The assessment of the current situation and an educational campaign are always good starting points. Even if you think you know what the problems are and how to address them, you need to begin with an assessment of the current situation. Besides the obvious gathering of information on the current strengths and opportunities for improvement, the undeclared purpose of the assessment is for all the stakeholders to achieve a common understanding of what the problems are and what can be done about them.
Achieving a common understanding of what the problems are is not a minor accomplishment. As mentioned with respect to mental models, one should never assume that everybody sees the same problems or confers them the same significance.
The charts in Figure 8.4 show the disparity of responses given by the senior executives and project managers of three global organizations to the following three questions:
Do you have problems coordinating your project portfolio?
Do you have a document describing the functions and role of a PO?
What is the most important obstacle in deploying a PO in your organization?
Figure 8.4: Different perceptions of realities at ABB, Ericsson, and Saab. (Source: .)
The disparity of responses within a given organization reflects the different understanding and perceptions of the respondents. The lack of a common understanding about the problems the deployment of a PO should solve could not only undermine the efforts but also result in missed opportunities if the alternative diagnostics turn out to be true.
Don't assume that everybody is at the same level of understanding or has the same knowledge you have. Albert Einstein once said, "It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer." If you have spent some time thinking and reading about the problems of multiproject management, it is highly likely that you have insights into the problem that people who have not done so do not have. This could be addressed by means of an education campaign aimed first at showing the problems associated with multitasking, coordination across multiple projects, the use of overtime, and so on. Whenever possible and avoiding assessments that sound like criticism, the campaign should be linked to actual problems experienced by the organization. Once people are aware of the problems and the mental models have started to surface, the organization is ready to move to the next stage.