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How to Continuously Improve Your PMO’s Performance

Nov 13, 2023
How to Continuously Improve Your PMO’s Performance

Formula 1 cars are highly optimized in order to reach speeds of 220-230 MPH. That’s why engineers are constantly looking for ways to improve a car’s performance, whether it be the materials they are constructed from, powertrain, tires, or driver training, and even pit stops. 

Why such an emphasis on performance? Because these drivers and their teams want to win! And, sometimes milliseconds are the difference between first and second place (also known as, first loser). For example, .011 seconds is how close it was between Michael Shumacher and Rubens Barrichello in the 2004 US Grand Prix. Every aspect of the car and the environment in which it operates makes a difference. 

This begs the question, is your PMO operating at optimal performance? If you’re like many PMOs, the answer will be a resounding “NO.” We heard from global PMO Leaders in our 2022 Research Report that 78% of PMOs don’t have a formal process to measure their value, and only 30% of PMOs measure project ROI. 

It’s hard to optimize something if you don’t know where you are starting from. What’s worse, too many PMO Leaders today are running their PMO as opposed to running the organization’s PMO. That’s why The PMO Squad has created the Purpose Driven PMO model which is based on Purpose, Measure, and Optimize… otherwise known as PMO. 

The first step in this model is to understand why your PMO exists, What is Your PMO Purpose.  Then, you build your playbook and empower your team to deliver.  You must also understand how are you doing, how is your PMO race car performing?  You need to Measure your performance and communicate your value. It’s ok to brag a little bit about all the good your PMO is doing for the organization.  Finally, once you know the measurements you are starting from, you can Optimize future results.  

We’re going to focus on Optimizing results in this article. Consider the following two ways this can be done. 

Optimize Your PMO Playbook 

The first step is to take a regular look at your PMO Playbook. The PMO Playbook is the document or resource that provides guidelines, processes, templates, and best practices for managing projects within your organization.  The problem with a PMO Playbook is that it quickly becomes stale unless it’s regularly maintained. 

Set a cadence to review your Playbook. Quarterly would be ideal, twice a year might be okay, and annually is the worst-case scenario. You don’t want your PMO Playbook to be any older than one year, and even that’s a lot.  Imagine the challenge NFL teams would be facing if they don’t review their playbook weekly.  That may be too frequent for your PMO, but you get the point. 


  1. Assemble a Review Team - Form a review team that includes experienced project managers, PMO leaders, subject matter experts, and representatives from different departments or even customers. This team will help ensure that the playbook reflects the current state of project management within the organization. 
  2. Identify Key Changes and Trends - Ask the newly assembled review team to keep up with industry trends, emerging project management methodologies, and any changes in regulation or compliance requirements. They also need to review all Lessons Learned or Project Debriefs from projects that have been completed. 
  3. Review and Update Each Section - With key changes and trends and data from lessons learned and project debriefs, the team now reviews and updates each section in the PMO Playbook. This can be a joint effort where the playbook is reviewed collaboratively; or it can be a divide-and-conquer effort where each reviewer tackles their own section. Encourage the team to adopt an Add / Edit / Delete mindset that focuses on bringing in new content (Add), changing existing content (Edit), or most importantly, getting rid of out-of-date content (Delete).
  4. Communicate the Updates - Finally, you can’t blame anyone that’s not following the new process, or still doing it the old way, if they didn’t know about the changes. Schedule a brief meeting (no more than 30 minutes) to educate everyone on what changed, why it changed, and where they can get more information. These meetings can be even shorter if you conduct your PMO Playbook review every quarter.  

Next, let’s move on to what can be done to optimize teams. 

Optimize Your PMO Team 

Once the PMO Playbook processes are optimized, you need to turn your attention towards the people that make up your PMO. What are some ways that your PMO team can be optimized? Consider the following suggestions: 

  • Set Clear Expectations - Remove any guesswork around what it means to be successful within your PMO. These expectations can range from not being late on projects (and if you are, communicating bad news early and what’s being done to mitigate the delay) to taking the necessary steps to close out a project, or going back and reporting on the business value generated. You determine what your PMO stands for (thus the importance of understanding WHY your PMO exists) and to ensure your team is meeting those standards. 
  • Provide Training as Necessary - A second way to optimize your team is to close the gap between your expectations and a person’s capabilities. If you expect someone to report on business value generated, but they’re not familiar with value management or value delivery, then provide them with the necessary training. Set your team up for success. 
  • Manage Resources Effectively - This highlights the principle of Delegation. Delegation is not just about having someone else do the work, but rather making sure that work is being pushed down to the lowest capable level of person that can perform the work. For example, a heart surgeon in the US may make between $400,000 - $600,000 a year because of their high level of skill and expertise. A phlebotomist (someone who draws blood) may make $40,000 - $50,000 / year. Can the heart surgeon draw blood? Yes. Does it make sense for her to draw blood? Of course not. The heart surgeon’s expertise and training should be utilized for surgery, while a phlebotomist is perfectly capable of drawing blood at a much lower cost.  Also, make the necessary changes to your team.  Not everyone is meant to be a part of a high performance PMO.  If you’ve tried optimize a specific resource but realize they aren’t a fit, it is best to move on and identify different resources to help you become successful. 
  • Standardize Across the Team - Finally, take the steps necessary to make sure everyone is running projects the same way (see Optimize Your PMO Playbook above). Imagine the chaos that would ensue if a Formula 1 team changed their routine each time a racer came in for a pit stop. This time they changed the tires first, another time they cleaned the windshield first, another time they began by checking the front wing adjustments. People would be tripping over each other, resulting in a less-than-optimized experience. 

If it’s been a while since you’ve reviewed your PMO Playbook and how your team is operating, do it now. Not to be overly dramatic, but the very existence of your PMO is at stake! When times get tough, PMOs are generally one of the first departments to go, as project managers are redistributed to individual departments. Understanding your Purpose, Measuring results, and Optimizing for the future will help you stick around for the next race. 


How to Optimize Your PMO 

Take the following steps to ensure your PMO is running on all cylinders. 

  1. Understand Why Your PMO Exists - The first step is to go back to the very reason why your PMO was instituted. Is it to deliver projects? Create value? Ensure compliance with governmental agencies? Each organization will have a different “why”, but you need to make sure you know what the purpose of your organization’s PMO (not your PMO) is.  The final step is to document your PMO Purpose and review with Leadership to ensure all are aligned to a common purpose. 
  2. Assess if the PMO is Achieving Its Purpose - Determine if the PMO you are running is meeting the objectives that it was set up for. How?  By measuring if you are achieving your Purpose.  How do you measure?  There are multiple ways to achieve this such as, ask those who were around when the PMO was implemented, build dashboards to analyze performance data, asking customers (internal or external) how you’re doing.  
  3. Optimize Your Playbook - Make sure your PMO Playbook remains current. Take it off the virtual shelf, blow off the dust, and review and update accordingly. Include any industry trends and lessons learned from past project debriefs. Be sure to communicate changes to all stakeholders. 
  4. Optimize Your Team - Set clear expectations for your team. Provide them with the necessary training to close any knowledge gaps that may exist. And don’t be afraid to make changes in people, if, after a reasonable amount of time, they are not making the cut. 


PMO Playbook - The document or resource that provides guidelines, processes, templates, and best practices for managing projects within your organization. 

Purpose Driven PMO - A framework created by The PMO Squad that helps PMO Leaders succeed regardless of company size, industry, methodology, or geography. It focuses on three questions: 1) Why does your PMO exist? 2) How does your PMO provide value? And, 3) How does your PMO stay relevant? 

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