The Simmer System: how to introduce change into organizations that don't really want to do it.
Which is most of them.
Jamming it down their throats just doesn't work. Executive speeches just don't work, at least not by themselves. Appeals to use best practices fall on deaf ears. This isn't the first time the people have heard that song.
If you persist in taking that road, it won't go anywhere, and you'll make a lot of enemies. In organizations that resist change, what you have to do is to use The Simmer System(SM): use the existing culture to find solutions to problems that everyone agrees exist.
It happens that those solutions move towards what you understand to be professional best practices. Fine: keep that to yourself. Nobody else cares; they just want their problems solved. So make it about that.
The Simmer System (SM) is a combination of principles, agreements and approaches that generates:
- better results for your organization
- relief from long-standing problems for the people you work with
- a path towards best practices for you, and
- no uproar.
If you already bought one of the paid Simmer System books but haven't yet created an account, register here. The current passphrase is the answer to the question:
"What are the first 3 words of Chapter 8 (not counting the headings)?"
or at the very top right corner of the page. Whatever works for you!
Your organization tried changing the ways it operates before.
Not much happened, except that everybody got mad for a while.
This time, with The Simmer System,
it's going to work.
You'll learn how to bring order out of chaos ...
get business units working together ...
and make "better, faster, cheaper" a reality ...
without making colleagues into enemies !
The System is explained in detail in Let It Simmer, which demonstrates how to leverage the organization's culture to change the way they manage projects and programs to start delivering more effectively.
If you're reading this page, you've probably arrived here because you were searching for solutions to consistent project failure, or perhaps to find out why the odds are that a Project Management Office (PMO) is so likely to fail and what you can do to make yours more of a success. [By the way, it works just as well whether you're trying to manage projects, portfolios or programs].
It's uncomfortable when the things you've been trained on as "best practices" don't seem to be working. In fact, some people seem to hate the whole idea. Often, they end up making you feel that they probably hate you too. The bad news is that until they can kill off this initiative that is threatening to force more accountability on them, they're going to fight by fair means or foul until they can get rid of it. The good news: it's not you.
There are lots of books, standards and systems about how to operate a PMO. You've probably thought about the usual sources, maybe even been told to implement best practices like PMBoK, PRINCE, DOD Instruction 5000.01, CMM-I, ITIM, FEAF, TOGAF ... the lists of places you can get templates and processes is pretty long.
But here you are visiting this page because that approach doesn't often work out too well. You're not the first to find that out.
Studies show that the majority of mid-size to large organizations have made several attempts at putting in practices such as project management, portfolio management, program management and enterprise architecture. Maybe even strategic planning. They announce that they are going to shape up and start following best practices. Then they've gotten angry, or disillusioned, or both. Then they get rid of the process. Then they get rid of the PMO (which includes you).
A year or two later, perhaps sadder but (alas) no wiser, they realize that they really should do something about this inability to get things done, so they decide to start a PMO. Again.
As a PMO director and as a consultant, I've watched this cycle rinse and repeat itself in over a dozen different organizations by now.
It doesn't have to end in failure. Over time I've worked out a way to get past the barriers: The Simmer System (SM). I'm sharing my solution with you so that you too can succeed, by avoiding the traps that have tripped up so many others who are simply doing what everyone told them should be done ... but, as you've discovered, that doesn't work.
Here's what happened when organizations decide to "try best practices".
Several times, I've been hired as an internal manager or as a consultant to help an organization bring in one or more governance processes. Key executives saw they were sorely needed. That vision doesn't always extend to the managers beneath them, nor to the project teams who are actually doing the work.
Those people are trying their best to get their work done, despite the demands of the "suits" for ever-more overhead burdens: reports, briefings, documentation. Fact: you're adding to the load. Managers have enough rules to follow and constraints on their autonomy already; your "best practice" smells to them like another constraint. Fact: it is.
In my early efforts, I soon saw that if the managers didn't refuse outright, then they delayed endlessly and finally turned in stuff that was such complete rubbish that my staff ended up doing it for them as much as possible, just to get it done, even if we didn't really have the best information to go on. Often, managing executives didn't really care; they wanted improvements, but not if it meant they would have to confront their direct reports. [Executives aren't as powerful as you might think -- and all too often, they can be part of the problem]. Nothing much changed: we had just added more overhead without any real results.
Even though it was what the executives had hired me to do, I learned soon enough that the direct approach just was not going to work. Not in any organization, big or small, loosey-goosey or regimented. Not now, not ever.
I hope you feel the same way as I do about work and your profession: it's not just about fulfilling the words of a contract or a job description. It's about making things better. So I tried different ways of working over, around or with those managers to get the job done.
When I first started figuring out how to keep the wheels turning, the only thing that seemed to work was giving a lot to get a little. At first I thought compromising on standards, and accepting months-long delays on things that could have been done in weeks, was selling out. But considering where we had begun, we were actually making progress.
After a while we’d start to do things that less challenged organizations never got around to. People in other business units, sometimes in completely different organizations, would hear what we were doing and ask us for copies of our processes and templates.
Asking us? Are you kidding? Nope, they were serious. Apparently we'd come a long way from “Not gonna do it!”
Well, OK, then! So it wasn't all about me. We had made progress, however incremental, and in a couple of years we had gone from zeroes to heroes.
Then, as I looked around, I saw that many other PMO directors were having exactly the same problem. It wasn't just that I was hanging around with a bunch of pessimists. The Standish group kept publishing statistics on the rate of project failures. Lately even the Agile community has started saying that their success rate has't been so hot either.
That's when I really got worried on a larger scale. All those certifications, all that training .. was it all wrong? All these standard-writing professionals, luminaries in their field, supposedly successful in their careers ... yet unable somehow to write down what had worked for them? Could all these professionals have been completely wrong for so long? Had I just succeeded by perseverance and blind luck after all?
And Then It Hit Me!
It's not that the best practices do not work. But they are what they say they are: best practices. Those that are in place at the very best organizations. What all those standards and exam study books don't tell you is how to get to the point of being a best organization, or at least one that is good enough to tolerate these high standards of practice.
You don't hand a five-year-old child the keys to your car. You start them out with a tricycle. And you don't let them ride it in the street. Otherwise, they'll be squished, and they'll get other people hurt too.
When they're older, you get them a bike. Not a Tour de France bike for $10,000. Just a regular bike. And you still don't let them ride it in the street, until you know they're ready.
Then you can start thinking about cars. Not so slowly as to cause frustration and rebellion; but not so early as to set up a situation that is bound to lead to disaster.
Here's the problem, and here's why you're experiencing frustration. All those sources we mentioned above explain how to operate governance activities once the concept of accountability has taken hold. But until it does, the organization's whole culture opposes what you're trying to do - introduce order, accountability, transparency, and process discipline. So many of those sources describe a situation that simply isn't happening in many organizations.
That's why I wrote Let It Simmer.
I thought through all those prior experiences with getting PMOs in place and I realized that they had gone down much the same paths, although in different ways. The paths that led to success had consistent patterns. That's when I understood that I really did have a system that I was following.
Now I am able to share The Simmer System(SM) with you. It can help you bring some relief to your organization now while positioning it to start working on best practices somewhere down the road. Meanwhile you'll end up collaboratively adopting more process capabilities that you might have thought possible, while saving you some of those false starts and hard feelings!
What is The Simmer System? And what's with the goofy name?
You don't throw a tough cut of meat on the grill; it will just burn up and get even tougher. You have to cook it for quite a while longer, on a lower heat -- but not so low that nothing happens at all. When you do this right, even a tough cheap cut will break down and turn into a yummy, nourishing meal. That's the Simmering idea in The Simmer System.
If you're vegetarian, you know it works the same way for stringier and fuzzier vegetables. Cook them slowly over a low heat and they turn into a delicious treat.
And it works the same way with your PMO. Trying to force it in where it isn't wanted seldom works. It won't survive the departure of the executive who keeps the pressure on. The PMO Director is even less likely to survive. Let's not have that happen!
The Simmer System (SM) consists of:
- Four core principles to serve as guideposts when things get murky (they will)
- The single most important factor for the PMO's success (and the one you are likely not to get)
- Seven data sets that you can collect to get the process started without alarming the line managers who will eventually have to be constrained by your governance initiative
- Procedures for getting your decision board up and running
- Eight collaborative activities you can undertake with those same line managers to help them relieve issues they wanted to resolve anyway (which coincidentally move you pretty far down the road to your own success).
How do you get The Simmer System as a guide to your change initiative?
- Through the book
- Through additional resources available to you through the Simmer Community (the site you're on now) for those who have purchased one of the Simmer books.
- Through training events and workshops, available through Decision Integration LLC.
Who can join the community?
You're eligible to join the community no matter whether you got a physical copy or an electronic copy, or how much or how little you paid for it. But you have to have one. I committed to those who DID buy the book that they'd get these resources, and it wouldn't be right to give them away to people who didn't.
Besides, it would be difficult to contribute to any discussions or activities related to the book if you don't have it.
So let's start with the easiest and fastest route:
You can sign up right from this page. Click on any of the opt-in links on this page, and complete the information. You'll get:
- A physical copy of the book, signed by me and mailed to you [unless you are outside the US, in which case I reserve the right not to do that, as postage alone can be almost $100].
- A Kindle copy of the book, which I'll send you via Amazon. You can then download it immediately.
- 3 years of access to the Simmer Community, where you'll find templates, video and document resources, member events, solution networking, and more as the community and website evolves. This premium content is much more than I promise to all readers of the book.
Proven Recipes for Management Success"Doug's the Chef! This book is full of proven recipes for management success. Doug knows the evidence of management excellence is more than a set of executed processes and procedures. It's the delivery of mission and corporate results. To those who read and apply the truths of Let It Simmer -----a finer plate of management successes will be had by none."Emory Miller - Former government executive and industry vice president.
Do It Yourself
Now if you are the analytical type, you may have concluded that you could buy the books separately when (make that IF and when) they're on sale and then get access to the site and save some money. Of course, that depends on the price you place on your own time to make sure you catch the books when they are on sale and you catch any blog posts or announcements bout updates to the resources website.
Yes, you could do that. And why would I be telling you this?
Because I don't need to be squeezing people for a couple of dollars (net) to get you to buy a book. I doubt that I will make millions of dollars by selling a Kindle book at $4.99 and I'd rather have you as a friend, colleague ... and repeat buyer for later books, products or services.
So, yes, if you want to do it yourself at the minimum possible cost, here's Plan B.
Confirmed purchasers of the book are admitted as basic members of The Simmer System (TM) community. So you could order the book from Amazon and you'll be able to get into the community site. There you will have access to all the stuff I promised in the book: printable copies of the exercises in the Kindle book and MS-Office versions of the exercise tables.
You won't get free access to the peer chats or other freebies that will be added to the site as time goes on (webinars, video training etc.).
If you happen to hit Amazon on a day when they have the book on sale for $0.99 or something, you could get a heck of a deal. That's fine with me; best case I was only getting a buck or two for it anyway. As long as you read the book and like it, I don't really care how much you paid for it (especially if you leave a positive review of it on the book's Amazon page!)
Speaking of which -- if you do post a review ... I am allowed to give you a free copy of the book to review. But to review it, you already got one copy. So to make it even, I'll give you the other version by bringing you in as a Community Member as described in Step 1 above. If you make a screen-print of the relevant "your reviews" page [as some people have Amazon screen name] and e-mail it to me, I'll upgrade you from "book owner" to "community member"; then you get the other version of the book and access to everything.
Roll Your Own
Order "Let It Simmer" at Amazon
PS: I totally get the idea of saving money, especially if you're an independent consultant, a small business owner or a student. Don't worry about having made a mistake you might regret: there'll be opportunities to upgrade to full membership. Which you can do at no added cost just by leaving a review.
Simmer Community members who participate extensively and help out their fellow community members can earn a higher level of membership as a Change Agent. Change Agents get access to additional materials:
- Additional webinars
- Additional training assets
- Free consultations to help you "Simmer" a change in your organization
- Permanent membership in the Simmer Community
- Other information and material developed as the community and program grows
Remember: Simmer Means Taking the Time to Get it Right
You can't buy into the Change Agent membership level. I can only work directly with so many people, so I have to know you're serious. You have to be a regular community member and move up from there.
Over half of mid-size to large organizations are on their second, third, or higher efforts to institute governance practices.
Let's hope yours is the last they'll ever need!
OK, fine. Get me signed up. Handle it. Let's go !!
If you've done much internet shopping, you're probably waiting for: "but wait ... there's more"
Then they cut the price to half of what they said earlier was a ridiculously low price.
There's no "Wait, there's more".
That's not happening here. Amazon sets a minimum on what I can charge, and in truth I am making a pretty small margin as it is.
If you're ready to STOP working hard without making any progress...
If you're ready to START working collaboratively with your colleagues to relieve their pain in ways that also get your governance activities moving ...
And if you're ready to accomplish your goals and AVOID getting the organization all riled up over this effort to change its culture, then The Simmer System offers help from both the book and the community for less than the cost of one copy of any of the professional standards guides or most of the PM/PPFM textbooks on the market today.
You won't need to spend thousands on portfolio management software...
You won't need a massive consulting contract...
You won't even need to go off and get another expensive professional certification.
When you join Simmer Community right now, you get ...
- A physical copy of the book, mailed to you
- A Kindle copy of the book, gifted to you
- 3+ years of access to all Simmer Community assets: templates, video and document resources, member events, and solution networking.
Here's Everything You'll Get,
As Soon As You Join the
Total Real World Value Today:
|A physical copy of the book, snail-mailed to you||$17.00|
|A Kindle copy of the book you can download right now||$7.00|
|Access to the Simmer Community's templates, video and document resources, member events, and solution networking, and more as the community evolves
What that worth? Typical yearly subscriptions BEGIN at $60 ($5/mo).
|Continuing Access. Sooner or later, we'll be charging for Community renewals. But you're a member for AT LEAST 3 years.
I hope you're with us for a long time. Some marketers tell you the benefit is 10 or 20 years of membership payments, adding up to thousands of dollars. That might be true but it's kind of ridiculous. Let's just consider the 3 renewals you won't be paying for.
Your Price Today:
Priority Simmer Community
YES! I want to get some help with getting my PMO on track.
- I understand I will be billed $37 today to receive immediate access to the "Simmer Community" membership site
- I'll receive instant access to all standard Community Member resources. I can draw on them at any time 24 hours a day from anywhere in the world
- If I'm not happy, I can get a refund for the unused remaining time on the membership site portion of my investment ($20) pro-rated at $3 for each month of membership used.
- Guarantee applies to Simmer System purchases from me. If you buy direct from Amazon or another source, they keep much of the money, but, if you feel you didn't get what you paid for, contact me and I'll be happy to refund whatever portion I got paid for your copy. It's worth it to me to find out ways of improving it. You can't get any more fair than that!
P.S. Simmer Community will be including video clips. You will need the Adobe Flash plugin installed (free and included with most browsers), or a video player capable of playing WMV files if you want to watch the videos offline.
P.P.S. After signing up, your account will be instantly activated. That will allow me to know who you are and contact you so I know where to send the physical book.
OK, one more: The member site is under construction. It will always be under construction; you can access it now, but I'm going to keep adding materials. I do this when I'm not working on my main job of consulting services, so it will be a slow (but steady) build of valuable materials. The good news is that it provides time for you to provide feedback on what you'd like to see there. As an early adopter, you get to shape the direction the site takes.