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Driving PMO Value by Getting Rid of Suckers

pmo pmo leadership project delivery project management Aug 25, 2023
Driving PMO Value by Getting Rid of Suckers

Tomato plants are known for their vigorous growth–so vigorous, in fact, that “suckers” or “side shoots” will appear between the stem and the branches and drain resources and energy from the main plant. To prevent this from happening, gardeners prune these energy-zapping growths, which results in a healthy and productive tomato plant. 

You have a similar pruning job to perform as a PMO Executive. You and your executive team implemented a PMO for the purpose of bearing fruit. What fruit? To ensure that project benefits are realized, and that value is generated for your company. But “suckers” in your organization could be willingly, or unwillingly diverting energy away from your PMO. It’s your job to get rid of those suckers! 

 What Suckers Could There Be in My Company? 

“There are no suckers in my company!” you contend. You see your PMO as a top-down mandate from the C-Suite with 100% support from top leadership and all departments. As supportive as everyone may be with the PMO enabling project and company success, it still means that people and departments are doing things differently than before.  

And, change is hard. Resistance to change could manifest itself as anything from passive-aggressive non-support to outright insubordination as your PMO matures. No surprise here. It’s all part of the growing pains that happen on your Project Management Journey as your PMO moves from Ad Hoc Project Management to Standardizing or Organizational Project Delivery. 

3 Ways to Prune the Suckers 

What can be done if you see this occurring with your PMO? Below are 3 areas outside of your PMO to look at, to make sure your organization is supporting the PMO and enabling it to succeed. 

  • Rogue Project Work - Eliminate under-the-radar project work by implementing and enforcing company policies and processes related to project portfolio management. It’s not the responsibility of your PMO to go on a search and destroy mission to eliminate all unapproved projects. Rather, it’s the responsibility of each department to bring their approved projects to the PMO. You, as the PMO Executive, can make this happen by making sure everyone understands how projects are managed in your company. 
    Think about it this way. If an assembly line is required to be shut down each quarter for routine maintenance, everyone understands that. It’s company policy that everyone follows. What would happen if someone on that production line “went rogue” and just decided to shut the line down to perform maintenance anytime they wanted to? Everyone else on the assembly line would be negatively impacted. We don’t allow one-offs like this to happen in operations, neither should we allow it to happen with projects within the company. 
  • Ineffective Resource Management - Most PMOs exist in a matrixed environment where project managers do not have direct reports. These resources typically roll-up to a functional manager who is responsible for assigning them work. This becomes challenging because functional managers are also responsible for the daily operations of an enterprise, and there’s only so much time in the day to work on both project work and operations. Project work will usually get the short end of the stick or end up with resources that have a lower skill level. 
    As an executive, you can help functional managers with this challenge. Ensure their departments are properly staffed to handle both project work and daily operations. Put project work at the same level of importance as operations. This will require a mindset shift since most people will work on projects “if there’s time left.”  Help your managers and employees understand that their jobs consist of both operations and project work and they are each equally as important. 
  • Not Tying Project Work to Performance Reviews - A third area where managers unwittingly undermine PMO success is by conducting annual performance reviews the way they’ve always done them… based exclusively on Operations performance metrics, and not including Project performance and metrics. What does this look like when you focus exclusively on Operations? The performance review scale is based on x% of incident tickets reduced, or a process taking y% faster, or an increase of customer satisfaction by z%. Those are important, but it doesn’t acknowledge a good job on project work. 
    You can help functional managers in this area by working with your HR teams to add project-related metrics on performance reviews. Example metrics could include: % of dollars saved as a result of x project being complete, an increase in revenue due to y project being implemented, or improved compliance because of completing z project early. Employees will focus on what they get rewarded for. Make sure project work is in this mix as well. 

Did you notice what each area has in common? They are areas OUTSIDE of the PMO’s influence. Enabling PMO value in your organization transcends the people, process, and technology of how your PMO operates. You need to make sure your entire company is in alignment with supporting your PMO.  How? Get rid of the suckers! Then, and only then, will the right amount of energy be directed towards your PMO where your company can then experience real value! 


How to Drive PMO Value

Whether you are setting up a new PMO, or re-baselining an existing PMO, there are things you can do as an executive to make sure that your PMO is delivering value as expected.

Understand that Change is Hard - People don’t like to change. They get set in their ways and achieve a level of comfort. Introducing a PMO to an organization that didn’t have one before, or changing the way the current PMO operates will require people to change. Be mindful that you may face resistance as people work through the changes you are putting in place.

Ensure the PMO is Aligned Inside the PMO - Start with changes within the PMO itself to drive value. Validate that all people, processes, and technology aspects of a smooth running PMO are up and running. You need to make sure that your PMO house is in order before you (re)introduce it to others and ask them to support your PMO.

Make Sure the Organization is Aligned Outside of the PMO - Next, you need to spend time looking outside of the PMO organization to make sure everyone is aligned to support a PMO that generates value to the company. Examples of this include eliminating rogue work, optimizing resource management, and tying project work to performance reviews. You can think of other areas to focus on based upon the unique makeup and challenges of your company.

Make Adjustments - Finally, you need to adjust as necessary. Not everything is going to line up perfectly from within and outside your PMO. Make the tough calls and decisions needed in order to ensure your PMO is creating value.


Project Benefits - The positive outcomes, advantages, or improvements that are expected to be achieved as a result of successfully completing a project. These benefits are the reason why the project is undertaken in the first place and justifies the investment of time, resources, and effort into its execution.

Skunkworks - A term originally coined by Lockheed Martin Corporation during World War II to describe a small, highly autonomous, and often secretive group within a company or organization that is dedicated to working on innovative and advanced projects. Today, Skunkworks projects are often kept separate from the company's standard operating procedures to avoid bureaucratic constraints and red tape, enabling greater flexibility, creativity, and efficiency.

PMO Value - The tangible and intangible benefits and contributions that a well-functioning PMO brings to an organization.  This includes value generated from overseeing and supporting project management activities, providing governance, standardization, guidance, and support to project teams and stakeholders.

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