The Importance of Project and Program Management for MOps with Paula Gorman

Michael Hartmann: [00:00:00] Hello everyone. Welcome to another episode of OpsCast, brought to you by marketing, powered by the MO Pros. Uh, it’s been a long gap, so for those who are following along closely, thanks for being patient. I’m your host, Michael Hartmann, and joined today, uh, by one of my co-host Mike Rizzo. You’re gonna plug MOps-Apalooza, right?

Mike Rizzo: I, you know, somewhere in the middle of this episode, there’s like dynamic content and then I’m probably gonna talk about it. People are probably seeing me talk about it a lot, but yeah. MOps-Apalooza. Mops in Anaheim. November. November. Paula’s gonna come. She’s already thinking about it. Paula’s our guest today.

You’re gonna

Michael Hartmann: hear from her in just a second. Yeah. So let’s, let’s jump into it. So our guest today is Paula Gorman, who she, she’s gonna be here talking to us with, with us about the importance of project management and program management and how it applies to. Marketing ops, revenue ops. Paula is the owner of Lift Group consulting firm.

She started that is focused on operational improvements in digital transformations to support organizational efficiency and scale. She has also held [00:01:00] leadership roles in customer success implementation and project program management number of different places. So Paula, welcome and thank you for joining us today.

Paula Gorman: Yeah, it’s great to be here. Thanks for

Michael Hartmann: having me. And thanks for coming to put MOps-Apalooza.

Paula Gorman: Yeah, sign me up. She’s come. That’s it. VIP tickets. I expected the mail shortly.

Michael Hartmann: Oh, okay. I see how it’s gonna be. That means you’re coming

Mike Rizzo: to, so the VIP pass means you’re coming to Disneyland the day after the event.

So, you know, if those showed up, you’d be, it’d be very magical.

Michael Hartmann: Uh, Really? I know. Sorry,

Mike Rizzo: dad jokes.

Michael Hartmann: You had to go there. Well, you won’t see me there. Like, I like that is just not my jam. Disneyland. Disney. Yeah, Disney. I don’t have a problem with it and I don’t have a problem with people doing it, but yeah, I, you know what,

Mike Rizzo: I, I’m with you, you know, not the topic of conversation for today, but I’m with you.

Yeah. Uh, that’s, but I have two small children now, so the magic is through their eyes and a little different,

Michael Hartmann: so. Yep. [00:02:00] All right. Well, let’s jump into this, but first, um, so Paula, I know I think some of your stuff has changed recently, like the, the lift group and kind of jumping in on that, and I know you’re d you’re working with 10 x four as well.

Um, but why don’t you, like, I gave this like two second summary of your career. Why don’t you like share a little bit more about your background and how it’s gonna help. Like feed into this conversation we’re about to have on project program management, how it applies to marketing ops and ops in general.

Paula Gorman: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, so, um, my career started in project and program management and I, I did that for a, in a number of different settings and industries. First off, in management consulting, so I had that very stayed corporate feel initially out of school. And, um, and then from there moved, um, I actually did my, my little stint and I, I suppose marketing was at a brand naming agency.

Um, that was fun. And then I, uh, I actually decided that I wanted to get into tech. I’m, I’m in the Bay Area, right? And so this is the [00:03:00] epicenter of it. And so I wanted to do that. And then way it made sense for me to do that was take my project and program management experience and like, and, and pivot, but get into a PM role in a tech setting.

So I went into robotics. As I wanted the hardware and software component and to learn both at the same time. And then from there went into vertical farming. Um, and then I thought, you know, maybe I’ll drop this hardware piece and focus on the software. And so I’ve been in SaaS for the last, um, five or so years, and, uh, at that point moved into more of a customer success implementation type of role and managed and built teams there.

But really, Really, really and truly, project management is the through line in my career as well as, um, generally operational efficiency. So in all of my different roles, I’ve, um, leveraged those skills and then found that particularly the operational piece is something that I really, really enjoy. So, I left, um, corporate in [00:04:00] mid-February and, um, have been doing, uh, consulting work and some, some work with 10 by four, some on my own, and it’s all focused on, um, operational.

Efficiency and tool implementation and tech stack evaluations, um, and things of that nature. So

Michael Hartmann: it’s been fun. That’s great. Uh, so quick question. You said you, you, you sort of shifted to PM at the robotics company. Um, I’m, I was gonna ask, did, is that, was that project management or was that product management?

Paula Gorman: Project, pro Project. Yeah. I’ve, I’ve worked shoulder to shoulder with a lot of product managers, but never done, done that myself. Yeah,

Michael Hartmann: I just, we’ve had at least one guest on where we kind of talked about sort of the, um, not the, the, I guess the parallels between product management and what. Marketing ops folks have to deal with sort of managing tech stack and projects and all that.

So I think we’ll, we’ll get into some of that. Yeah. All right. Well thanks for, for that. Um, so one of the things you and I discussed when we were [00:05:00] planning this episode a while back is, uh, so, and I, and I had talked about this actually recently with some people, like the differences between the levels, or you might call ’em, dimensions of project or program management, right?

So there’s, to me, there’s like, think of it like size and scope, like daily repeatable stuff versus sort of. Different kinds of change to the business, small, medium, large projects or initiatives. Um, and, and maybe like different domains and things like that, but how do you, like, how do you think there’s a difference in how you should approach those kinds of things when it comes to planning and managing all the kind of work that a team is doing?

Or is it like, is there one sort of overarching approach that you take for that?

Paula Gorman: Yeah, for, for me, from my experience and perspective is the way in which I’m managing projects or programs is relatively the same, but like you said, it’s about the scale and scope. So the way I think about it is program management.[00:06:00]

Is at the highest level and, and typically is more about outcomes and projects are more about the outputs. So you may have a program that is, um, some larger strategic initiative that should, uh, be a company goal, K p i, something like that. And then you may have. Projects that roll up into that program, and that’s just a way to structure and separate organizationally, whether that’s by domain or bucket of work or something like that.

However, an organization wants to structure it. But at the end of the day, when I think about the project and program management work that I’ve done, my approach is. Generally the same of what, what are we ultimately trying to achieve and by when and, and what, what with what budget and who’s involved? And then let’s like work, uh, right to left from there.

And that’s gonna [00:07:00] be the same at the program, programmatic level and at the project level. Now, I’ll say on the project side, that’s where I think you can get more into the standard repeatable and tasks and into the minutiae. And programs tend to be maybe a little bit more nebulous or, you know, company goals change or strategies change, particularly at startups.

It’s like, this is what we think we’re doing for the next quarter and then nevermind. So let’s scrap most of that. So programmatically, this is changing a little bit, but we still need to, to launch this particular thing and do this thing. So these projects aren’t going to change so much.

Michael Hartmann: I’m ju So Mike, I, I think you’re about to ask something too, but, uh, I’m curious, so I used the, I think I used the term change the business, but I think of those like smaller repeatable ones, like run the business.

I mean, is that a, like, do you still think that like, run the business and the reason, here’s all, I’ll give you the example. In marketing ops, this is very often the case, right? So if we, there’s, we’ve. There’s other people [00:08:00] who came up with this concept of a four pillars for marketing ops. Mm-hmm. And you know, one of ’em, I always tell people like, the most visible that marketing ops folks is, is car campaign ops.

Right? So they’re doing this support for outbound activity all times. Highly visible, both positive and negative. Right. You know, if, if things go well, uh, or, but you could be the bottleneck that doesn’t get things out the door, or at least perceived as that. Um, but then there’s like, Change the business stuff you wanna do.

That typically falls in the other ones. Like better reporting. Yeah, better integrations. Evaluate new tools, that kinda stuff. Um, so that’s real. I was trying to get at that a little bit of like that, like every day we’ve gotta have some amount of our time allocated to that because we don’t have enough resources to really have, we’re just gonna have people dedicated to doing just the day-to-day stuff.

And then a separate team of people who are gonna do. Like these bigger, more strategic projects, if you will. I have you run into that before and do you still kind of think about it holistically like that? [00:09:00] Or do you separate those somehow?

Paula Gorman: Uh, yeah, so the work that I do right now with my clients is, uh, is a lot of the, the change the business and, and then get them to a place where they can run the business more efficiently.

And so I think I can live in that space where I can do a little bit of both. But thinking back to when I was project and program managing, Larger scale and at these larger organizations? No, like if I’m tasked with being the project manager, which means I own this entire scope of work, I’m focused on that.

I, I don’t think that I can kind of. Also then typically focus on how am I gonna like holistically make this place or this department more efficient? I might have an idea that I’m gonna lob to someone else whose job it is to go do that because I’m still focused on Project X. So I think you hit the nail on the head talking about it.

It typically is, and probably should be two different people. So someone who’s owning the more of the. [00:10:00] Day to day run the business. These are the things that are working and, and working well, and, and I’m owning this project, and then this person’s going and focusing at a higher level or more cross-functionally at where there opportunities to drive efficiency across the, the team or organization.

Michael Hartmann: Okay, I wanna come back to this, but I know Mike had another question. So I, I was,

Mike Rizzo: I’m, so, I spent a brief stint in the world of project management, particularly in SaaS, uh, at an organization known as Mavenlink, or formerly known as Mavenlink, now known as Canata since it went through its convergence with, uh, with the other organization.

Um, and so I was just like, You know, the nuance, like, I like the nuance between project management and pro program management. Um, I was just on with, with another individual this morning named Anna, um, who was talking about like, those are, those are pretty distinctly different, uh, responsibilities. Um, and it sounds like, you know, obviously [00:11:00] you’re advocating for, for the same, um, but there’s nuance of, of, you know, elements of what you do in program can translate to project.

But then I was like, All right. Is there an in, is there an in between? I just like, I want to ask this question for the sake of asking you like, is there an in between? Is there, is there portfolio management that sits somewhere in the middle of. Program and projects and, and then like resourcing resource management, like people like, you know, that, like that part of it.

Mm-hmm. Um, cause like that’s, that’s a different skillset set in general I think cuz like, I don’t know. I feel like the project manager’s responsibility of thinking about like, execution of the entire thing, like it like marketing house people, uh, we end up with. Lots of responsibilities that sometimes are not really, shouldn’t necessarily be ours.

Mm-hmm. And so, you know, I want to hear your thoughts about like, all right, is a project manager also the person that’s supposed to staff the project and resource it? Mm-hmm. Um, yeah, just.

Paula Gorman: There’s [00:12:00] a lot to unpack there. Sorry. No, no, it’s great. It’s, yeah. Yeah. In the portfolio management piece, I actually don’t, I’ve never worked at an organization where we had portfolio management, but it was sort of tossed around of like, does that actually sit above program management?

And you have multiple programs in a portfolio, or is it underneath and it’s projects into portfolios, and then into a larger program. I think it’s just the organization has to pick the nomenclature and the structure and then just figure it out from there in some cases. Yeah. Um, but yeah, on the, on the resourcing and side of things, I agree that like project management at the end of the day is like down to the tactical execution of things and.

As a project manager, I never was responsible for staffing and resourcing. I turned to other key stakeholders or the executive sponsor, or the person who was running [00:13:00] the overall program to, to do that component of it. Mm-hmm. And so I think the way that I’ve seen it work and the way that I think about it is, Yeah, the program managers or the people overseeing are much more about the building, the rapport and the relationship management and the resourcing and making sure that they’re, um, helping block and tackle for the project managers and keeping their eye on things.

And they’re not in the weeds of any of the projects and they’re not doing the tactical execution. It’s much more. Relational and strategic in my mind, and a lot of time spent in the conference rooms and, um, presenting to the executives and things like that, and kind of clearing the deck for the project managers to get the shit done.

Mike Rizzo: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Yeah, yeah, totally. Uh, that resonates greatly with me. And I think like, just to pull that back into, you know, the marketing ops side of things, like particularly those campaign ops mm-hmm. [00:14:00] Individuals like. That you have to strike this balance between like, I’m both the sort of execution person, but also like I can’t do it all myself, right?

Like I can’t go schedule all the posts on social media. I need other resources to do that. And so, uh, you know, as a part of this overarching campaign we’re trying to put out into the market, there’s these other resources that need to be there. And I think it’s important for if there’s like an executive listening to this or a people manager or somebody trying to build out an org, it’s important to think about like, Hey, there’s this whole other.

Facet of the world is project and program management that has a lot of parallels, right? To marketing ops and revenue operations. Yeah. And it requires that there’s more people involved than just this one person. Yes. And so I just wanted to definitely like it’s, pull that back in, uh, in that regard.

Michael Hartmann: So many different thoughts here.

So first off, when you brought up portfolio management, my head went too. Like to me that’s a process, right. Of mm-hmm. And it has, to me, I’ve, at least that’s what I’ve called it, and it has to do with like evaluating different ideas. [00:15:00] Initiatives, things. We could potentially be working on projects, but we have limited capacity to go like, okay, how do we make the best decision about which of those we do first?

Right. Uh, and can we do with some of them in parallel and all that kind of stuff. Um, we can get to, that i’s one of the things though that keeps, like, I’m real, it’s really getting into my craw here is, and I think I’ve said this to other people too, is one of the things I feel is very, very common in marketing in general is that we expect.

Domain experts for, call it digital or social or paid search or marketing ops or whatever, to also be really good at MAR at managing projects. And in my experience, that’s not really the case. And I think I, I think what would be interesting is to get your perspective Paula on, um, Like how could we think, and this is, I’m throwing this at you from left field, so [00:16:00] I’m gonna try to take my how, how can we think about as marketing ops leaders or professionals on how to build a case for, whether it’s for marketing ops, which tends to have a lot of volume of activity or creative dust too, but or marketing in general, way to have advocate for.

We really need at some, there’s a point in time where I think when you’re small enough, right? I think there’s enough connective tissue and people working on the same thing, and they’re probably working very much every day. At a certain point you go like, now there’s disconnection and misalignment, and how do you, I think project management, program management could play a role in that.

Like, so how do you advocate for having that as a discipline that is part of the team that happens to work with marketing, right? I’m curious what your, how, how, how have you built a case for that? Have you built a case for something like that before within a business or if you had like a PMO office?

Right? How do you say, how do we allocate, like get a dedicated resource to that functional

Paula Gorman: area? Yeah. Yeah. Oh, I’m passionate about this [00:17:00] topic. Oh, good. I, I feel strongly that. Project managers and program managers, that’s a very distinct skillset and expertise. Couldn’t agree more. You are asking a creative person to project manage something like that’s, that’s just, those are entirely two different domains and expertise, so I feel very strongly that.

Uh, m most teams and most parts of an organization should have a project manager, a program manager, if not multiple, and whether or not that’s, they’re all then managed out of a, out of a pro project management, A P M O, project management office, and then sort of deployed out. Or they live on that team and report, they’re like, that’s up for, up for debate.

And I have feelings about that too, but bring it. Come on.

Michael Hartmann: Yeah, don’t hold back.

Paula Gorman: Um, but you know, just like, [00:18:00] yes, I think that, um, like again, asking the creative person who’s supposed to be doing the graphic design or manage, you know, or something with a campaign is not the same person who should be, um, Working on the dependencies and the contingencies and the risk mitigation and the budget and the dates and the keeping the Monday dot coms of the world and the asanas up to date and all of that.

And building the project plan like that is its own distinct skillset. And, um, and I sometimes people don’t realize that. Um, so, uh, yeah, I think

Michael Hartmann: having, I think, I think, I think a lot, I think a lot of people assume project management is easy. To do, do well, and I, I mean, half of what I do when I fight for project managers, especially when I have big projects, is like, I need somebody who’s gonna hold me accountable.

Totally as the owner of the project. Yeah, because I, I can’t, I can, I’ve been a project manager, I can do that and I know the functional area, but I can’t really do both effectively. And that’s the challenge I keep [00:19:00] running into.

Paula Gorman: Absolutely. And on the flip side, as a project manager and a program manager, sometimes we forget that other people aren’t good at thinking this way too.

And we’re like, why, why is this hard for you to understand? Why are you not, not following that this new request that you have? Has downstream impact and ramifications. Well, they’re not thinking, they’re thinking about what’s right in front of them and that they need the thing. So, yeah. But, um, having a, having a project program manager role within each, each part of an organ organization or a team, I think is, is the way to go.

In my experience.

Mike Rizzo: I, uh, I feel like. The last comment you just made was like, and all of the marketing ops, uh, listeners’ hands went up. How are you not thinking about the downstream impacts of that new field you want to put into Salesforce? Or that, that, oh, you want me to send an email campaign today? Like what,

Paula Gorman: what, yeah.

Mike Rizzo: Uh, there’s like this, like immediate visceral, like, oh [00:20:00] yeah, that, that, that’s the thing. Like people don’t. Don’t think about, uh, the overarching sort of ramifications of the requests that they’re making. Totally. Ever, ever, uh, unless you actually ha have ever spent time in the function, I think, or, or have spent time enough with people in those functions to know, to know better.

Right? Yeah, absolutely. But I, and, and to your point, like, or, or I guess just to, I don’t know, in support of it, like, um, it, you know, ironically it took. Our marketing organization. When I, when I was at, uh, Mavenlink, it took us like, I don’t know, eight years to eventually get somebody who was like, I. Project management oriented, like for our own team, we’re a SaaS project management company at the time, without a project manager for our own go-to markets and stuff.

It was like we were all trying to like haphazardly manage each other, like at our projects and like I can’t, [00:21:00] I look, I, what I know is once we had somebody who was tasked with it, stuff started to move along a lot faster. Mm-hmm. And there was like clarity and I cannot advocate enough. For organizations having somebody responsible for that.

It feels like extra headcount and cost, but it is cost savings at the end of the day cuz you are not

Michael Hartmann: spinning your wheels. I think, I think I was just gonna say like, think that you’re touching on the thread of how do you build the case for it, which is I think one of the questions which is, um, like what’s the cost of, of a delay, right?

Of a campaign launch, right. There’s some hidden cost there.

Paula Gorman: Yeah. Probably a lot more than the salary for someone who can manage that project than others throughout the year. Right, right. So yeah, a strong adv advocate, um, for that as well.

Michael Hartmann: Yeah. All right. So what’s, what’s your opinion about the, the, the location of this, these experts [00:22:00] within an

Paula Gorman: organization?

Yeah. Okay. So, uh, I think, I think the idea of a project management office is, is awesome because as we’ve talked about, skill sets and expertise are different. Such a great opportunity for that, those folks to be. Managed by someone who’s like a VP of project management and, um, brings those folks together for team meetings, whatever, cadence, and they’re cross pollinating and they’re sharing best practices and things like that.

I think it absolutely makes sense that they’re, they’re managed by their own kind, if you will, but I do think that those folks should then, Typically work with a team regularly. So it’s not just based on, um, bandwidth necessarily. And I could go work on a marketing project and I’m gonna get shipped over to sales and I’m going here or there.

I think that I should then always work with the marketing operations team or, or rev [00:23:00] ops or whatever it may be. Because to me, so much of project and program management is relationship building and building that rapport and building that trust so that you can say, Hey, that request that you asked for does have these down downstream.

Im Impact. And, and you can go say that to someone who’s at a higher level than you and, um, and have built that rapport and respect and trust where they’re gonna say, okay, well here’s why I’m asking you to do this. And you can kind of walk them through it. Um, so, and then, and then also the, the favor that you need from time to time as a project manager, you know, like, uh, the scratching, the, the scratching of the back.

And, and you need to have built those relationships. And if you’re being bounced around all the time, that’s just not gonna happen.

Michael Hartmann: I like, I like that answer. It’s interesting cuz I, I’ve worked with project managers that are, even if they weren’t in a centralized program management office, but their expertise had been in.

Project management, program management in a different functional [00:24:00] area. I’ve had them say like, I’m really struggling with how to manage this project cuz I don’t understand the domain. Mm-hmm. It’s not the words they use, but something to that effect. Right. And I think there’s a lot to be said for having a domain expertise growing enough and you know, until you get, I mean, over time, like if you get experience in different domains and how they’re connected, I think there’s some value there too.

But for sure early on.

Paula Gorman: Absolutely. Otherwise there’s gonna be so much like upstart time required for every project where the project manager’s coming in and they, they need to learn the people, the processes, the terminology. Terminology is huge. Yeah, exactly. How can they possibly walk into a meeting and keep up if they don’t know what the heck you’re talking about?

Michael Hartmann: Well or worse, and this is, this is where it usually would come up for, from my perspective, is we’d be in say, a core team meeting, talking about stuff and the project manager doesn’t realize that that other person just said something that’s actually a red flag.

Paula Gorman: Uhhuh. Yep. Right? Um,

Michael Hartmann: yes, exactly. Or [00:25:00] that sounded like a red flag, but actually is not a big deal.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. And not knowing the difference between those. And so then not knowing where do we react, um, and, and call things. So that’s very interesting. Um, So, okay. I wanna go back to, you talked about programs, the sort of the structural things like programs and then projects and maybe portfolio management fits in there somewhere, but, uh, needs to be defined.

But you talked about, uh, that tied back to. Comp some sort company organizational objectives, right? Whatever you call ’em, right? KPIs, MBOs goals, whatever. But this is, so this is another area I think is, I’ve seen struggles. I’ve seen it struggles, or at least I’ve struggled with it in two different ways.

One was. If you’ve got these big picture overall company goals, right? How do you then go, this project I’m working on here is linked to that objective and here’s how, right? So like be [00:26:00] able to show the connection. The other I think then comes in with, hey, someone’s got this brilliant idea, right? And it. Uh, maybe doesn’t align with one of those goals.

So how do you then, from that, uh, that’s what I would call portfolio management, that decisions the decision process for evaluating new ideas. Mm-hmm. And then deciding how to prioritize them in a, in a, a little more robust way than just stack ranking or whoever’s, you know, got the biggest title. Like, are, do you, have you seen those same kinds of struggles and how have you dealt with those?

Oh yeah. I love

Mike Rizzo: this subtle like shade just now whoever’s got the biggest titles.

Michael Hartmann: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Well, it’s like, it’s like it happens all the time right this season.

Mike Rizzo: No, I agree. I agree. I’m very, no, I’m super excited about it. Like your thoughts on this, Paul?

Paula Gorman: Yeah, I, I think so. The last SaaS company that I was at was actually, um, a company called Workboard, [00:27:00] uh, which was a strategy execution platform, but it started as an O K R platform, generally speaking.

So OKRs or something that I’m quite passionate about as well, and KPIs, you know, whatever you wanna say. Like ultimately what are the. What are the things we’re doing to drive the business? And then let’s make sure that all the work that’s happening at all levels of the organization roll back up to that.

Or you should probably be questioning why the heck you’re working on this, but how do you do that if you don’t have visibility, if you don’t know? So one of the things that I think is most important is having quarterly reviews, um, where you’re setting your next quarter objectives. And strategy and figuring out all of the programmatic impacts or project impacts those have.

And then at the end of the quarter, you’re kind of tying off on those things and, and figuring out where did we, where did we miss, where did we meet? How do we need to adjust for next quarter? And that’s the time for each team to come together, you know, come together as their own teams, first and foremost, to have those conversations and say, [00:28:00] This project doesn’t actually feel like it’s still aligned to this new objective that our c e o is the, the, the edict from leadership.

This doesn’t quite, so we should flag that to our team leader, whoever, to bring that back. Because if you’re doing. The objectives and key results and strategy setting correctly. You’re, you’re meeting as a team to review that stuff, but then the team leads are coming together too. So the marketing and sales and CS and all these different folks are coming together to then review against one another and, and make sure that they’re stuff dovetails nicely too.

Um, so I think that sets in place a good checks and balance. And then ultimately, hopefully you have some kind of tool or tools where you have that visibility to see. What are we after as a company? What is each team working on? Okay. Now we have a project management tool where we’re tracking all of these different things and so we can check ourselves regularly to make sure that, um, we’re all marching in the same direction here and doing, [00:29:00] doing work that matters for the business.

Michael Hartmann: Okay. I just, so I think you hinted at this, but as part of that suggested quarterly review, actually gonna say whether it’s because there’s an issue with the project, right? I. Like some unexpected thing or risk came up that actually is significant one, and it’s actually, you know, despite mitigation efforts or whatever.

Right. It’s off the rails or, um, or because objectives, right? Or this new, a new sort of direction. Are you like, have you see, I, I have seen people struggle with the, I guess I would call it the sunk cost fallacy, right? We’ve spent this much money and effort in this thing, we need to keep it going even though it’s not a lie.

Right. So how have you seen people successfully get over, like, we actually need to just stop this project or postpone it or hold on it, or whatever. Yeah,


Paula Gorman: mean that those are, it’s tough to make that call. It’s tough to have those conversations, but

Michael Hartmann: egos like are tied up in this stuff, [00:30:00] right? Totally.

Paula Gorman: Yeah.

Yeah. And especially if you’re a project manager or program manager, you’re, you’re not the VP of anything yet, and so you’re, but you’re the one, it is your job. You own this, this scope of this project to, to raise the flag and, and say like, This is how much money we’ve burned, or this is how behind we are, or these are all of the risks that I see and here’s some ideas on how to mitigate and here’s where we’re blocked, et cetera, et cetera.

Provide all the facts and the data. Make your recommendation, but you have to advocate for that, and you have to speak up. And whether that’s. You know, you have direct access to some of those leaders and executives. Uh, great. You, you may not at your level in your career, you may just have to go to your manager and have them bring it up the chain from there.

But that is, that is your job. And, um, yeah, I’ve had to do that a a few different times and, and sometimes my recommendation was taken and we did hit pause or, or we scrapped and sometimes it was like, Don’t care, Paula. Keep going. Like, [00:31:00] alright, whatever. Whatever you say. Um, yeah,

Michael Hartmann: no, I, I But I think it’s not for the faint of heart, I think is what you said.

No, it’s not.

Paula Gorman: It’s not. It’s really not. And, uh, yeah, I think project management, you, you said earlier some people think project program management is easily man, if they only knew Oh, like you, you just have a constant target on your back. You’re the one throat to joke.

Michael Hartmann: Well, and I like, I know like they have to deal with people like me, like I am all over the place.

I’m not, I don’t have, it’s so, like, I, but I, I at least recognize that. So I, and I actually have worked with project managers where like they are starting to raise like concern. I’m like, they feel uncomfortable speaking up. I’m like, no. Like you need to speak up. Even if you disagree with, even if I disagree with you, like that’s your job.

Yeah. So, um, For any of you out there who are leaders or team leaders or whatever, and you’ve got project managers who maybe you’re butting heads because you don’t agree on that. Like you need to give them, uh, the right, the ability to, to speak up and show that, are you their [00:32:00] case? Mm-hmm.

Mike Rizzo: Yeah, I totally agree.

I, I wanna, um, so the O K R piece, like Paul, you’re talking about sort of objectives, key results, um, you know, planning frameworks. Like, do, do you have a partic like. Well, I guess two questions ish. Like when you step into a, an organization, um, as a consultant, is that where you start, where you’re saying like, Hey, like tell me how you as a department or as a organization, if you’re a startup or something like that, how you think

Michael Hartmann: about success?

Mm-hmm. Cause for me,

Mike Rizzo: OKRs. Like, I always come back to what is the definition of success. Mm-hmm. Um, and, and often that, that is like, you can get there through OKRs. Mm-hmm. Um, and, but like, I, I don’t know, I don’t know if that’s like the preferred method, if you like any other [00:33:00] methods. Like, so I guess what I’m getting at is like, is that normally how you step into an organization, um, and ask those questions, and do you have a preferred sort of mm-hmm.

Model, uh, for planning that the organizations take on?

Paula Gorman: Yeah, I think a couple things. So call ’em what you want, OKRs, KPIs, goals, strategies, et cetera. The end of the day I like hearkening back to my comment earlier, like we’re talking about outcomes versus outputs. Like ultimately what are we trying to achieve?

And um, and then we’ll figure out the rest from there. Uh, when I’m working with clients, I think. It de it depends on the scope of my work. So yes, ultimately I do want to understand like, what is this business or organization trying to achieve this year, this quarter, or whatever the case may be. But in some cases my scope may be a bit smaller, where still good information to have.

But I’m more interested in, you know, what is this team trying to achieve by [00:34:00] implementing this tool or doing this evaluation and things like that so that we can then, um, make sure we’re, we’re figuring out what the right outputs are. But yeah, I think the different frameworks, again, it’s an organizational choice, which one you wanna use, but definitely conversations that should be being had.

Mike Rizzo: I appreciate it. Yeah, I think, I think a general, um, What I’ve seen now in my career is that as long as, as long as you have a framework, like just having one and sticking to it is a win. Do it. Yes. Right? Like it sort of doesn’t matter what version you wanna do. Like Well, it does matter. Uh, I will say like you probably shouldn’t, like try to create a whole new framework.

There’s a reason These things have been around for a while and companies, companies make them work for themselves. Um, but, but just sticking with one is probably a win, at

Michael Hartmann: least for a while. Yeah. I, I, well, I would argue one, one little bit with that, and that is having the framework is one thing, but [00:35:00] then holding yourselves or, you know, accountable.

To limit to what those goals are as a piece that I see often, like things just sort of get pushed. Well, I, I

Mike Rizzo: would agree. I think, um, I think that’s the importance of having, so it’s like, you know, it’s two things at least, right? Like, Having somebody whose responsibility, uh, or who decides to take on the responsibility of saying, does that match what we said we wanted to do?

Does that match our goals? Like constantly asking that question over and over again, like someone feeling empowered enough to do that. Um, that’s a hard thing too, especially like, regardless of what level you are, even as a vp, like you’re gonna end up in a situation where sometimes your own priorities might trump what you believe or, or what the organization originally believed was the thing we were gonna work on.

And so you don’t even wanna ask yourself that question, right? And so like, and then, and then as you get down into the [00:36:00] weeds of project and resource management and somebody who’s doing this work like, You know, frankly, they should feel empowered even at like, pull it back to marketing ops, rev ops, right.

If you’re a campaign ops person and you were a part, hopefully cross your fingers, you were a part of the conversation that said, here’s the things we’re trying to do this quarter. Yeah. Or the goals we’re trying to hit. You should feel empowered to say, but, but you just asked me to do this thing. Like, does that actually, like, is that what we should be doing?

That’s really, really hard. Like, like, I don’t know, do you like, Paul, how do you combat that? Like do you appoint somebody and say, you should always ask this question. It’s your job. It’s tough. No, no one’s gonna yell at you. Tough. That’s a

Paula Gorman: muscle you have to build. I think it’s so hard, like early on in our career and you know, depending on personalities you’re working with and.

So many different variables and things, but those are like some, this is the things we have to learn to do in a professional setting. Right? And it’s, it’s, it’s advocating for [00:37:00] yourself in a, in a lot of ways. Cuz again, like if your, your job is to own this project and you are not bringing these things to the forefront and asking these questions and challenging, then ultimately you’re not owning the project and you’re, you’re then, and, and it’s just gonna, it’s going to get you in the end.


Michael Hartmann: feel, I feel like we need a whole episode just on like, forget whatever you call it. Like goal setting, right? Yeah. Organizational goal setting, team goal setting, personal goal setting. At least from a professional standpoint because I think a lot of places do a pretty crummy job of that. Yeah, I

Mike Rizzo: mean, there’s countless amounts of software that try to help you with it too.

Not just on project and resource management, but like there’s whole HR frameworks for like, how do you grow in your career and all that stuff. Oh my gosh. Yeah. I, I think it is a hard muscle to, to, to build. Um, I will say it, you know, The very first time that I ever really felt comfortable pushing back on a senior leader was probably only in the last, like [00:38:00] four years of my career.

And I, you know, I’ve been working for a while now. Mm-hmm. Um, and, and part of that is experience, right? But part of that is also just like realizing that, um, you know, that’s actually what they want. Like at the end of the day, absolutely. As long as you’re not being a jerk. Right? Yeah. Like they, they do or personal want you or personal, right?

Yeah. But like, it’s a, there is a, a business to be run and this is what we said we were gonna do. And, um, and by you taking that step and saying, Hey, wait, like checkpoint here, let’s, let’s talk about this for a second. Mm-hmm. You earn an incredible amount of respect, right? Absolutely. Absolutely. Um, I, I like, I’m gonna call out both Audrey.

And Dan on our team, cuz they do it. I I’m all over the place. Yep. And, and they’ll go, you know, Audrey’s super good at it, especially with Dan and I. She, she’s like, hang on a second. Like, is [00:39:00] this what is the priority here? And we’re

Michael Hartmann: like, oh, I love you so much. Yes.

Mike Rizzo: Like, like thank you for asking that question.

Right. Um, and so totally you empowered listeners.

Paula Gorman: Yes. Yeah. And that’s where like bring the data with you like. Le leave the feelings out of it, but come with the, the dates and the budget and the, the impact and the, you know, things like that. It’s hard for an exec like that. You’re right. That’s the information that they wanna hear.

These are the things that they need to hear. That’s what they should then make their decision based off. And you can sort of leave your feelings out of it and approach it diplomatically. Um, yeah. Yeah. Pleasure.

Michael Hartmann: Yeah. Like you could recognize that there’s gonna, there might be feelings and ego I mentioned that, like tied up in some of this.

So recognizing that and provi like, so maybe not taking it completely out. Totally, but at least trying to, trying to go like, here’s why. Despite what you’re feeling, I think, you know, this is what I’m seeing. Yeah, yeah.

Mike Rizzo: Oh, I, I mean, I can’t tell you that when I delivered the [00:40:00] checkpoint to an executive for the first time, that my whole body wasn’t hot red.

Like I was stressed.

Paula Gorman: Face, sweat your through your shirt, but say it anyway. Yeah,

Mike Rizzo: yeah, yeah. I mean, it was not easy. Like I was flushed for sure. Um, yeah, totally. But, But it was well received and respected. And I think that’s part, and like, I don’t, you know, I’m a millennial. Um, we were, for quite a while there, there, there was a ton of conversation about how lazy we all were and all this other stuff, right?

Um, and so I, I had a fun project where I was like, I’m gonna start a chat, a website where we just celebrate the awesome, most like, ambitious millennials out there to try to combat that, uh, that whole thing. But, But I digress. So like, one of, one of the things that I, you know, a symptom of being young in your career.

Um, Like I, I, I don’t know, like I think everybody who’s growing in the career is going to experience this challenge. You do have to figure out how to manage those conversations, [00:41:00] but like, goodness me, please don’t just be a yes person. Mm-hmm. Like for everybody who’s growing in their career right now, we all want you to.

Come up with ideas and throw stuff against the wall, see what sticks. And it’s like, totally okay. But like I think there’s this, like, this misconception as employees, especially like in a world where things just feel easier now and like, all right, I got my job and people are telling me what to do. And then there’s this like, at what point do I go from people telling me what to do to like, I now need to be a part of the business that’s moving the, the machine forward, uh, versus just like, all right, now go push this button.

Yeah. Um, and

Michael Hartmann: so I don’t, I don’t know how I, I don’t know about that. So I am not a millennial by long wait. What? Um, but I, like, I have always, I was always like, I always wanted to understand. The why behind what I was being asked to do, even in my very first jobs, [00:42:00] probably to the utter annoyance of the people who manage me.

But, um, It wasn’t be like, I wasn’t being a jerk about it. I was just, I was really curious. Like, I just felt like I could do a better job. I think intuitively, I don’t, I couldn’t have explained it back then. Yeah. Anyway, we, I, we, we could go off on this one for a while. I could. Um, yeah, yeah. I do. I do wanna go back, let’s pull it back to the project and program management.

So, um, We, we’ve kind of talked about some things around, I, I guess I, Mike’s gonna roll his eyes. Best practices for project management, but Paul doesn’t know. What are those, that’s like, that’s like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. I hate that phrase. Yeah, I, I, I’d prefer guiding principles. Right. So anyway.

Um, but let’s just because everybody else likes best practices, like what? Um, Are there any sort of general things that you think our listeners, especially if you can tie it [00:43:00] back to the marketing domain, um, should be thinking about in terms of how to either get better themselves at project management. So let’s assume they’re not gonna get a dedicated resource anytime soon if they don’t already have one.

Or what they might be thinking about when it looked, where they’re looking at either tools or maybe you get the chance to hire, get somebody brought in.

Paula Gorman: Yeah. Yeah, I think having a, having a project management tool if, if the teams don’t already is really important. Um, so I mentioned like Asana or or, you know, tools like that are great because, um, one, it’ll help you stay on track, but two offers that visibility to the rest of the team.

Um, so that, that’s really important. Cause I’ve seen a lot of organizations where we’re like, well, we’re. Kind of in Google Docs and over here in Sheets and like we cobble it together and it works. But that will not work forever. I can guarantee that. Um, so leveraging a tool, um, I [00:44:00] think that, you know, Having an executive sponsor as often as possible for different projects and, and programs is important, or at least that person who has a seat at the table to, to go and, and and raise the flag if you can’t do that directly, or, um, share the updates and things like that is also important.

Um, getting really clear again on what the, the goals and, and outcomes are as, as well as the outputs. And then, I mean, the, the most basic thing in my mind that I think. It is clear to us as project and program managers and, and maybe not to, to the rest of the world, is the notion of working right to left instead of left to right.

So where do I am? Where, where am I trying to end? And then let’s work backward from there. And then let’s think about all of the connective tissue and the dependencies and the things that could go wrong and all of that instead of, we’re starting from today and we’re supposed to end here. And let, let, let us wedge [00:45:00] this all together.

I think starting right to left is really important.

Michael Hartmann: Uh, you hit upon having a, a sponsor or executive leader. Um, so one of the things I’ve found that’s been helpful is also being really clear about, uh, especially for like large complex projects like team structure, right? Having, here’s our core team and this is what they’re gonna be focused on.

Here’s our like, uh, key stakeholders who are gonna be actively involved in and out at different times, but not. Like every day, every week for the, and then there’s like the executive team who just needs to know and then being really clear about, uh, roles, responsibilities. Yeah. Decision making process, like, you know, getting approvals and all that kinda stuff.

Mm-hmm. Is that kind of fall in that same realm?

Paula Gorman: Yeah, I love a project charter for that. So like a, like a one page document that says exactly those things. Here’s the executive leader, here’s the project, the scope, the budget, the dates, [00:46:00] here’s the project manager, the person that’s going to project manager this thing, and all the roles and responsibilities, and then that sort of becomes your source of truth.

Then you build the project plan after that is approved. Um, that’s really important because then that’s, that’s the one piece of paper that you can take background and said, no, no, this is what you told me to do and I have your approval on it. And so I built this project plan around that. And, um, I think that can help aid in some of those harder conversations we’re talking about where we’re saying, oh, we’re off the rails here.

What happened? Do we need to go back to the project and

Michael Hartmann: revisit? Well, no, I think, I mean, I’ve struggled with getting adoption of things like a reci. Right. Uhhuh. But I mean, I think that to me, one of the things that very quickly gets projects off the rails is we clearly said, okay, you know, Paul, you’re, you’re gonna be the one who approves things as we go along the way.

Mm-hmm. Mike, you’re gonna have input. Well, Mike goes around it and says, no, no, I don’t approve. Well, Too bad. We agree, we all agreed. [00:47:00] Paul is the one who’s approving and you need to have your voice and state your case, but we need to make, have somebody who’s gonna make a decision so we can keep moving in a timely manner.

Mm-hmm. Um, and I see too many, too many places where it’s really unclear like that being really not being clear about who the decision makers are. Yes. And I hate, I even hate that being plural in most cases, but, Yeah. Okay. That’s reality. That to me is one of the big ones that I’ve struggled. Like if that’s not the case, then I always worry like either, either, either we’re not, either need to have one person or.

It’s gonna be me, like I’ll do it

Paula Gorman: right. Yeah. Yeah. Decision makers, plural is scary, but very common. Yes. Uh, Andrei is, is like, I’ve built a hundred of those and it’s so good in theory and in practice it’s, it’s so hard to, to execute against and Yes. Um, But, uh, that’s where I think a project charter just coming in at a little bit higher level than that, and honestly, [00:48:00] allowing the project manager, whoever’s managing the project, if you don’t, if you’re not a PM by trade, allowing them to be the, the, the owner and to route through them as much as possible.

And then they can go meet with the one or two key stakeholders or decision makers. When it falls off is where everyone’s going to, everyone and, and nobody’s in charge at that point.

Michael Hartmann: Totally. All right. Well, so we are, we are kind of running towards the end of our time here, so let me just put it, um, gosh, we have, this has been an industry conversation I feel like we could kill on for.

Another hour, but why don’t we just leave it at this. Like, is there anything that we either either haven’t covered or that we covered just a little bit and you wanna clarify that? You wanna make sure our listeners walk away from this knowing?

Paula Gorman: I mean, we covered so many, so many things today, but I think the, the two pieces I feel most passionately about and that I [00:49:00] have found, have helped me in, in my career and then now working with, with clients is, Always be the person who’s like looking around and looking for where should I raise the flag or where are things working really well and we should go do that or go double down on that and, and, and advocate and speak up.

Um, cause I think that lends itself to just doing that for yourself in your own career too. Um, I’m a huge proponent for self, self advocating. Um, and, uh, Yeah, just, um, building that, building that muscle to have the hard conversations, like do start doing that as early in your career as possible, and that’s really gonna set you up for a lot of success and a lot of respect and, and, um, and rapport.

Michael Hartmann: So, yeah, and I, I would encourage you, any of our listeners, if you don’t already have, uh, a manager or somebody within your organization who can help you [00:50:00] learn how to, to build that muscle, then. Come to the community or something like that. Find a mentor. Yeah. Because there’s some people who can help you deal with that on a, like, you got a real situation at your work today.

Right. How do I, how do I. Yeah. Raise this issue in a way that’s not gonna undermine things. Yeah. Um, this has been great. The thing I’m walking away from, I, I love this, like, the difference between, uh, outcomes and outputs like that. Mm-hmm. Yeah. I’m, I’m gonna steal that. So if you’ve got a trademark, too bad,

Paula Gorman: sadly I don’t

Mike Rizzo: pay me royalties.

You’ll be fine. Yeah.

Paula Gorman: Yeah. And I think, and the last thing I’ll say is like, if you don’t have a project management tool, get one. Please stop using spreadsheets like please.

Michael Hartmann: I, I really was trying to avoid specific tools, but don’t get Basecamp. Don’t, no question. I’m supposed to be agnostic,

Mike Rizzo: but yeah. Sorry, that one’s not an [00:51:00] actual tool for managing, like, there’s a lot of great use cases for it, don’t get me wrong, but like full project management.

Michael Hartmann: No. Yeah, I’ve tried. Yeah. Anyway, strike that

Mike Rizzo: from the record.

Michael Hartmann: Just kidding. You can put it on me. That’s okay. I, I’ve said it out loud many, many times. It’s alright. So sorry folks from Base Camp wanna have you, I’ll show you. Yeah. Show me like I’m, I am more than happy to be proved wrong. Yes, that’s right.


Mike Rizzo: Paula, thank you so much for joining us. Yeah, absolutely. This is fun. Thanks

Michael Hartmann: for having me. So, if, if folks want to connect with you or keep up with what you’re doing or what you’re saying out there, I dunno if you’re on, you know, like what’s the best way for them to do that? Yeah,

Paula Gorman: uh, LinkedIn for sure, um, is Paula Gorman.

And um, I do have a website that’s kind of morphing day to day as we, as we speak, um, when my email [00:52:00] address is on there. Uh, but probably LinkedIn’s the best way for now.

Michael Hartmann: Perfect. Well, it’s been a lot of fun, Paula, and I’m not like, I think we really could have. Covered even more ground if we had more time.

But, uh, really appreciate you taking the time and being patient as we’ve, as I’ve been struggling with getting time allocated toward these. So, and thank you Mike, and thanks to our listeners and our, the rest of our audience and we appreciate your support and patience and, uh, hopefully we’ll get back on a regular train of getting more of these out.

So until next time, thanks everybody. Bye. Thanks everybody.