Do you love cheese? What about change? How about a story that uses the pursuit of cheese as a metaphor for chasing success in an ever-changing environment?

Great…then this article is for you!

Operating in a VUCA world (Volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous; see Kinsinger & Walch, 2012), PMO practitioners are required to continuously deal with change across all levels of an organisation. Change can be of varying scale and therefore impact; can you think of a time when change in your context was driven by senior stakeholders and organisational-wide?

I’m sure you can recall many times when change has been at an individual level! The PMO is a central function to an organisation – or at the very least a programme – and we therefore need to be able to understand change, encourage it, sometimes inflict it, communicate it and persuade others to accept it. This can be a tricky task!

Johnson’s ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ is an insightful short story detailing reaction to change in pursuit of happiness and success, AKA the cheese. There are many takeaways that are relevant to those working in the PMO world;

  1. Future-proof planning and preparation is key in order to withstand change
  2. Mentally preparing you and your team is just as crucial as the logistics
  3. The only constant is change so we all need to be able to adapt
  4. Don’t operate in a blame culture; it’s toxic
  5. When you move beyond your fears, you are free
  6. Change enables continuous learning and knowledge-gathering
  7. What does worrying achieve anyway? Enjoy change!

Can you relate the above points to a PMO team that you’ve managed or worked in, which has had to facilitate a form of change? Or perhaps you’ve encountered a tricky Project Manager who was opposed to the change you were trying to implement? When we apply the above suggestions to our own work environment, we can easily see how these are relatable solutions within a PMO function.

Mind-mapping Change in the Context of Who Moved my Cheese | Wellingtone

Image 1: Mind-mapping change in the context of “Who Moved My Cheese?”

Brie ready!

It may be that as a PMO Lead you are implementing change within your team; perhaps the team structure or ways of working are evolving, or status reporting, risk management or planning standards have changed, which of course impacts your key stakeholders – the Project Manager, the Risk Manager, the Programme Manager and potentially the Sponsor.

Planning, mentally preparing, adaptability, creating an environment that welcomes change and embracing continuous learning; these are all ways in which a PMO can welcome change both individually and as a team, but also influence others to ensure change at all levels is successfully embedded.

Change management is defined as “the overarching approach taken in an organisation to move from the current to a future desirable state using a coordinated and structured approach in collaboration with stakeholders” (APM Body of Knowledge, 7th edition). From this definition, we can determine that a critical element of embedding change from a PMO perspective is stakeholder management.

Determining your own personality type, as well as sniffing out the personality of your key stakeholders, can aid understanding of reactions to change. If we can understand reactions to change, we can also predict behaviours and influence others more effectively.

If you can understand who you are dealing with, then you can explore the best way to encourage those stakeholders to accept the change. I’m sure you’re already aware of multiple ways to assess personality types and analyse stakeholders, but in keeping with our cheesy “tail”, let’s align some key stakeholders to the characters and then understand how we can influence them so that change is embedded successfully.

Which Character Are You Like - Who Moved my Cheese | Wellingtone

Image 2: The characters from “Who Moved My Cheese?”

Focusing on the four main characters (see image 2), it is likely that as a PMO Lead or team-member, you interact with each of these characters.

View this diagram as a matrix in which stakeholders can transition into different characters depending upon their context as well as level of comfortability.

You may encounter a Project Manager who is resistant to new ways of reporting for example – they are a “Hem”. Being the type of person who refuses to change, it would be helpful to explain the rationale for the change as well as how the change will positively impact the Project Manager.

Giving this person as much notice as possible so that they have the time to adapt would be beneficial. Involving this person in the change process is likely to have a positive impact on their acceptance of the change – if they feel that they had input, then they are far less likely to refuse the change.

Analysing stakeholders using this matrix is helpful to understand how best to manage them. However, another insightful use of this character matrix can be when you are about to embark on a change journey.

Making a list of all your key stakeholders involved in the change, and then mapping them to these four characters will provide useful awareness and potentially a stakeholder communication plan.

Involve the “Sniffs” and “Scurries” of your organisation at the initial stages of your change; these characters may even suggest where change is required and why – they will certainly be advocates of change for you. Just be careful that the “Scurries” don’t rush forward without a schedule for the change. Make sure that you have a solid communication plan which considers your rationale for the change when interacting with your “Haws”. Use the “Sniffs” and “Haws” to encourage the “Hems” to adopt the new approach or ways of working.

However you make use of these character definitions, make sure you don’t get caught in the (mouse) trap of stereotyping and generalising. Your stakeholders can and will change over time, potentially adapting to the change you are implementing or perhaps being more familiar and therefore comfortable with a certain type of change.

More to follow in future articles, but for now if you’d like to understand further how your PMO can mature for the better (no cheesy pun intended!) then please do get in touch. And in the meantime, enjoy your pursuit of cheese!

Adapt to Change Quickly | Wellingtone