Looking to setup a Project Management Office (PMO) for your organization?

November 29, 2023 by
Cloud Sharks AG, Jürgen Hoffmann
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In a series of articles, I will map out a route to a successful implementation of a Project Management Office (PMO) in your organization.

I have been involved in the planning and executing of change projects for almost three decades. I have contributed to these projects in various roles, predominantly though as a project manager but also as a consultant.

In this time, I learned many lessons some more painful than others, but there is one that sticks out and that is the lesson that a “Top Down – Strategy First” approach to implementing change is highly likely to fail. It has been rough at times having to deal with the disappointment of seeing carefully worked out change concepts getting trapped in the quagmire of non-acceptance. The change concepts invariably made sense and the envisaged change deemed necessary or desirable, otherwise my customers or sponsors would not have engaged me for the job.

So what was I doing wrong? To put it in nutshell, I ignored the law of inertia!

Law of Inertia

Firstly, I underestimated the force of inertia when it came to effecting a desired change. Secondly, and more importantly, I did not understand the dynamics behind this law properly. As a result, I applied the wrong kind of tactics in my efforts to overcome the inertia.

I did not understand that inertia is not a result of laziness or complacency on the part of those who are called to make the change. I learned that to the contrary, it is their engagement and their sense of responsibility in achieving the results they have committed to, that keeps them from embarking on a path to a destination, they may not fully comprehend, with risks they cannot clearly identify and evaluate.

It was a gradual process, but I began realise that I was asking too much for too little in return, for those who were expected to embrace and implement the change. From their perspective they were being asked to risk what they had in return for a pie in the sky, without any opt-out or fall-back options, if the “pie” did not materialise as expected.

I realised, that as an agent of change, I needed to offer tangible benefits in return, not in the future, but from the outset. I began to understand that for a process of change to be effective it needs to be:

1) transactional in the sense that every request for change needs be reimbursed with a tangible benefit for those having to implement the change

2) incremental in the sense that while you should know your final destination you are heading to, your focus always is on the next waypoint. Much like a sprint in an agile process, you do not worry about the waypoints beyond the upcoming one. If necessary, you may have to redefine the following waypoints, but you do not worry about that until you have reached the upcoming waypoint.

Some might of you might recognize parallels to agile principles in software development and indeed there are. It is all about delivering incremental benefits on route to establishing a project management office.

So the central question is: What do these incremental deliverables look like?

I have defined a set of seven deliverables, I consider both beneficial for the project teams and the organization and practical in terms of their realization.

Deliverables on route to your PMO

1) Provide your project teams with a turnkey project environment (I prefer to call it a project room) on demand whenever a new project is initiated.

2) Provide well defined project plan templates for your project teams to choose from (work breakdown structures) thereby facilitating the planning of projects. (Yes, every project is unique, but our approach to executing projects is invariably based on best practices. They can and should be stored and contained in our project plans templates, so we do not have to start from scratch very time.

3) Provide a comprehensive and pre-filled meeting schedule of all project meetings for the duration of the project. (with the obvious exception of those ad-hoc meetings).

4) Provide easy to use tools for your project teams to manage changes, monitor risks and follow up on open issues.

5) Provide relevant data analysis and data visualisation for individual projects and the overall portfolio and let your project managers create reports at the press of a button.

6) Provide oversight on resource capacities and insights into resource utilization, within a project and across projects.

7) Provide a ready to use communication platform for project teams to communicate effectively with their stakeholders.

Each of the deliverables listed above, will provided a tangible benefit for your project organisation, and pave the way for you to deliver the next increment.

If you follow through with these increments you will have established an operational project management office either on department level or even on company level, depending on the size of your organization.

Or to use another agile criteria, you will reached flight level 2 which is defined as a coordinated approach to project management. This is the necessary prerequisite for a continued development towards flight level 3, which essentially involves the strategic management of your project portfolio, in line with your company objectives.

Some might ask, so what about training and cultural adoption?  

The simple answer is that that cultural adoption is vital and training absolutely necessary

But the point is that the lack of suitable tools and an insufficiently developed organizational infrastructure tend to negate training and efforts in effecting cultural change.. I believe that a suitable infrastructure and a good toolset are prerequisite enablers for cultural adoption to be sustainable.

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