I once worked with a college professor whose reference books on his desk had notations in the margins which consisted of columns of scribbled, handwritten dates such as “8/25/1982.”   When I questioned him about the notations, some of which consisted of five or six dates in a column in the margin, he said that many of the “topics” and “subjects” were really recurring themes in his research work.  The only difference was the social or environmental or technical “context” at the particular time he reexamined the topic.   So to remind himself of those “contexts,” he placed dates in the columns as documentation of the different perspectives he had experienced.

When I thought back on this situation, it occurred to me that a topic I had written about during my days in the ConocoPhillips Program Management Office (PMO), and which was published in the company’s newsletter several years ago, had even more significance to the project community now than it did when I originally wrote it.  So, I decided to resurrect this topic, which roughly can be termed “Change Creates Opportunity.”

You see, in the turbulent times in which we find ourselves today, with uncertainty at every turn, and no assurance that a well-intended decision-based action will, in fact, create the significant long-lasting result that were intended at the outset or at the decision point, we need a “theme” around which to rally our efforts.

I have worked for five major petroleum companies over a twenty-five year period, and I was involved in at least three major mergers.  Accordingly, I often have thought that my middle name is “transition.”

Here are some resources that I used to adapt to the changed, post-merger environment during those transitions. 

These concepts were introduced by William Bridges in his book JobShift: How to Prosper in a Workplace without Jobs. You may also be familiar with Bridges as the author of Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, a highly acclaimed book which discusses how people respond physically, emotionally and intellectually to the transitions and changes in their lives.

The approach set out by Bridges takes advantage of your unique skill set and competencies; tools that you can use to contribute to your PMO’s success.

Bridges’ main theme is that “change creates opportunity.”  While change does tend to destroy old opportunities, the bigger implication for you, personally, is that change creates new “needs” within an organization. Many of these needs go unmet until someone recognizes them and takes action. Change relocates the opportunity by changing internal customer needs and the terms under which success is possible. 

What does this mean?

 An employee should consider the workplace as a “market” with supply and demand forces at work.  By looking at the “supply of” and “demand for” services and needs on a continual basis, you can determine what roles and skills are necessary and act accordingly.

In this type of market environment, you must learn to find the needs that are not being effectively or economically met by others–both inside and outside the organizational boundary (because external contractors and vendors can and often do meet these very same needs). This shift in thinking replaces the idea that job roles are restricted to only their formal definitions, and allows an employee more autonomy and ownership of their contributions to the PMO.

Change also creates new interfaces. These interfaces may be a face-off between two organizations, between a business and its environment, between two patterns of experience and expectations, or between new technologies and users of old technologies. 

Because interfaces juxtapose value systems, assumptions, needs, and languages, they create “unmet” needs. They demand workers who are good at brokering, translating, interpreting, training, linking, facilitating, negotiating, and servicing. These activities bridge the gap in comprehension and familiarity created by the interface. For example, your group may need assistance from the Global Internal Audit group to assess standards and processes in your work area or your project, but no one may be assigned to provide this linkage. The first step would be recognizing the need.  The second would be assessing what type of skill or competency is required to fill the gap. The third would be effectively closing the gap.

So, what does this imply for your day-to-day activities within the PMO?

Continually scan the environment for these unmet needs that define the marketplace for your group.   Be aware of what skill sets and competencies exist in your group for satisfying a variety of these needs.  Act as a facilitator or provide the linkage (REMEMBER THE LINCHPIN?) whenever possible to close the supply and demand gap for services.

Remember: “Change Creates Opportunity.”

The market will continually change but, by developing skills to recognize, adapt to, and fill the market’s changed needs, you add value for yourself and the PMO.

Is your PMO ready to meet the “unmet” needs in the marketplace?  Is is ready to react to a change as large as a corporate takeover? 

The rate of change is increasing. 

Today, there is a “groundswell” of needs being satisfied through social media by varied stakeholders (rather than the traditional supply route of institutions).  New external requirements, such as Smart Grid, or Sustainability, or Carbon Footprint, or “the Green Movement”,  are other examples of forces requiring a change response within the PMO organizational framework. 

I encourage you personally to think about the concept of “Change Creates Opportunity.”  It is a perspective that creates win-win solutions.

If you have other changes you have experienced in your PMO, please share them with our project community through the Comments.

Thank you!!!

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