An evening in Leeds - A good tradesman never blames his tools

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Posted by APM on 3rd Apr 2012

The PMO SIG held its first local meeting outside the London area last week at Leeds Met University.

Along with the Invisible PMO presentation from John Heathcote we also heard from PMO SIG committee member Ralf Finchett Jnr.

Ralf provided a psychological look at some of the everyday things that a PMO professional might be taking for granted and I particularly liked his take on data versus conventional wisdom. Consider for a moment this lifecycle concerning data: Data > Information > Knowledge > Conventional Wisdom.

In the PMO world we work with data on a daily basis be it data from a plan, a status report or cost worksheet. From that data we analyse and (hopefully) produce meaningful information. From that information comes knowledge – or does it? Wikipedia states that; “Conventional wisdom (CW) is a term used to describe ideas or explanations that are generally accepted as true by the public or by experts in a field. Such ideas or explanations, though widely held, are unexamined”. We don’t necessarily gain knowledge and ultimately wisdom through the information we receive.

Ralf gave two great (and entertaining) examples to illustrate. First a picture was shown and the question asked, “Is the tomato a fruit or a vegetable?” The room that evening was roughly divided in answers. The tomato is a fruit however we wouldn’t put tomato in a fruit salad, why?

The second question asked, “Which Football club in Europe has won the most Trophies?”, the answers from the audience included Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United etc but the actual answer was Linfield – Northern Ireland with 256 trophies from various leagues in Europe. Why did we assume we were talking about the Champions League?

The point for me was that PMO’s are the central point for data and information everyday. Do we really ensure our information outbound is the truth, unambiguous, transparent, not assumptive and not open for interpretation?

Ralf also shared some recent results from a survey he has been conducting about tool use in the PMO. A whopping 84% of those surveyed said that although their organisation has an enterprise management tool for projects still use MS Office to help manage their projects. It looks like many have had their heads turned with the promised land of enterprise tool reporting yet the workforce still relies on tried and trusted programs like Excel and even Powerpoint! It’s an interesting result and one that seems to confirm the old adage, rubbish in and rubbish out.

Ralf’s full presentation is available for download here

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