What we can learn from Powermemo
Powermemo is an online collaborative workspace with intelligence that Kisko has been building since 2013. It’s designed for organisations handling transformation and change, product and service development and business projects. The 3200 git commits made during the project and all the discussions with the Powermemo team have taught us a lot on project management and work efficiency.
Powermemo was founded in 2013 by Pekka Ylisirniö, who has a strong business strategy -related background. His eagerness to improve strategic planning, strategy implementation and measurement has had him involved in building a communal and state strategy barometer, and even led him to write a book about measuring strategy. Before creating his own businesses, he has been responsible for strategy, project and program management in several corporations. With a 12-year experience as an entrepreneur, Powermemo is Pekka’s fifth company.
All the noteworthy experience has provided Pekka, and his business partner, service designer Ari Tenhunen, with a great vantage point to get a comprehensive view on what’s happening in Finnish companies and their projects. What they have found is that too often, what people say is happening, is not really happening. In other words, people tend to make a lot of promises that they don’t deliver, at least not according to agreed schedule. Does this sound familiar?
Planning is not enough
As ambitious people, we want to do a lot of things in short time, we plan to do them, but many times end up with a huge gap between planning and completion. We plan the principal tasks in mind and forget to take into account the remaining time consuming tasks that are more difficult to define or predict. On top of that come the shocking facts, like that in companies in general, people spend (read: waste) 30% of their work time thinking about their own position.
Keeping promises turns out to be so crucial in terms of performance that the Powermemo team has unofficially named the most important KPI (Key Performance Indicator) to be the Kept Promises Indicator. Getting less done than planned is, according to Ylisirniö, one of the many symptoms of waste in projects.
He urges to keep in mind that successful planning can only take you a bit further — successful implementation brings you to your goal. This goes for both individual and organisational level of achievement. When you think about strategy, for example, the planning often happens between a few people (so it’s easier to handle), when the implementation can employ thousands. And what comes to implementation, the miscalculations and wasted time pose a great strain. But how to fix the kept promises rate? What should be done to ramp up performance?
Great projects are made of…
According to Ylisirniö, it all comes down to good ways of working, and good ways to measure work. He states four (4) main things that need to be improved to match the work with the plans and the outcomes with the objectives.
The first step towards making good work real is to make the work visible. This means accepting the necessity of transparency within the company. It’s a simple yet challenging step, as becoming transparent in its work processes demands courage from the company and its whole network.
Tracking work is probably the most significant factor of transparency. To have people stick to their promises, you need to track achievements. Traditionally, this means that the network hands out reports to the management team. According to Ylisirniö, what managers often want from a project management tool is indeed a “report button”. Yet what Powermemo emphasizes is a two-way model of reporting, where the network can demand decision-making from the managers to advance the work process.
In many companies people are so bound to their existing work files, that the files themselves, and all the surrounding conversations, start to define the ways of thinking. This leads to a faulty approach, when instead, the main drivers should be everyday workflows and objectives.
Incorporating strategy to everyday workflows starts with prioritization
Let’s take an example: There’s a 10 million euro project starting in an engineering company. The management has defined its objectives and made all necessary calculations. They assign three coordinators and organize a 3-hour kick-off workshop. The project, its schedule and deadlines are already published on the intranet. But what happens next, what does the project actually contain?
The answer lies in the right kind of prioritization. In the Powermemo model, the implementation process begins by exploring the level of urgency of needs in different areas of work. Ylisirniö has named these areas of work “work packages”, and different departments (accounting, marketing, etc.) have their own. The point is to take all departments into account as implementation needs to happen throughout the whole organisation, regardless of the size. Not with a linear, hierarchical and structural approach, but by boosting collaboration between people in different roles; the management team, the project responsible and the network of individuals.
It’s the individuals and their work efficiency that have an ever-growing importance, as the management is seeking to form networks of expertise. People at Powermemo have understood the complexity in the relationships within these networks, and here culminates their vision of making good work real. It’s about improving the work between people.
An individual’s performance in different tasks often depends on other people and their performance. This means there’s causality between the tasks, which means you can blame others when you don’t stick to your deadlines, right? Hopefully not. What Ylisirniö (& co.) like to think is that the relationships between tasks should be seen more as correlative, and organisations should use tools that make reciprocal work possible. Tools just like Powermemo.
Future of work metrics
In addition to serving separate organisations, Powermemo people have an even greater mission in mind. If the quality of workflow and kept promises by individuals indicate organisations’ performance, why couldn’t data from tracking work be valuable at a macroeconomic level? Powermemo tools have gathered, and are constantly gathering huge amounts of information on work. In the way that Google searches are predicting the progress of influenza, Powermemo’ work behavioral data has the potential to predict country level and macroeconomic development.
- Client: Powermemo
- Team: Vesa Vänskä, Joni Korpi, Virgil Mocanu