in shorter time frames and are openly shared, communicated and measured within the entire organization. This increases transparency and cross-team alignment & accountability of the objectives & key results.

OKRs, like Agile, have been around for a while but are gradually gaining more territory, as there is an increasing need for flexible and adaptable frameworks & methodologies to stay in line with the continues change that is required.

The 4 Superpowers

OKRs distinguishes itself from other goal-setting methodologies because they possess 4 superpowers:

Superpower 1 – Focus & Commit to Priorities

OKRs help you choose what matters most to the organization. Choosing what matters most will help you concentrate on the core objectives that  make the absolute difference. These are the objectives that are a leverage to the next level, compared to other objectives that are still important but do not provide that extra leverage to make the difference.

Superpower 2 – Align & Connect for Teamwork

Transparent OKRs nourish collaboration between teams. When OKRs are out there in the open, for everyone to see and to give feedback, critique or corrections on, this creates 2 very important aspects:

  1. It creates a team of team’s approach to solving problems. When team A is working on something that can be beneficial to the goal of team B, they can reach out to team B and work together on their goal;
  2. Because all is out in the open it is impossible to be secretive about goals. Secrecy is driven by fear & shame and nourishes business toxins that are dangerous for the growth of your business.

Superpower 3 – Track for Accountability

The OKR lifecycle is a living organism. Teams or employees track, score, revise and adapt OKRs in iterative cycles. In that process they gain key insights into the progression that they are making, and they continuously assess whether the objectives are still worth pursuing. Being in that process and experiencing their own progression helps tremendously in growing motivation and keeping the team/employee engaged in their work. Motivation and engagement are the best sources for growing accountability within teams and/or employees.

Superpower 4 – Stretch for Amazing

Stretching your OKRs will help create maximum value. An OKR should push against (not over!) boundaries of the impossible, as this will help teams/employees discover they can reach levels of amazing. Pushing for amazing (and in the process experiencing that amazing is within reach) fuels a team’s innovation and empowerment. These 2 ingredients are key to the survival of an organization these days and OKRs can help you drive that.

Approach in a Nutshell

Primarily, OKRs are based on asking yourself 2 questions:

  1. Where do I want to go?
    • THE OBJECTIVE = The What
    • These should be aspirational and motivational objectives that are clear enough to be easily understood and ambitious enough to inspire.
  2. How will I monitor and measure if I am getting there?
    • THE KEY RESULT(S) = The How
    • These should be concrete, specific measurements of progress toward achieving the Objective.

Creating OKRs for your organization is about converting the why into the what and the how. Therefore, a good starting point for you to start working with OKRs is:

  • The WHY – What is the business value of introducing OKRs into your organization? Define the most important reason for wanting to adopt OKRs and prepare to be able to explain how OKRs will help improve the organization.
  • The WHAT – Ask yourself what you are trying to achieve/where do you want to go? This will result into formulating the objective.
  • The HOW – Then ask yourself how will you know that you have reached your goal? This will result into formulating the Key Result(s) for each objective.

OKRs: What Are They?Since the added value of OKRs is the short and iterative time frame, it is important to predefine a time frame for your OKRs. Ideally this is 3 months, but it is up to each organization to make this shorter or longer if required. Especially when you are just starting with OKRs I would advise to work in 8-week sprints, to get into the flow of the OKR process. Because the time frame is so important, I would like to add:

  • The When – Ask yourself in what time frame you would like to achieve your goals?

Finally, there is one last step that I would also include and that is:

  • The Initiative – What can I, as an employee of the organization, do to help reach the objective(s)? Obviously, it is not up to management to decide what each individual employee can do, but I believe it is a good initiative to get your employees involved into the adoption process and challenge them to actively participate and think of how they can contribute to the objective(s).

How does this look in daily practice and how can I start?

Great, we are ready to adopt OKRs! Now what…?

  1. First, Define your Why
  2. Before defining the objectives and key result please note the difference:
    • 2a – Objectives are always significant, concrete, action oriented and preferably inspirational
    • 2b – Key results are always specific & time-bound, aggressive yet realistic and measurable & verifiable
  3. Create a list of maximum 5 objectives, based on the organizational strategy, mission and vision. Keep in mind the criteria mentioned in 2a, I highly suggest taking in mind if the objective is considered inspirational, as these are the priorities that make the difference (Superpower 1)
  4. For each objective, define a list of maximum 5 key results. Keep in mind the criteria mentioned in 2b, and make them measurable (by include a number), set a time frame and make sure they push against the boundaries (Superpower 4)
  5. Communicate the OKR’s within the entire organization (Superpower 2)
  6. During the lifecycle of the Key Results continuously track and rate the progress of each key result
  7. At the end of the cycle grade each Key Result to address how it performed (based on your performance tracking rates) and assess what you would do differently a next time.
    • 7a – For example, a score of 7 or up is delivered, between 4-6 is progress made but no completion and 3 and below is failed
    • 7b – Any low scoring Key results (under 7) help you reassess the objective, and if still valuable make changes for the next cycle

How does that look in practice?

Why: You have always struggled to be a healthy person – you just are very fond of food and alcoholic beverages and sports is not your favorite to do. Now it starts to affect your health in a bad way, therefore you realize it has to change and have set an OKR for the coming 3 months.

  Definition Explanation
Objective I want to get healthy This objective is:

Significant -> it means a lot to you to become healthy, as your health is currently not so good

Concrete -> this is something that just needs to happen, it has a lot of priority

Action oriented -> It require you to take action to improve your health

Inspirational -> You would be so proud of yourself if you would achieve this goal

Key Results Loose 10 lbs specific & time-bound -> loose 10 lbs in 3 months

aggressive yet realistic -> that is a lot of weight loss, but I know I can do it

measurable & verifiable: I can measure at the end if I have lost the 10 lbs

  Eat 9 ounces of fresh vegetables each day of the week specific & time-bound: you need to eat 9 ounces every single day of a week

aggressive yet realistic: it is a lot of vegetable, which you do not really like, but if you cut down on other food sources it is doable

measurable & verifiable: each day you need to measure your vegetables until you have reached 9 ounces

  I want to run 3 miles, 3 times a week specific & time-bound: 3 days out of the 7 in a week I run for 3 miles

aggressive yet realistic: for a beginner 3 miles running is tough, but I have enough days in between to give my body some rest

measurable & verifiable: I can measure progression by marking the run-days in my agenda

Fair warning; keep in mind the Success Criteria!

Like with any framework and/or methodology, it is only as good as the execution. Good intentions can still pave the way to hell, therefore when adopting OKRs within your organization keep in mind the following success criteria’s:

  1. Before you start, start with WHY (do I want to adopt OKRs);
  2. OKR provides for fast paced business environments and quick changes, but that does not mean you can do a quick implementation. Reserve enough time for OKR crafting, as it will make the difference between a success or a failure. Especially when you are just starting!
  3. Less is more, do not work with more than 5 objectives. I would even recommend 1-2 for the first attempt.
  4. There is no right or wrong, just keep in mind:
    • Objectives are significant, concrete, action oriented and inspirational
    • Key results are specific 7 time-bound, aggressive yet realistic, and measurable & verifiable
  5. Every month review the progress of your key results. Key results are either achieved or not. Therefore, to make the necessary adjustments in time you need to know how they are progressing through the process.
  6. Last but certainly not least: Get support and buy in from your coworkers by involving them into the adoption process and challenge them to think about what they can do to help achieve the OKRs. You can even add this to their development plan, although OKRs on this level should not be included in any compensation plan as it paves the way for setting an easy to reach OKR to ensure the compensation.

In case you would like to read more about OKRs, I can recommend the book ‘Measure What Matters’, written by the OKR godfather John Doerr. 20 years ago, he introduced the methodology to the management of a small company named Google. In his book you can read more about that story and other organizations that have successfully implemented and are using OKRs to drive their business.

John Doerr also did a TedTalk on ‘why the secret to success is getting the right goals’ – watch here.

What’s Next?

At Kolme Group we care and want to help you get the best out of implementing OKRs in your business and help your team focus on the main business priorities.  My colleagues and I see great value in using the OKR methodology to make your business and team thrive for the best!

To find out more about our services and how we can help you, please Contact Us Here.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube and use #KolmeGroup on shared posts!

Resource Management Skills: Crawling to Walking

This is the third part in our series, “Getting started with Resource management.” If you haven’t caught the first two parts, be sure to check outResource Management: Learning to Crawl + Resource Management: Foraging and Collecting Data.

Congratulations! By this point in your resource management journey you have analyzed if an established resource management process can truly address your team’s pain points, identified the platform you will use to house all of your data sets, and foraged for and collected all of your raw data. You may find yourself asking… So, now what?  

Now, grasshopper, we move from crawling in your resource management journey to walking. And by walking, I mean establishing the data-based framework of the resource management analysis process. By the end of this session you will have the base structure required for your resource management process providing visibility into your resources, their unique skill sets, and a current snapshot of your team’s demand and capacity.  

So Much Data!  

The framework of any resource management process is organized, relatable data; Making your data make sense.

So far, you have a collection of resources (hopefully not the physical bodies piled up in the corner of your office, but rather a list of names), an idea of their soft and hard skills, current project assignments, a list of pipeline initiatives, activity estimated effort, and the typical ebb and flow pattern of each project.

That is a lot of information! Adding more to that heaping pile of data, you have also explored your project roles, technical skills, and your skill proficiency scale. Any more added and that pile will surely topple right over!  

Let’s get organized.  

There are four main components, or databases, to organizing your data:  

  1. Resource Profile 
  2. Skills Inventory 
  3. Current Capacity / Team Roster 
  4. Demand Forecast 

Below we will walk through each component to give you some organizational guidelines that will send you well on your way to having a functional resource management framework. 

Resource Profile 

Your resource profile database should be completely people centric. This should tell you all about your resources including HR related data as well as working characteristics.

This database should include direct employees, frequently borrowed interdepartmental employees, and contractors – particularly if these contractors are hired for long-term engagements or are frequently rotated into your resource pool. We will discuss the merits and strategy of how to use contractors as part of your sourcing options in a separate article. For now, we will focus on who is actively engaged with your team. 

HR Data 

HR related data is the base of your resource profile database and should contain static information about your resources that should not require frequent monitoring or updates. HR related data should, at minimum, include the following details:  

  • Name 
  • City, State and/or Region 
  • Employee or Contractor 
  • Job Title 
  • Manager 
  • Department 
  • Contract End Date 

This data set should be validated and updated at least once a year but should also be reviewed opportunistically such as with departmental restructuring or during annual reviews.

When constructing this part of your database, keep your information objective. You are not attempting to duplicate your company’s human resource dossier. In fact, doing so could result in you, inadvertently, violating an employee’s privacy. You only want to maintain pertinent information that will impact whom you may select for a resource assignment.  

Example: Having an employee’s full address, salary or hire date could result in a violation of privacy should your database be shared or viewed by an unauthorized employee. Protect your team’s privacy by maintaining only generic details. 

Work Characteristics 

Work characteristics is the second part of your resource profile database. This data set is a collection of attributes that provide key filters for your resource pool. As mentioned before, be careful what information you store. Remember, your job is to collect as much pertinent data as necessary to appropriately staff your projects. More, in this case, is often too much. 

Common work characteristics used for resource assignment include, but may not be limited to: 

  • Primary Role (Note: This is not their HR Job Title. Please see Role Dictionary below.) 
  • Travel Ability 
  • Willingness to Relocate 
  • Cost & Billing Rate 
  • Target Utilization 
  • Other: 
    • Certifications 
    • Compliance Requirements 
    • Government Clearances 
    • Foreign Languages Spoken 
    • Soft Skills 

Work characteristics are slightly more dynamic than HR data but can be updated with the same cadence of the HR data information.   

An example of a resource profile database is included below.  

Skills Inventory  

A skills inventory provides a common language when discussing skill sets that are desired for each role within a project. There are four steps to constructing a skills inventory: organize your role dictionary, define the skills, structure the proficiency scale, and stand up the skills module.  

Role Dictionary 

A role dictionary is a way to normalize project roles and define their responsibilities across all projects. Roles should not be identified as, or even aligned to, HR job titles. A team member may have a formal job title of Technical Consultant but fills the primary role of an Architect for most of his or her projects. This would be his or her primary role. 

The Role Dictionary should be structured as a narrative inventory or library. The definitions should be specific enough to identify the key responsibilities and actions a resource will be responsible for but not so specific to include individual skills or requirements. 


  • Project Manager: The Project Manager is responsible for planning, organizing, and orchestrating the activities of a project to deliver an initiative on schedule, within budget, and within scope. The primary responsibilities include definition and scope planning, work structure planning and sequencing, cost budget and actual management, meeting coordination and maintaining project documentation.  
  • Architect: The Architect defines a solution or product to meet a specific set of requirements. The Architect is responsible for considering all components of a proposed solution to ensure that they work together to develop a cohesive result.   

When considering roles, outline your roles with the concept that there should be only one primary role per resource. This is not to say that a single resource cannot fill various roles across multiple projects, but it is best practice to have one resource fill a single role within a single project.   

Define the Skills 

There are several key points to consider when defining skills:   

  1. A skills inventory should include all skills that are needed for each project role but should not be limited to resources that fill that role. Therefore, a full skills list will include skills for both project management and program development. However, resources should be able to select any skill that applies to them regardless of their primary role.  
  2. Only go to the lowest skill level required to appropriately define the need. If your company uses a single programming language within your environment, then “Software Programming” may be sufficient as a skill. However, if multiple languages are used, you may want to break this down further such as JavaScriptPython, or C++. Likewise, project management is technically a role (that of the Project Manager) and would be too broad of a skill set. This should be separated into management requirements such as Risk, Change, Project Plan, and Financial Management skills. 
  3. Do not add proficiency levels to the skills list.  

Example: When considering risk management, the skill should be Risk Management rather than Risk Management Level 1, Risk Management Level 2, and so on.   Separating the skill from the proficiency allows you to maximize your resources. You want to see ALL resources that have Risk Management experience. You can always narrow resources down with a proficiency level but if you only look for resources that have a level 4 proficiency in Risk Management, you may miss the better resource that has all other desired skills, availability, and a level 2 proficiency in Risk Management. 

Proficiency Scale 

Your proficiency scale should be inclusive for all levels of expertise, should include a numeric ranka definition for that rank, should be easy to decipher, and should be applicable to all skills. This is your ranking or scoring system that you will assign to all skills for a specific resource. There is always a 1:1 relationship between a skill and the proficiency level. Two proficiency levels should never be assigned to the same skill.   Below is an example of a standard proficiency scale:  

0 – No Experience 

1 – Has Been Trained. Has a working knowledge of the subject but has limited or no experience. 

2 – Capable. Can complete the work but will likely need to consult a more experienced resource for guidance. 

3 – Skilled. Can complete the work with little to no guidance. 

4 – Expert. Has deep knowledge and experience. 

Stand Up your Skills Model 

Now that you have your roles, skills, and proficiency scale captured, you can stand up your skills model. I recommend that this be a relational database that is linked directly to the resource profile. For each resource, the primary role is identified, a list of skills should be assigned, and the proficiency levels identified. A few best practices for maintaining your skills model include:  

  • The skills model should be updated annually or semi-annually depending on how fast your environment changes. Your Resource Manager(s) or Resource Management Office (RMO) owns this database and the responsibility of its maintenance.  
  • Resources should self-assign their skills and proficiency levels. Resources know their own capabilities. Allow them to provide you with the base skills assessment. Skills should be assigned at time of hire (for new resources) and regularly updated, such as with their annual performance reviews. You may also identify other, opportunistic times that skills may need to be updated such as department or organizational changes or after completing a project where the resource learned a new skill or advanced in proficiency of an existing skill 
  • All assigned skills should be reviewed and updated/approved by managers for accuracy.  

An example of a skills model is shown below.

Notice that Sandra Dee, whose primary role is that of a Developer, has several project management skills in her skills inventory along with architectural and software engineering skills.  

Current Capacity 

Now that we know who our resources are and their unique capabilities, let’s take a look at their current capacity. Your current capacity view should answer the who, what, when, and where for each team member. This is the base of many reports that you will use within your resource management process.  

When first structuring your current capacity report it may be as simple as a team roster. At minimum, this report should include a list of resources, their assignment details, and base project information. 

Resource Management: Data Based

Keep in mind that the % of Allocation is the FTE (Full-Time Equivalent) required to fill the project role. Additionally, notice that the start and due dates of the assignment may not align with the start and due dates of the project. Roles should only be held in a project for as long as they have an active work assignment. As projects move through stages, roles will naturally roll off and change.  

At this stage in our discovery, be careful not to get too detailed. We aren’t looking for resource assignment for each task on each day. Keep it high level – like at the overall project level – and think in terms of estimate percentage FTE.  

As you gather a bit more experience, your team roster will evolve to show allocation and availability for each assignment as shown in the example below.  

Demand Forecasting 

Resource management demand forecasting brings together several exercises and best practices that we can explore, in depth, in a separate article. For now, for this exercise, let’s focus on what is within your immediate pipeline and no further out than a start date within the next 30 days. This report should be similar to your team roster. However, this report will show requested roles for projects along with specific resources, should call out the assignment status (assigned, soft book, open), should show the requested FTE per assignment, and should include the % of probability for each project. Anything with a probability less than 60%, do not include in this report.  

Resource Management: Data Based

You’ve Come So Far! Do Not Cheat This Step. 

Once again, this is a big assignment for you. I understand the work that must go into this but I’m here to tell you, it is all worth it! Take as much time as you need to organize your data. If you find you are lacking in certain sections, go back and do some additional research. Once you ready, check in for our next article in our Resource Management series to learn how to connect your data together, defining your team’s resource management process. 

Also, check out our webinar – How do resource management practices affect project and PMO performance? Watch on-demand.

Next Steps

Contact Kolme Group to find out more about our Resource Management Services and we’ll be happy to support you with a free 15 minute Q&A with a resource management expert, please email us at

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