The PMO, the Project Management Office. The team within an organization which is responsible for delivering projects. Imagine the responsibility and burden on the PMO leader. From my experience running several PMOs it goes a little like this.... You are in charge of delivering the most critical, strategic projects for the organization and you need to do it with limited resources and limited organizational span of control.
I've also found through working with many clients and talking with peers, that starting or improving a PMO should be done by simplifying the approach. Simplify to get early wins, and then start to expand influence within your organization as you build trust through successful delivery.
Our approach follows the P - M - O process;
Setting up a Project Management Office (PMO) can appear to be daunting. And let’s not kid anyone. It is. It actually is. It requires careful planning, deliberate relationship building, flawless execution and continuous improvement. Throw in a mix of doubters, “we’re not going to change”-ers, and differing demands, it makes the situation even more challenging.
Does this look familiar? I think everyone I know plays the game of "get ALL the toothpaste out of the tube!" That toothpaste probably cost us about $2.50 and we aren't going to throw it away until we know we've gotten every last drop of toothpaste out of it.
Why then, do organizations not treat projects like we treat toothpaste? Projects cost organizations $10,000 or $50,000 or $250,000 or a $1 million. Certainly more than the cost of a tube of toothpaste.
At the start of the new year Project Management leaders should take some time to be sure the organization is focused on delivering successful projects in 2018. But how do you do that? What are some of the key steps which need to be taken to give you the best chance for success?
Here are my top 3 areas you should be focused on:
Is there such a thing as Good vs Great Project Managers? Of course there is! Just as with any profession, some Project Managers are better than others. There are several items which can contribute to this differentiation such as; Consistency, Attitude, Experience, Background, Desire, Training and more. What I've found over the years is that the PM who has developed "soft skills" has an edge over PMs lacking these soft skills. Even more specifically, I've found through my experience there are 8 soft skills which are the most important for a PM to cultivate and grow.
I was a pretty decent baseball player back in the day. Lots of Business Lessons were learned between the lines; Leadership, Trust, Teamwork to name a few. Another lesson was the use of a Playbook. My freshman year of High School I was called up to the Varsity team and the coach gave me the team Playbook. I had never used a Playbook in baseball. Hit the ball, throw the ball, run. What was the need?
There are so many choices today when selecting Project Management Software. There are Enterprise PPM solutions, Cloud based or desktop based choices. We can even select apps to use on our mobile devices. There are tools which specialize in communication, collaboration, task management, gantt charts and more. Are you needing a tool for yourself, a small team, small or mid-sized business or perhaps a large corporation. Do you practice traditional Project Management, Agile, or hybrid methodology? So many selection criteria to assess. So how do you pick the right tool for your particular need?
We've all seen it.....
Hey John, can you please take on this project? Problem is, John isn't a Project Manager. We know how this is going to finish!
Over and over again organizations ask employees to take on Project Manager responsibilities for critical projects. Usually the reasoning being the employee is a subject matter expert or has seniority in the department. These top organizational employees are now put in a position in which they are not prepared. They haven't received Project Management training, are unfamiliar with tools, haven't had to negotiate resources, have never built a schedule and are being set up to fail. This all too common scenario has given birth to the Accidental Project Manager.
I am often asked, "Why do we need a PMO?" Regardless of industry the question is the same. If we have Project Managers then why do we need a PMO. I guess thats a fair question and it allows me to ask a few follow up questions to get a good dialogue started.
I'll ask my clients if they have an Accounting Department - Yes.
Do you have an Accounts Payable team/resources - Yes.
Do you have a set process for how you pay your vendors - Yes. See where this is going??
We've all seen the fight between Agile and Waterfall evangelists on the web. The traditionalists opt for Waterfall and the new age is favoring Agile. Certainly there seems to be a shift to Agile these days, but who really runs a full Agile shop? What I wonder though, does it even matter? What is really at the core of Project Management best practice? Does using Agile principles make you a better PM than following a Waterfall methodology?
How about Project Management software? Does it matter if you are in the MS Project corner vs Planview or Clarity? Perhaps you rely on JIRA or Asana? Maybe LiquidPlanner or Wrike? There are literally hundreds of software solutions for Project Managers to use. Will using one over the other make you a better PM?
Some common problems we see across organizations are:
1) Not knowing which projects to work
2) Not enough resources to work projects and sustaining work
3) Not enough funding to work the projects leadership has requested
Sound familiar? Most likely, your organization doesn't have a mature Project Portfolio Management process in place. Many organizations hire some Project Managers, maybe even a Manager or Director to run a PMO (Project Management Office), but the required processes are missing. A failed or missing Project Portfolio Management process is a major contributor to the death of the PMO.
It's time for a change in how we approach the PMO in Corporate America. In another post I commented on Why we need a PMO, and now I'll discuss why the PMO we need is drastically different than the one we are used to.
Year after year we see the results of professional studies indicating PMOs fail with a lifespan lasting only 2-3 years. We also see that projects fail to meet objectives 40%-60% of the time. For those of us who have been in this space for awhile we aren't surprised by these results. Heck, I've lived the life of a PMO Director caught up in the PMO revolving door.
So what are we doing about it? From my perspective we really aren't doing too much. The industry events I attend and colleagues I talk with all seem to be doing what we've always done. Except, This time we're going to do it better. This time the company is going to get it. This time my client will be more receptive. Hogwash, I say!!