[00:00:00.250] - Chris
In this episode of Great Practices, I'm talking with Rob Milstead, a well versed IT leader, about how much
time you should spend preparing for meetings with executives, a framework that will make every meeting
effective, as well as how a small shift and attitude will move your PMO from a group of task administrators
to a group of value deliverers. Plus, see how close Rob gets to an interpretive dance before we realize
that this was an audio podcast. So let's get right into this episode of Great Practices.
[00:00:32.770] - Narrator
It's hard to say when something is a best practice, but it's much easier to know when something is a great
practice. And that's what this podcast is all about. Interviews with TMO and project management leaders
who, through years of trial and error, have discovered their own great practices and are now sharing their
insights with you. Now sit back and enjoy the conversation as Chris Copp uncovers another great practice
in this episode.
[00:01:02.330] - Chris
Well, we'd like to welcome you to this month's episode of Great Practices. Do you ever feel like nobody is
listening to you as a project manager? You put great plans and reports and updates and charts and
presentations together, and the very next day someone asks you, hey, what's going on with this project?
Now that's devastating. Some project managers will resort to sending read receipts in an email. By the
way, that's a terrible idea. Others will resort to curling up under their desk and whimpering in disbelief that
all this work just goes unappreciated and non communicated. Well, it's nothing new, because here's the
deal. There's an expression. It's something along the lines of this that you can tell ten people in a room
something seven times, and two people will say that they heard it once. And that's just the nature of the
beast. Everybody's busy, everybody's running all over the place. And these messages get missed when it
comes to communication. But the challenge is that communication is a key to what a PMO and project
managers do. And it's also very challenging, especially when this communication is between project
managers and executives in the company.
[00:02:16.670] - Chris
And that's what we're going to talk about today on this episode of Great Practices. And we are going to be
talking with Rob Millstead, who can help us understand how we as project managers can communicate
more effectively with executives in our company. So, Rob, we'd like to welcome you to Great Practices,
and we're looking forward to this conversation.
[00:02:37.430] - Rob
Thanks, Chris. It's a pleasure to be here.
[00:02:39.280] - Chris
So, Rob, we're going to start things off with. Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do
a little bit about your background?
[00:02:46.910] - Rob
Yeah, happy to. I have a unique background. My undergrad degree is actually in music and found my way
into the world of technology. And why is that interesting? I think it's because I learned from the very
beginning as a musician that I had to interpret. I was interpreting the composer's works and learning how
to express it artistically. And that unique way of thinking about things has actually really served me well in
my professional career. I started out in marketing, so I was learning how to communicate to customers. I
then became a project manager in the world of consulting and spent about 20 plus years in the
professional services world. Varied roles, but always very much client facing. So learning how to take
messages good and bad and communicating them to clients was really important. And then I was actually
a chief Digital Officer where I really had to take executives through the transformation of how to become a
digital enterprise and then the role that I'm currently in. I'm Senior Vice President at a company called
Transportation Insight and I am responsible for the digital products business unit, which again is a little bit
of a new expression in building out a product strategy for what was a services company in the
[00:04:05.580] - Rob
And they are now learning new ways to behave differently about commercial products and technology. So
I've played an interesting mix of both business and technology roles and learning how to convince people
of new ways to think about things and dealing with tough challenges, et cetera, has definitely been
something I've had to deal with quite extensively.
[00:04:24.240] - Chris
Yeah, that's quite a background. It's a shame. This is an audio podcast because I know that you also do
some really good interpretive dances as well, so maybe that's the next time we get you on video doing
that, that'd be great.
[00:04:39.510] - Rob
Yeah, I have a torn meniscus now though, so what I would probably do is maybe haiku or something like
that. Time for that.
[00:04:47.070] - Chris
Fair enough. So Rob, the first question that we typically ask our guests is what is your definition of a
PMO? Because a PMO, it just varies from company to company. So what's your definition of what a PMO
[00:04:59.370] - Rob
Yes, I think that's a great question and I've been interested to hear how other people have answered that
as well. I think it's very true different things even inside of one company. Sometimes you have an It
oriented PMO versus a business PMO and quite simply, I see it's running kind of the gamut between
tactical all the way to highly strategic, so tactically minimally. It's organizing standards, tools, processes
across functions and the delivery of an outcome. Often that's very much project oriented. Sometimes it
becomes more strategic and it involves programs, programs, then starts to drift towards strategy and
resource prioritization, et cetera. But ultimately the way I think about a PMO is I want an organization that
wants to be accountable for helping drive an outcome and that often means doing a lot more than just
status reporting and tracking, but really keeping the ever watching eye on issues, risks, understanding
how to communicate properly internally as well as externally on all the people involved in delivering such
a successful outcome.
[00:06:06.960] - Chris
Yeah. And I mean, that lines up. You're talking about what other guests have said, and that is the shift. It
is going more toward that accountability and going more toward that delivering business value and not
just managing projects for the sake of managing projects. It's like, okay, great, it got done on time, on
scope, within budget. But what did it do for the business? So it's interesting to see how everybody is
shifting toward that way with what a PMO does now. Something that we talked about the very beginning
that a PMO and project managers have to be very good at is communication and communication,
particularly with executives in a company. And again, I'm going to ask you for another definition here, but
how would you define an executive and what is their role in a company? What do they do?
[00:06:54.530] - Rob
Yeah, it's an interesting question that I actually pondered a good bit on how to answer. And ultimately
what I would say I think it's helpful for this conversation is anyone that is not directly responsible for the
execution of work is a stakeholder executive of some level, meaning they are depending on other people
to get work done. They are not in every single moment of the execution of a project, and therefore they
are a stakeholder that needs to be communicated to. So, yes, there are some sea level executives. They
need different strategies to communicate to them. But anybody that's not directly involved in the daily
delivery of the work is a stakeholder in my mind of how we have to think about communicating upwards to
the executives involved.
[00:07:39.310] - Chris
Yeah. Okay. All right. So that's good. So it's not really just one particular group of people. It could vary.
Right. From project or program or whatever that's being undertaken there. What are some of the
disconnects or what are some of the challenges that you've seen when it comes to project managers and
let's go up the food chain used that word loosely, but let's go up the hierarchy when it comes to
communicating up, what are some of the challenges that you've seen between project managers and
executives at that level?
[00:08:12.950] - Rob
I guess maybe the biggest observation it could be a good jumping off point for some more discussion is
the fact that if you look at an executive's calendar, it is often multiple 30 minutes meetings. And so I'm
sure we've all had to deal with the problem of context switching, which is it takes you some mental
capacity to stop thinking about what you were just doing and kind of dump your cash so that you can
focus on the discussion that you're in now. And if you are in meeting after meeting, you really need to be
focused as a project manager in helping an executive context switch. And so a great example in my mind
is the old adage of tell them what you're going to tell them, and then tell them and then remind them what
you told them. There are some other things that we can talk about as a way to really put some structure
behind that. But I think providing context. Where have we been with a project or an initiative? One of the
key decisions that we need to make, it's a little bit like hand holding. But if you can help an executive be in
the moment where you need them to focus for a set time period, I think you're going to increase your
chances of success dramatically.
[00:09:24.030] - Rob
So again, I think it's just kind of be prepared for what the world is like for an executive and put yourself in
their shoes. What information would you need if you were in 2030 minutes meetings all day? It's a lot of
refresh that we have to do with them.
[00:09:39.950] - Chris
That is very insightful because you're exactly right. It's like as project managers, this is 100% of what
we're working on, and that's it. So it's like everything revolves around whatever that project or those two
or three or four projects are. But you're right. I mean, these executives, they're all over the place, right,
sales, operations, finance, whatever it is. And this is just one 20th of their day instead of the 90 or 95%.
So that's really good insight as far as the different context that goes there. And so some of the things that
you said that would help with that is you basically said tell them where you've been. Tell them the
decisions that need to be made, kind of hold their hand through the conversation a little bit. Let's talk a
little bit more through that. As far as what that process would look like, how would you structure it to be
effective as a project manager, communicating with an executive?
[00:10:33.530] - Rob
I think it's a really important exercise to spend more time preparing for a communication than the actual
meeting or the communication itself. That includes even email communication in my mind. So really
careful preparation on what is the most important information. And having been a project manager myself,
I would love for people to see all the work that I have done. But I think what I see, the number one sort of
nongrade practice is way too many slides in a meeting. If you look at the attention span and I don't mean
this in a demeaning way, but back to the context switching of what we said, you get beyond four or five
slides in a 30 minutes meeting and you've probably lost the executive. They either want to immediately
jump to the action or they're reading ahead if you hand out material in advance. So I think what I would
say is if you have a lot of material and it's truly important to prepare, that's exactly why you would want to
distribute that material well in advance. Let people go through their own reading ahead of time. And some
meetings need to be status oriented where you're having a lot of discussion around detailed topics.
[00:11:48.440] - Rob
So understanding what meeting am I having? Is this really a status meeting and therefore it may be
appropriate to have a lot of slides, or is this really a key decisions or action discussion type of meeting?
Those are the ones where I really feel like it's very powerful to have as few slides as possible and really
kind of like I said at the beginning, hold their hand on the objectives of why you're in the meeting and the
specific way that you're going to facilitate to an outcome to get their decision. If you try to mix the models
where you have a lot of slides and you have to drive decisions, that's where I've seen just time after time
where things kind of fall apart. Some executives pretend they are in the moments and participating. You
can tell their minds are wandering. Other executives get frustrated. I'm sure we've all had all of those
types of experiences. So this in my mind is how can you be more Proactive in helping manage an
outcome of a meeting that you are responsible for as a project manager?
[00:12:47.070] - Chris
Great advice. And then you nailed it at the beginning. It's like I put all of this work I want people to see all
of this work I've done and all of this research and all of this information that has been gathered. And I
want to share this so that we can show that we've done our due diligence and everything. But at that
level, it's kind of a given conclusion already that that's been done. Right. So the bottom line is netted out. I
think what is Mark Twain said, I would have written you a shorter letter if I had more time.
[00:13:19.800] - Rob
That's exactly right. That's funny. I think it's important to just comment on what you just said there. Your
leaders believe in you, and so as a project manager, I know it feels good to show the work that you've
done and have some feedback along the way. But a C level or VP level believes that you are good at
your job. You don't have to fire hose them with proof that you're good at your job. Right. They care about
the outcome, which is why they've hired you to do a job showing them all the artifacts that you create to
get to that outcome. It's just overkill. Your supervisor, your direct manager, may want to see that work to
truly understand the process of how you produce an outcome. But in general, communicating to two or
three levels above you, that's just not the right information for what they typically want as an outcome for
[00:14:11.520] - Chris
Yeah. It's not third grade. We don't need to show our work, do we? It's kind of a given, because if you're
presenting at that level, it's a given that you've already done these things and that the research has been
done behind the scenes. So that's real good information. Now you did mention something a little bit ago,
and I'd like to get your take on this. So you go into the meeting and you've got your flow laid out and
you've got your four or five slides, and you start out and you've got that logical development. And then
somebody jumps to what about this? And that's covered on slide five? Or they ask another question here
before you even get two or three words out of your mouth. How do you deal with that type of what's the
best way to deal with that type of uncertainty that will come up in a meeting like that?
[00:15:04.730] - Rob
Yeah, it's a great question. And in a former life, I actually used to teach facilitation skills and whether that
was large workshops or individual meetings, but it was basically, how do you deal with strong
personalities that are trying to steer the meeting in a different outcome? And yes, there are specific
capabilities or skills that you can have, especially when you're in a physical meeting where you can do
things like change your position or stand in front of the group to facilitate. But now that we're in this kind of
virtual world, I think you win the day by being really Proactive. So as I said earlier, distribute your material
in advance. I think if you lead in the meeting request and in the contents, what are the objectives of the
meeting? It sort of, I don't know, puts in a little bit of a filter for if the executive really wants to railroad the
discussion, they're going to have to directly go against the objectives that you've set out for the meeting.
And if it's only a four or five slide presentation, it's pretty obvious for them to kind of see where their
question would come into the mix.
[00:16:16.010] - Rob
I think what I would say is if you can proactively share that information, of course, when you're always
going to have somebody that wants to kind of steer the conversation in a different way, maintain supreme
professionalism in that situation, and simply point back to the objectives and confirm with the group, does
the group want to go this direction? You sort of turn it into a group decision. Rather than one strongwilled
executive trying to take control of the meeting, you turn it into a discussion, and then hopefully you can
leverage consensus to determine. And this sounds way more controversial than it typically is. It's just
typically, what grade would you give yourself from a meeting? And sometimes strong willed executives
take over. And the end of the day, you give yourself like a C plus on the meeting because you could have
done a better job. Well, this in my mind, is like, how can you try to do as much proactively to make sure
that you're going to have an A plus meeting? No matter what personalities exist, you are in control of the
flow of that meeting.
[00:17:17.270] - Chris
Yes, and you are exactly right. And you said the word respectfully, get it back. Because here's the deal.
These executives are going to take it where they're going to take it, and that's their right. That's what they
do. And that's perfectly fine. And you, as a project manager, have got to figure out how to navigate
through that respectfully. So, yeah, that's a real good point that you got to be able to figure that out.
[00:17:46.730] - Rob
I think I just add one more thing to that, which is, yes, we all have a first meeting with the executive, but
pretty soon you're in your 2nd, 3rd, 10th meeting, you start to learn their personalities. And again, you
should take that and digest that into your approach. Because if you know a certain executive behaves a
certain way, well, why are they behaving that way? Yes, it's possible they're just a jerk. But in general,
that probably means they're not getting what they want in the initial stages of the meeting. So you should
be an investigative reporter and figure out what do I need to do differently to avoid that outcome. Right.
And so there's a framework that I really find value out of, and it helps all that preparation that I talked
about and putting into your communications, and I call it Poad, which is purpose, objective approach and
deliverable or outcome. And so if you literally think through every interaction, what's the purpose of the
meeting? You may state it explicitly or not. The purpose is the ultimate reason why you're having a
meeting. And if you have to get a certain outcome or a certain decision, that's your purpose.
[00:18:56.590] - Rob
And it should guide everything else. From that, your objectives are just like we've all learned. What are
smart objectives? What are these specific things you need to talk about or engage the group in a meeting
to help you achieve that purpose? The approach is how are we going to get there? Are we going to do a
post it note exercise? Are we going to review a raid log? What are the mechanisms that we have to
achieve those objectives? And then that outcome? As I said, you grade yourself at the end of the
meeting, did we achieve what we needed to achieve? And maybe it sounds overkill for a 30 minutes
meeting, but I would argue a 30 minutes meeting is the most important time because you have their
limited attention span. You can't let the conversation wander around too much. You've got to be really
crisp. And so something as simple as Coad and people can come up with different acronyms or phrases
for how they want to think about it. I've just found that through my career as a really useful framework for
how to organize my thinking, to put into that preparation for the discussion and who's in the meeting.
[00:19:59.660] - Rob
I know their personality types. I know the outcome I need to achieve. Now it's my job to kind of play Tetris
with the approach and the contents to make sure that that outcome happens.
[00:20:10.200] - Chris
So for every meeting you're talking about, you look at purpose, objective, approach, and deliverable. Like
those big, high stakes meeting, basically, right?
[00:20:18.570] - Rob
Yeah. I use Evernote as my note tracking system, and you guys can grasp me later if you like Notion or
some other system. But I literally take notes like that to help me plan for the plan. And I have a Pod
framework that even in my one on ones that I have with my team members, I am very prepared for the
outcome that I need to have. And maybe sometimes I'm less formal with purpose and objectives, but
certainly big strategic meetings. That's the framework that I can use to rally the team around and actually
preparing the material, the checkpoint with a board of directors or a sea level team. Except that
framework is sort of like muscles that you must use to make sure that you can execute crisply.
[00:21:04.430] - Chris
Yeah, it's fantastic. I love it. Poet, purpose, objective, approach, deliverable. So that's good. And you're
right. That is a lot to jam into a 30 minutes meeting. But guess what? You're going to have to figure it out,
because that's the environment in which project managers operate now, and that's how quickly things go.
So that's good. You brought up a point earlier, and I liked it, too. It's like after your second in your third
and your fifth and your 10th meeting, you're going to figure out how the executives like to communicate.
One of the things that I've learned over the years is I always put the results or the insight or the
recommendation at the end of the presentation. I built up to it, but I've flipped that. Now it's like basically
I'll come in and say, boom, this is what we recommend. And then here's why. Because it just removes
that ambiguity out of that. Do you have any preference or any idea on which way you would prefer you
think is better?
[00:22:01.970] - Rob
I love it because I do feel like executives quite often nowadays, again, maybe back to the fact they're so
busy, maybe the fact they don't have time to engage in switching context, like just punch them in the face
with the information they need to know. And so I use things like executive summaries, like literally, what is
the one pager for why you have a five page deck or a ten page deck behind you? And here's the sort of
supporting material. But what's the one page summary? And I know people have different opinions about
this, whether or not I always do it in presentation or not. I always draft my presentations where the subject
of the slides literally reads as a narrative for the entire presentation. So if I have five slides, what are the
five sentences that I use as the titles in my slides that tell the story that's a really good checkpoint against
that Pod is if you have an executive that literally just reads the summary or just reads the subject or title
on a slide, could they understand what the meeting was about? And you may choose to execute
differently. Back to the approach part of Pod, but that's a great way to get the team rallied around what's
the storyline that we're trying to tell here?
[00:23:17.670] - Rob
What's the most important takeaway or the narrative out of the meeting? And that's another big part of
that is you never know who is going to get a presentation that wasn't in the meeting. And so the
presentations that they have one or two word titles. Again, back to that context. The context isn't there
and then people take their own liberties with what that slide really meant. So like it or not, I am overly
descriptive in my titles of the slide just because I'm not sure who's going to get the deck right. That sea
level person could hand it to another sea level person and get their thoughts on it because there may
have been some things mildly controversial. Well, again, you sort of are protecting yourself by making
sure that the business is making the right decision for the business or the customer by providing the right
contents and context in the presentation.
[00:24:10.530] - Chris
So are you saying when you say the titles, I mean you're basically saying if it was a five page
presentation, you're saying if they just read the titles across the top of those five slides, that basically is a
complete sentence with a complete idea that they'd be able to know what they're talking about. Is that
what you're saying?
[00:24:28.080] - Rob
That's right. And I say complete sentence to be a little bit dramatic. Think seven or eight words versus
one or two words. What truly is the summary, if they don't read anything else on the slide, are they going
to understand what the slide is about? And it's a little bit of if you've seen strategy decks for management
consulting companies, they do very similar things. And sometimes I feel like they get paid on density of
slides with how many words are on there. But it really helps because you don't know if people are reading
it ahead of time. You don't know if people are looking at it after the time. It's just a great way to sort of
express the context of what the overall message is.
[00:25:10.730] - Chris
I don't know the Latin expression, but there was a fellow that I worked with in a couple of companies ago
and he used this Latin expression, I'll have to find it. But basically the premise of it was that this stands on
its own, which he would always basically say if this presentation was dropped in a parking lot, could
anybody pick it up and without any context, without any explanation, without anybody explaining it to you
and being able to say, yeah, that makes sense. And I understand that and it does stand on its own.
[00:25:41.170] - Rob
I love it.
[00:25:42.090] - Chris
So I have to look up, look it up after and see what the Latin expression is. I want to go back to taking
enough time to prepare for a meeting. Right. So we've talked through purpose, objective, deliverable or
approach and deliverable. How much time should people spend when it comes to preparing for sea level
meeting? A very important meeting.
[00:26:09.170] - Rob
I guess I'll Boomerang. A question back to you. I think it sort of depends on what type of meeting it is.
Meaning if it's a regular reoccurring status or issues type review meeting, it may not require substantial
prep time. But if it is a strategic kick off for a project or you have a red light that you need to work through
a critical issue. No kidding. You probably should put in three to four times the amount of time of the
meeting in preparation. And I like to work iteratively. So I do storyboarding. Sometimes I do that literally
on paper. Sometimes I do that electronically. Sometimes I draft presentations just by writing those titles
first. I don't even worry about the contents on the slide. You then have to design the communication. Is
there a visual representation of this information that makes it easier to understand? I found that to be
really true. And a lot of my background doing digital customer experience work, some of the visual
artifacts that you use to describe customer journeys actually become really helpful for helping an
executive understand a complex people process. And technology challenge and projects are very
[00:27:28.140] - Rob
So helping them understand or helping them sort of see through the complexity with a path. Lots of times,
visual organization of information is really helpful. And so if you just think through the time to design the
visuals, you're going to get into the amount of prep time. So no kidding. In my former life, I would start the
process of designing a presentation, sometimes weeks in advance, knowing that there was a critical
milestone coming up. And our goal is always content complete 48 hours in advance. There's a little bit of
spillover time so that you have 24 hours in advance to then distribute that material. So you can sort of
work backwards with yourself or your team and say, how much time should I be chipping away at this to
actually make sure that I have a really crisp deck? That is a great way to ensure we have a successful
meeting. So I'll give you an example. I had a meeting just this week with the board, and I probably spent
about 10 hours of time in preparation for what ended up being roughly a 30 minutes discussion. We have
more time plans, but it ended up being compressed.
[00:28:41.300] - Rob
So that's the other thing is like, how do you react? Sometimes you are a part of a three hour discussion
and you are supposed to have 45 minutes and you end up with 15. Again, if you're prepared, you can
summarize all that information because you've rehearsed in your mind, what are the key messages? And
there's nothing like stress of I have ten slides, but I only have 15 minutes. Well, you better be ready to
deliver that key message in one or two slides instead of actually having to show all ten.
[00:29:10.220] - Chris
[00:29:10.470] - Rob
So that prep time is just really good for helping with flexibility to and how you actually execute the
[00:29:16.080] - Chris
I'm going to tell you a horror story, if you don't mind.
[00:29:19.010] - Rob
[00:29:19.510] - Chris
Not that you asked for me to tell you a horror story, but just talking about being prepared back in the day
a number of years ago is all into the animation and all the whiz bang stuff that you could do on
PowerPoint, all that type of deal. And we did some executive presentation and we had it all lined up. I
have no idea how much time I spent on that. Right. And then we get into the boardroom and I don't know
who did it, but somehow they had like the panic button or whatever that goes off and all the screens go up
and all the lights go down, the whole deal. And it takes literally like 4 hours to reset it for whatever reason
that was. So now here goes. All of my multimedia extravaganza of a presentation is just gone. And this
whole thing that I needed to do, fortunately, I had these rudimentary printed out pieces of paper that I
could at least spread around the desk there. But all of that time and all of that effort that went into that, it
was just gone. And it does show the importance of you got to have a plan B because you don't know.
[00:30:21.960] - Chris
It literally could be like you said, you're expected to be longer in that conversation and it was compressed.
Hey, you got 15 minutes. Let's go. Right? And how can you move through that quickly? So that's a good
point that you bring up. You got to be nimble there, right?
[00:30:35.210] - Rob
That sounds like an advanced PMO Institute training scenario or something.
[00:30:39.720] - Chris
I love it. Kobiashi Maru, for those that will get that right, love it. You can't win that one. Rob, there's
something that you've said because you and I have worked together over the years. The objective of any
of this communication with executives is to leave them with a certain feeling. What is that feeling that you
want to leave them with? What is the purpose of the presentation?
[00:31:10.170] - Rob
Ultimately, I think it boils down to trust and confidence. Meaning do they trust that you are accountable for
the outcome and that you have control? And as I said before, that takes time. So in your first meeting,
that may not be the goal that you have the overarching goal or the implicit goal, but that's definitely what
they want. They want to feel like this is not something I need to worry about as a busy executive. I want to
know that I can trust my team and maybe even you individually as a project manager, that you are doing
the exact same thing as I would be doing to manage successful outcomes. So sometimes project
managers come at their job from the role of administrative task management, and that's valuable, there's
no doubt about it. But I think the project managers that do exceptionally well in their careers have
something extra that drifts towards, I am accountable, I am the throat to choke. And it again, doesn't
mean you have to show all of your work and that you can create that success yourself. But if an executive
feels like you have got the ball and you are happy to be accountable for that outcome, that's just that
extra credit that I think makes an executive sleep well at night, that that initiative is being managed
[00:32:24.730] - Chris
Yeah, you weren't on our last episode because it was our last episode. But one of the things that we
talked about in that last episode was confidence, credibility. Again, like you're saying the executives
you're in those meetings because they think you can do your job right. So that's a given. But if you
continue to exude that confidence, then that will lend itself to that credibility. And that's what they're
looking for is like, okay, this guy's got it or this lady has it, and they can get the job done, and they're just
basically telling us where things are at and we got the trust in them. So just real good thoughts about
what the result of that meeting should be. Any final thoughts, Rob, that you would have about
communicating with executives?
[00:33:10.710] - Rob
I would just say, I guess that I have found the most joy and pleasure in my career at helping people think
differently about a topic. And I think the toughest thing in the world is to take smart people and help them
think about something in a different way. And that's a two way street. They have to be receptive to
thinking differently about something where they already may have a preconceived notion. But what a
great way to be able to do that from a project management standpoint is if you realize the role that you
have and the opportunity to have an executive believe in you, believe in the initiative, believe in your
team. It's another amazing part about being a project manager is you get to work around passionate,
hungry people that want to do great work. Well, you are the mouthpiece, and a lot of times you are the
one communicating on behalf of the entire team. So it's a burden that I think people should respect and
take very seriously. But, man, it sure is fun when you can get executives to smile and be proud of the
work that the team has done and help solve a really challenging issue.
[00:34:18.230] - Rob
So I would be happy to continue to share my perspective with anybody that's interested as they start to
deal with their own challenges.
[00:34:26.460] - Chris
So with that being said, how could people get in touch with you? What's the best way to reach you?
[00:34:31.520] - Rob
Yeah, I think the best way is probably LinkedIn. I'm a Voracious LinkedIn participant, so they can send me
a connection request or a direct message, and I'd be happy to engage with people.
[00:34:42.790] - Chris
Perfect. And maybe you could share one of those Haiku's that you spoke of earlier also. Certainly, Rob
enjoyed the conversation today, as always, and we look forward to talking to you soon.
[00:34:53.990] - Rob
Thanks a lot, Chris. You're doing great stuff with this. I really appreciate it.
[00:34:56.890] - Chris
All right. Thanks, Rob. Well, that was another great conversation on great practices. Really appreciate
Rob Millstead being on here and talking about how that function of a PMO when it comes to
communication and project managers communicating with executives is so important and really quite an
art to get that down. Some of the things I take away from this conversation, I like his definition of an
executive. We always think, well, maybe it's just the sea level and it's the CFO and the CIO and the CEO.
But here's a little bit of a broader perspective. It's anybody that's not directly responsible for the execution
of work that's on that project. So could be other VPs, could be division heads, could be just other people
that are stakeholders in this project. If we view them at that executive level, then that really will make sure
that will get them the communication that they're needing. But what is the biggest challenge that some of
these executives have? Well, I liked it that he brought up the fact that it's context switching. They're going
from 130 minutes meeting on one topic to another one on another topic to another one on another topic.
[00:36:15.710] - Chris
And it's hard to keep all of that straight in your head. So what can we do as project managers? If we run a
PMO, net it out, keep it short, tell them the recommendation upfront. I like the point that he said, we don't
need to necessarily show our work. They trust you. Otherwise you wouldn't be presenting at that level.
Now you do have to do the work, and the assumption is that you have done the work. You just don't have
to show it necessarily or you can put it in the obligatory appendix. What about that framework like that,
too? Poad Poad purpose, objective approach, deliverable. Rob brought out the fact that you need to
understand why are we having the meeting? That's the purpose. What's the objective? What are the
specific topics to support that purpose? What's our approach going to be in this particular meeting? How
are we going to deliver this message or get what it is that we need to have out of this meeting? Is it going
to be a status update? Is it going to be a post note exercise, a decision session? And then finally, what is
the deliverable that we want to get out of this being the results or the outcome.
[00:37:31.810] - Chris
So if we think about that Poad framework and we come into that, that certainly will help make any
meeting successful. And I love that idea that he had about having the title slides almost form a complete
sentence if they've got four or five slides. And if all the executive had the time to read was just the top
titles on these slides, would they get the gist of what you're needing to get done or what your
recommendation is or what the next step is? So it's a real good practice to keep in mind. Great practice,
dare I say, to keep in mind when we're putting these presentations together. And what about that question
about how much time should we spend on preparing for important meetings? And of course, that always
comes back with the answer. Well, it depends if it's a recurring meeting and it's a similar format and
similar cadence every week. It may not be a lot of preparation, but if it's a big meeting, it's a kick off
meeting. It's an important issue discussion we probably want to put in, as a rule of thumb, at least three to
four times as much time in the preparation of the meeting as we are actually going to be having the
meeting and do this weeks in advance, work through it.
[00:38:50.790] - Chris
Iteratively have everything done within 48 hours ahead of a big meeting like that, and then distribute that
information 24 hours ahead of time. Just really good approach as far as getting the information that can
be needed in order to help executives make the right decisions. And I've got to be honest with you, this is
my personal experience. Many times I'm surprised how little attention is given to the preparation of a
meeting. It may be a 30 minutes or an hour meeting and a couple of minutes are spent ahead of time and
getting into that finally, always have a back up on hand if something goes wrong or not, as expected,
whether that's a Plan B as far as your approach or your presentation, or perhaps you've got to print it out
and you can hand it out just in case something doesn't go quite the way you had expected it to. So we'd
like to thank Rob again for being on our show today and sharing some of those great practices with us.
Do you have a great practice that you'd like to share? Go to the Pmoleader.com, click on Content, click
on Great Practices podcast and fill out the form at the bottom of the screen.
[00:40:07.690] - Chris
Someone will get in touch with you shortly about being a guest on our show. Also, be sure not to miss an
episode by subscribing to Great Practices on your favorite podcast platform. And if you like what you
hear, we've definitely had some great guests over these past months. Be sure to share this with your
manager, your colleagues, anybody else that you think would be benefiting from implementing these
great practices. So thanks again and for listening to this episode and keep putting great practices into