Project Management Offices (PMO) should be responsive teams. OK, the business strategy doesn’t evolve that regularly, but there are still plenty of reasons to stay in touch with the people who are using the PMO’s services.
Unfortunately, most PMO activity seems to be sending out information, and not listening to what is coming back in. Being known to be actively listening and responsive to new ideas is important for your PMO to secure investment and to grow.
Here are 5 different communication channels you can use for listening to feedback and building your reputation as a responsive department.
This might surprise you because newsletters are traditionally a ‘one-way’ communication channel. Especially if they are printed and dropped on desks.
However, they do offer the chance for you to solicit feedback. Send your newsletter electronically and add an email address with a clickable link. Create a mini quiz within the newsletter (with a prize) and see what responses you get.
You can even ask for stories and people to interview to feature in the newsletter. Once individuals have seen their colleagues, they might be willing to step up and be featured themselves. This offers you the opportunity to have one-to-one chats with people that you might not otherwise have reached.
Even paper-based employee magazines and newsletters can be used as a communication channel if you include tear-off slips or a ‘cut out and keep’ guide to
If you use Microsoft Outlook, it’s easy to create a poll within an email. Create your message and use the option to insert voting buttons. Then add a few options for people to choose from and send out your message.
Polls like this are a good way to get people to express an opinion quickly, such as whether we should move lunch and learn sessions to a Friday, or what should be developed next for the template library. Polls don’t require much effort from the respondent and you usually get a decent response rate.
Finding a way to do a quick poll once a month – even if you have to scrape around to find a topic – can be an easy way to show that you are open to receiving feedback and that you are responsive and keen to solicit ideas.
Of course, this only works if you take the results of the poll into account! People like to think their opinions are helping shape the direction of the work, so if they vote is definitely not to move lunch and learns to Friday, don’t do it.
A survey is different to a poll because it generally has more questions and requires a more in-depth response. You couldn’t manage a survey with Outlook voting buttons but there are plenty of online free and paid for tools that allow you to quickly create good looking surveys. Check out SurveyMonkey, Google Forms and Typeform to get started, or use whatever survey tool is approved by your IT team.
Surveys are great ways to get feedback from a wide group. They take a bit of effort to set up and to analyse the results, so make sure you have the time for this.
You also need to be crystal clear on why you are doing the survey and what you hope to be able to show or prove as a result. It’s incredibly frustrating to be analyzing 600 responses only to find that you can’t cut the data in the way that you want because one crucial question wasn’t asked.
Your ability to interact with your colleagues through this channel doesn’t end with them filling in the survey. The responses can be written up into articles for your staff intranet, newsletters, or employee magazines. They can be turned into infographics and made into posters or shared on your collaboration tools. Taking the time to play back the responses and – more importantly – what you are going to do with the data, will help you build a reputation for being responsive.
4. Social Media
Broadcasting your project priorities on Facebook isn’t really the kind of social media we are talking about.
Many companies have internal social and collaboration tools like Slack or Skype for Business (which you might know as Lync). These can be great places to chat with colleagues and offer informal support to those project managers off-site. Be prepared to offer help to people acting in ‘accidental’ project management roles who might not fall under the remit of the PMO but who could still benefit from a bit of advice.
If you decide to be actively present on your company’s social and collaboration channels, set aside time in the day for your ‘office hours’ so that you don’t end up with chat taking up more time than you are prepared to commit to it.
Feedback doesn’t have to be all online! You can get some valuable insights into how your PMO is perceived to be performing by convening some customer user groups or focus groups.
For example, once a year invite key customer representatives to talk to you about how they are using the PMO services. Prepare some questions, but spend most of the time listening. This is all useful feedback.
Given the wide range of customer groups that you probably have for your PMO, it might be sensible to split this into individual sessions. Meet with someone from the exec team at a different time to your workshop to talk to project managers, for example.
Whatever channels you use to communicate with your key stakeholders and customers, make sure that you always follow up. People have taken the time to give you their feedback. Honor them with a response and show how you are using their input to shape the direction of the PMO.
If you can’t do that (because their idea was awful, you don’t have the budget, or whatever) thank them anyway. You never know when you’ll need to ask them for their contributions in the future, and building those informal ad hoc relationships can help you start your next interaction on a positive note.