Category Archives: Leadership

What Does a PMO Provide?

What does a PMO provide
What does a PMO provide?

I’ve written some negative blog posts in the past regarding PMOs. It’s not that I’m against Project Management Offices. It’s just that I’ve been exposed to more bad ones than good ones.

Too often, they appear to be contrived. It’s as if the IT organization said, “Everyone seems to have a PMO these days. Maybe we should too. Carl, go create us a PMO.”

Carl was most likely selected because he had the most time and they didn’t know what to do with him. So Carl brings all of the project managers together and tells them that they are now part of the PMO. As a result, they will have weekly meetings to give each other their status.

A PMO needs to be a strategic decision for an organization. Rather than just a title, there are a number of services a PMO must provide their organization in order to be worth while.

Standardization

In many organizations, they have as many methodologies as they do project managers. The logic is that if you hire good PMs with deep experience, they will know how to manage a project.  We shouldn’t need to tell them how to do their job.

But if a business unit has three active projects by three different project managers, they may become very confused by the inconsistency. Imagine receiving three different formats of the status report, and every other document you receive from the project managers.

A PMO helps the team of project managers to provide consistency in their delivery. They don’t just standardize deliverables. A PMO standardizes the methodology and how projects are approached. Whether you follow a waterfall, agile, or some hybrid in-between, it serves the organization better when the approach is consistent and predictable.

This is not telling the project manager how to do their job. Project management is not about status reports and methodology. Project management is about using those tools to prioritize, make decisions and drive a project to successful completion.

Governance

A PMO provides a global view for all of their stakeholders. They work with each one to help make sound decisions for prioritization of projects.

They understand the interactions and dependencies of all projects that are in-flight or under consideration. This allows them to consider the net benefit of each project. They then work with the business units to prioritize based on the benefit and dependency of each effort.

Sharing of resources

Many projects don’t require a full-time project manager. If two related projects require only a half-time PM, the PMO can coordinate this and manage the time of one PM across those projects.

Additionally, functional PMOs have project managers that collaborate. They share their most effective tips and techniques (their “better practices”) with each other. This creates an environment of constant improvement for the entire group.

Internal consulting service

A good project manager should have a good grasp on the business. This helps to make sound project decisions. The PMO should be integrated with strategic business. They should understand the company’s strategic direction and drive decisions based on that strategy. The PM should not be an appendage to the organization that they turn to on an ad hoc basis once decisions are made.

The PMO is a partner. Not merely a service provider.

Value

The bottom line across all of these attributes is that the PMO must provide measurable value to the business. A PMO is a service center, not a cost center.

The management within the PMO, as well as the project managers, should be in constant communication with the business units that they serve. They should have a constant finger on the pulse of what the business needs. In response, they must provide what they need from a project management perspective.

If the business sees little value in the PMO, the PMO is ineffective.

Does your PMO provide value?

If you would like to learn more about a career in Project Management, get Lew’s book Project Management 101: 101 Tips for Success in Project Management on Amazon.

Please feel free to provide feedback in the comments section below.

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Project Manager is a driver not a traffic cop

Project Manager is a Driver
Project Manager is a Driver

As a sports fan, I often hear other fans complain that a team is not playing to win. They are instead, playing not to lose. This means that they are being conservative. They focus largely on defense, keeping their opponent from scoring. They do this at the cost of being bold. They don’t focus on scoring points as much as they do on stopping their opponent.

Many argue that the greatest offense is a great defense. And if your baseball team scores a lot, but loses 14-12, it doesn’t do you much good.

Fans, though, like to see scoring and a strong defense.

The traffic cop

After you leave the game and make your way home, you may hit a lot of traffic. As you leave the crowded parking lot, there is no doubt a traffic cop directing people. He or she is focused on making sure people take their turn coming out. They may stop cars to let others through. They wave others on. The main focus of the traffic cop is to avoid accidents and chaos so people can get home.

The folks driving the cars are trying to accomplish something. They want to get somewhere. They may inch in to get ahead of another driver. They hit the accelerator when they want to get up further in line.

The driver is trying to accomplish something – getting to his destination. The traffic cop is trying to avoid something bad – an accident or major traffic jam.

Both roles play an important part.

Project Manager is a driver

There are project managers that take on the role of traffic cops. They direct people and make occasional decisions. But their primary goal is to avoid a major accident. Like the team playing not to lose, they play conservatively. They keep their head down and avoid making waves or getting any negative attention.

When the project manager is a driver, he plays to win. The driver project manager takes bold steps. A traffic cop project manager accepts limitations given from others. A driver PM seeks out the root cause and identifies creative solutions to break down barriers.

I’m not a micromanager

Many project managers try to avoid being too much of a driver. “I’m not a micromanager.” They may claim. But there is a big difference.

Micromanagers interfere and tell people how to do their job. Drivers participate and collaborate. A traffic cop project manager claims that they hire good people – drivers? – and they allow them to do their jobs.

That’s a good philosophy. However, if the project manager is a driver, he can allow the team to do their job while still driving the project.

It is a difference between being active and passive in your management style. You can be active and participative without being a micromanager.

Conclusion

A project manager needs to push things through to conclusion rather than tracking dates and observing what others do. When a project manager is a driver, things get done more quickly and efficiently. A driver allows people to do their job, but pushes them to greater heights for greater project success.

Are you a driver or a traffic cop?

If you would like to learn more about a career in Project Management, get Lew’s book Project Management 101: 101 Tips for Success in Project Management on Amazon.

Please feel free to provide feedback in the comments section below.

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The Confidence of Humility

Confidence of Humility
Confidence of Humility

Think of the greatest leaders you’ve ever worked for or admired. There are many traits that may have inspired you. Confidence was likely one of them. But were they so confident that they demonstrated the confidence of humility?

Johnny Carson was known as the King of Late Night. Before The Late Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live. He was not only the host of the Tonight Show. He defined the genre.

In today’s late night world, when the host is off, a repeat is shown. When Johnny Carson was off, he would designate a guest host. Many stars, including Jerry Lewis, Joan Rivers and Jay Leno, would “guest host” when Johnny was off.
Continue reading The Confidence of Humility

Setting Team Ground Rules

Team Ground Rules
Team Ground Rules

Do this. Don’t do that. It seems there are always rules getting in our way. But if we didn’t have rules, life – and work – would be a chaotic mess. Some people thrive on chaos. Others need complete order.

We all live within a certain set of rules in our organizations. Virtually every company has a policies handbook that is given to every new employee or consultant.

But those rules are fairly overarching and primarily generic. They are one-size-fits-all for the entire organization. When we find ourselves on a project team, we may want to be a little more specific about the rules the team wishes to follow.
Continue reading Setting Team Ground Rules

Two Motivation Types

Two Motivation Types
Two Motivation Types

Although there are an infinite number of management styles, human beings have two basic motivation types. We do things because we fear some type of negative ramification. Or we do things because we seek pleasure.

Every manager should understand this. And every employee should know what type of manager they are dealing with.

The fear motivator

We have probably all known managers who use fear as a motivator. They make threats. They usually yell a lot. They also are not afraid to humiliate people in front of others.

Employees who work for this type of person usually follow a strategy of avoidance. They want to avoid being yelled at, or humiliated. They have mouths to feed at home. So they want to avoid being fired.

This often works for some managers. I’ve spoken to people who say they respond best to this type of treatment. “That’s how my father was when we were growing up.” Is a common response when I ask them why.

The people who respond to this feel that it pushes them to achieve. The fear motivator keeps them on their toes like a drill sergeant in the army. If that manager didn’t yell at them when they did something wrong, they feel they would become complacent. They would get less done.

Others – myself included – see it as demotivating. Workers should be inspired to succeed. Working for a fear motivator creates workers that are more focused on not failing. Some may say that not failing and succeeding are the same thing. They are not.

Not failing also means not taking any chances. Not failing means playing it safe. Not failing causes people to do the minimum required effort to get the job done satisfactorily.

I believe that people who say they respond best to the fear motivator are people who lack self-confidence. They don’t feel they can achieve. They believe that they need that negative push for them to achieve results.

The pleasure motivator

Pleasure motivators build people up. They are complementary of peoples’ skills and abilities. They motivate them with uplifting comments and gestures.

Pleasure motivators have a tolerance for errors. They know that for an employee to achieve great things, they have to take risks. And when people take risks, they’re going to fail once in a while.

Critics claim that this approach makes people complacent. The boss that lets them get away with anything will end up with a team of slackers.

I believe that encouraging a positive environment creates happy workers. Having happy workers generates loyalty. Creating an environment that has a tolerance for errors encourages people to achieve at greater levels.

A hybrid approach

There are some managers that focus only on the negative. There are some that believe only in cheerleading people to success. But most successful managers have a hybrid approach.

If all you do is focus on negativity and criticism, good workers become demotivated. They either stay with the company and deal with low morale, or they leave. Turnover is very high in negative environments.

The manager that focuses only on the positive can end up with people who risk too much. They know there are no consequences to failure and may become careless.

There are times when employees need to be aware of negative consequences. Having a tolerance for mistakes can be a great motivator for achievement. But if people fail to learn from previous mistakes, it becomes costly. Positive managers still have to fire someone once in a while. That needs to be an example to other employees. The message must be that we tolerate calculated risks. But we won’t tolerate carelessness.

Conclusion

Different people respond to positive and negative management styles in different ways. Just as managers have management styles, employees have their own followership styles.

Effective managers need to positively motivate people to strive for success. They also must make sure that employees don’t take advantage of perceived kindness. A strong manager makes sure to positively motivate people, while making them aware of possible negative consequences.

How do you motivate your team?

If you would like to learn more about a career in Project Management, get Lew’s book Project Management 101: 101 Tips for Success in Project Management on Amazon.

Please feel free to provide feedback in the comments section below.

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Having a plan vs. planning

Plan vs. Planning
Plan vs. Planning

As some of my readers know, I have combined my long daily commute with my interest in American history by listening to a biography of every U.S. president in chronological order. I listen more for leadership reasons than political.

I recently finished Dwight D. Eisenhower’s biography.  While Ike was seen by many as a “retiree president” who primarily golfed his way through two terms, he actually used his military knowledge for a lot of behind-the-scenes foreign policy diplomacy.

One of the more interesting quotes he is known for is, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

I found that to be very enlightening from a military perspective. The man who masterminded D-Day certainly had a plan. But he knew that there were many things that would go wrong and situations that would change.  He knew as soon as execution began, situations beyond his control would immediately cause them to deviate from the plan.

But the process of planning includes considering what can go wrong and establishing alternatives. That provides the indispensable aspect of planning.

Planning in project management

This is just as true in project management as in the life or death world of the military. Every competent project manager knows that every project needs a project plan. And every project manager knows that as soon as the plan is done and the project begins, deviations begin rearing their ugly heads.

That’s where issue and risk analysis come into play. In addition to developing a detailed project plan, project managers should do extensive risk analysis. This should be done early and often.

At the beginning of any project, the project manager should meet with all project stakeholders to brainstorm on any risks that could be faced.

With every risk, analysis should include the likelihood of the risk occurring, the impact to the project should it occur, and mitigation plans to avoid the risk, deal with the risk, or accept the risk.

This type of planning allows for many deviations in the original plan. The project manager knows how to deal with those deviations and what to do when they happen.

You can’t think of everything

I’ve experienced pushback from people in the past when it comes to risk analysis. They tell me that I’m wasting my time. You can’t think of every bad thing that will happen. You can’t tell the future.

True. You’ll never think of every possible thing that can go wrong. That’s not the point. The point is to think of as many possibilities that you can. Brainstorming like that and coming up with mitigation strategies will help make it easier to zig when things zag.

Mitigation strategies provide ideas that lead to mitigations for other things that go wrong. That’s where the planning is infinitely more valuable than the plan.

Being on the same page

Another major outcome of planning (rather than the plan) is the communication that it generates. Have you ever been on a project where people are asking “What are we doing and how are we going to do it?” They may look at a plan. But that may not make it clear.

When they are involved in the planning, they have a keener sense of the project purpose. They are also much more aware of how the project will be managed.

If they are involved in risk mitigation practices, they understand that the straight line of the plan, may be a circuitous path. But they know the end point will not vary too much.

Conclusion

Many project managers develop a plan and stubbornly stick to it. Their inflexibility can cause many problems for the project. They end up focusing more on the plan than the original purpose and intent of the project.

Having the flexibility to deviate from the plan can be the key to their success. The magic is in the planning, not in the plan.

What have you accomplished through planning?

If you would like to learn more about a career in Project Management, get Lew’s book Project Management 101: 101 Tips for Success in Project Management on Amazon.

Please feel free to provide feedback in the comments section below.

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Deceiving the Project Sponsor

Deceiving the project sponsor
Deceiving the project sponsor

I had an uncomfortable situation one time on a project. We had an issue with a software application. I wasn’t sure how serious the issue was. I asked the team members to provide more information on it. They told me it would take about two days to investigate it and understand its consequences.

In the meantime, a manager within the application team spoke to my project sponsor, suggesting it was a show-stopper issue. He, in turn, came to me wondering why he hadn’t been informed by me. Why did he have to find out from an outside source?

I tried to explain to him that I had just known about it for two days and was gathering information to learn more about it. I didn’t even know the ramifications yet.

This presents an age old dilemma at just about any management level. Project managers maintain an issues log. All issues get logged to it. Smaller, less impactful issues get resolved. You don’t have to bother your next level of management with many of them.

Other issues are reported to upper management. Some require upper management’s input and decision making. Others are simply to keep the executive informed, just in case it grows to a larger issue.

Much like reporting Red-Amber-Green status, the PM walks a tightrope between taking up the manager’s time with unnecessary issues, and deceiving the project sponsor. There are a few things that a project manager can do to ensure that they are reporting the correct issues correctly to the project sponsor.

In the exploratory stage

If you have just been made aware of an issue, but have not been given all of the details, the issue is in limbo. You don’t know if it is a reportable issue. But you do know that it has potential to be.

In this case, you may want to send the manager an “FYI email.” Starting the email with “FYI” (For your information) tips them off that there is no involvement required by them. It is just to keep them informed. Explain that you are still investigating what the ramifications are and that you will provided an update if necessary.

This circumvents the sponsor learning about the issue from someone else. It also provides a heads-up if this becomes a major issue. Executives don’t like surprises. Providing an informative heads-up can eliminate a surprise on multiple fronts.

Find out the consequences

If the team tells you that it will take an extensive period of time to investigate the issue, find out why it will take so long. Pursue options that could accelerate the inquiry. If there is a risk of it being a major issue, it may be worth adding people to investigate or increasing the priority.

If the investigation cannot be sped up in any way, try to establish milestones in which you can check in with the team to get updates as it progresses.

Major show-stoppers

If you establish that this is a major issue that needs to be brought to the executive’s attention, determine the appropriate communication path. If the executive is available and approachable, speak to them directly.

Many executives are so busy it is hard to get any personal time with them on the fly. A quick email or text may be appropriate to get the information out in a timely manner. You may also try to schedule a personal meeting with the appropriate people to provide additional insight.

It is best to take issues to executives armed with possible solutions. You may have two or three possible resolutions to the problem and a recommendation of which one you think would work best.

Additionally, the ramifications of the issue should be well understood. Those ramifications could be related to internal politics, technical problems, public relations concerns, or in many other areas. Be sure to consider all ramifications of the issue. Also, be sure to know the pros and cons of each resolution.

Know your sponsor

Knowing your sponsor and how he or she likes to be communicated to can help a lot. One executive may prefer to hear things in person, while another wants things in writing electronically.

Knowing the proper verbiage to use, and hot button items that they don’t like, are equally important. Some managers like to be provided updates on an hourly basis. Some may prefer it daily. Determine their need and fulfil it.

The goal is to inform them without unnecessarily worrying them. Make them feel like you are in control of the situation and want them to be informed, or want their input on the matter.

How do you report major issues to your boss?

If you would like to learn more about a career in Project Management, get Lew’s book Project Management 101: 101 Tips for Success in Project Management on Amazon.

Please feel free to provide feedback in the comments section below.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Do You Have a Leadership Personality?

Leadership Personality
Leadership Personality

Few topics in the business world have had more written about than Leadership. Everyone seems to have an idea of what leadership is and what it is not.

There are many facets to it. But I’ve found that to be a good leader, you need to have certain leadership personality traits to even be considered. Here are some of the key ones that I’ve seen in the most successful people.

Attention to detail (but not too much)

Most managers move up the ranks, managing positions that they fulfilled in the past. The lower level positions likely involved a lot of detail. As you move up, the need for detail becomes smaller. You need to focus more on strategic aspects rather than tactical work.

Some people in leadership positions are happy to put the detail behind them and focus only on the big picture. It becomes problematic when they don’t know enough about the details to make proper decisions and give people direction.

Other folks can’t let go of the detail. They have a need to get in up to their elbows in all of the details. Continuing to do the work at the same level of detail they did before will suck up all of their time. They won’t have time to effectively lead.

A good leader is curious and asks the right questions regarding detail. This helps the leader to know what is going on for effective decision making.

Positive attitude

People prefer to follow positive people. They enjoy being in their presence and are more eager to do good work for them.

Positivity can also be contagious, especially if you hire people with the right leadership personality traits. They will have a positive attitude and relate better to whatever they say.

A positive attitude breeds charisma for the leader. Creating a positive environment focused on success pulls more people in with the desire to contribute.

Effectively confrontational

Intimidation and fear are poor leadership traits. People perform their work with enthusiasm when they want to do it. If the manager is threatening, overbearing, and yells at employees on a regular basis, they will do what they need to do to avoid conflict. They will rarely go over and above the call.

Leaders on occasion need to have difficult conversations to improve performance. The fear mongering shape-up-or-ship-out lecture may improve performance for a while. It won’t change it significantly. And it won’t change it long term. Most employees will do the minimum requirement to avoid getting fired with that approach.

A leader can’t simply avoid the confrontation either. Fear of team members not liking them is not good leadership. Bad performance needs to be improved. An effective leader has the personality to confront people to let them know the areas where they need improvement without sugarcoating it. The individual needs to know what to improve and the ramifications if they don’t.

Most employees will appreciate their manager being frank with them.

Succinct communication

Some people in leadership positions believe that when it comes to talking, quantity rules. It is often driven by ego. They enjoy the sound of their own voice and assume everyone else does.

A good follower would be just as happy getting directions from their leaders and getting back to work. Effective leaders put their egos aside and communicate what needs to be said; no more and no less.

A listener

Once the effective leader gets over the sound of their own voice, they will have a lot more time to listen. Complimenting their curious personality trait, they will be more willing to get information from others instead of assuming they have all of the answers.

Listening provides the leader with two distinct benefits. First, they learn more from others. Listening will give the leader more information that many in leadership positions who don’t listen don’t get.

Secondly, people who are listened to feel more appreciated. They will strive to do a better job for the person who gave them the extra attention of listening to them.

What personality traits have you seen in great leaders?

If you would like to learn more about a career in Project Management, get Lew’s book Project Management 101: 101 Tips for Success in Project Management on Amazon.

Please feel free to provide feedback in the comments section below.

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Program Management – Being the Glue

Program Management
Program Management

A project can be large and complex. But as business organizations develop more complex strategies, their efforts get even more complex. This leads to more complicated projects and ultimately, programs, requiring the separate skill of program management.

Virtually every organization has projects. They can be as small as one person for a couple of days. Others involve large teams over several months.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) defines a project as:

A temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service. Projects have a definite beginning and an end – a limited duration.

As strategic decisions expand, many projects may be going on at the same time. While some of those projects may have little to do with others, others may be related in multiple ways. Similar stakeholders can be effected. Some may draw from the same division’s budget. Others may perform similar activities.

When this occurs, it may be time to create a program under which those related projects can be executed. This allows the planning and execution of the projects to be coordinated across many aspects.

Each project normally has a project manager. A program manager is then brought in to perform the coordination of those efforts. But what is the key role of the program manager?

Essentially, a program manager has centralized responsibility for making sure that the portfolio of separate projects works together in harmony. Program managers provide a strategic approach adding cohesion across each work stream.

While the program focuses on an overarching set of objectives, projects have specific and more singular objectives and outcomes.

The program manager acts as the glue that holds the project work streams together. In order to be that glue, there are some key responsibilities that a successful program manager needs to perform.

Strategic vision – The program manager needs to align each of the program work streams with the organization’s business strategy and strategic goals. The project managers within the program have their individual project charters. The program manager needs to have a deep understanding of the corporate strategy. She then needs to be well-informed of project status to ensure that it is aligned with the over-arching strategy.

Coordination – Each project work stream has its own milestones and deadlines. The program manager helps each project manager coordinate their timelines to address inter-project dependencies. The program manager also makes sure that deadlines that affect common stakeholders are coordinated to avoid overloading them at the same time.

Additionally, there are often resources that each project needs, but none of them require full-time. For instance, on IT projects, an IT architect may work part time on a project. Within a program, the program manager can balance the work of one or more people across several projects.

Communication – In an organization where several large projects are going at various levels of completion, few know what the other projects are doing. Some may be unaware that some other projects even exist. The left hand often doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.

This can be detrimental for projects that have interrelated goals and outcomes. I once was on a project in which applications servers were being decommissioned. We learned that at the same time, another project was purchasing additional memory for one of these servers.

Most projects have daily “stand-up” meetings to ensure cross-communication with the project team. Programs should do the same with project managers and critical team leads. This makes sure that every project is aware of what the others are doing.

Governance – Project managers are given a budget and are generally charged with staying on time and within budget for the project. Change control processes allow them to modify the parameters as needed.

The program manager focuses on the ROI of the program as a whole. The program manager needs to ensure that the proper projects are introduced to the program that will provide the most benefit to the bottom line.

Conclusion

The roles of project managers and program managers have some similarity and overlap. But the program manager has the responsibility to make sure that all projects within the program work in harmony. Ensuring coordination between the project work streams requires a strategic approach certifying coordination across all projects.

How do you ensure coordination across projects within your program?

If you would like to learn more about a career in Project Management, get Lew’s book Project Management 101: 101 Tips for Success in Project Management on Amazon.

Please feel free to provide feedback in the comments section below.

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I’ve never been imprisoned, but I have been in a PMO

Project Management Office
Is there value in a Project Management Office?

After the American colonies won their independence from England in 1783, the founding fathers feared that people would like their independence too much. They debated whether to have a constitution. Thomas Jefferson was against having a constitution because he didn’t want the dogma of so many rules. John Adams (a stubborn rule follower who probably would have made a great project manager) wanted a constitution to create a framework of law.

This is the framework of the classic debate that exists in our current day between our political parties. We all seem to disagree on how much governance people need.

We face a similar debate in the project management world in large organizations. Should we have a project management office? Do we need to centralize our project management approach for a more standardized way of doing things? Or do we hire experienced project managers and allow them the freedom to do their jobs without the dogma of inflicting our standards on them.

Why have a Project Management Office?

The purpose of a PMO is to help its constituents achieve their business objectives. Those constituents are the business groups for whom you run a project. If the organization has a centralized PMO, the business goes to them and requests a project manager to execute the project.

The assumption is that if you develop a set of good standards for project management, and have all of your project managers follow them, you will be more efficient. You’ll have a team of project managers that can run a project in roughly the same, predictable way for any of your business constituents.

According to the Project Management Institute, PMOs are designed to:

  • Reduce failed projects
  • Deliver projects under budget
  • Improve productivity
  • Deliver projects ahead of schedule
  • Increase cost savings

The objectives of most PMOs are:

Better Governance to certify that decisions are made with complete information by the right people.

Knowledge sharing to ensure that people within the group learn from other peoples’ experiences.

Support to make it easy for project teams to do their jobs with less bureaucracy, and to provide mentoring and training for higher quality.

Standardized approach to ensure consistent documentation and management approaches are utilized.

Misalignment with objectives

One could argue that that if the above mentioned things are the goal, then a project management office is a great idea. Many PMOs that I’ve been a part of have all of those objectives. Unfortunately, their execution takes them down another path.

In one organization I was part of, there was a weekly PMO meeting where every project manager took a turn giving the status of their project. Few of the projects were interrelated. This resulted in everybody wasting everybody else’s time.

Other PMOs seem obsessed with tracking trivial administrative activities. They routinely monitor timely submission of time sheets and other reporting activities. Compliance statistics – and non-compliant team members – are customarily shared in the weekly meeting.

A common objective of a project management office is to develop a standardized approach. This generally includes any document that is generated for the project. PMOs often develop a “one size fits all” mentality and requires every project to submit all of the standard deliverables. This results in PMs focused on mounds of paperwork, taking time from value-added activities of managing the project.

The irony is that the organization that was established to reduce bureaucracy often actually increases it.

How to build a better Project Management Office

A PMO’s leadership should focus on the following practices to make sure they are providing their constituents with the best possible service offering:

  • Develop a succinct list of objectives. Work with your business customers to develop a short list of objectives. Determine what they want from a PMO and focus on delivering that to them.
  • Focus every activity to those objectives. With everything you do, ask yourself the following two questions:
    • Does this help us achieve our objectives?
    • Does it add value to our customers?
  • Communicate with your customers. Meet with them regularly to verify that the objectives are still current. Find out if there are any areas where their objectives are not being met.
  • Query your project managers. Find out if the PMs see value in a centralized approach. Make sure they understand and are following all of the standards. Make adjustments where necessary.
  • Provide training. Make your meetings count by training and mentoring the project managers. Few of them care about the status of the other projects. But encouraging them to share their knowledge and experience will encourage learning and a more cohesive group.
  • Some may complain that the PMO restricts their freedom to manage the way they want to manage. It may be that their way is not as good as the PMO’s approach. But it could also lead to a discussion that results in changing an approach, or allowing more flexibility for multiple approaches.

Conclusion

Project management offices have a reputation for not adding value. To avoid this, they should take the time to determine the desired value needed by their customers. Then, they should make sure that all of their activities are focused on delivering that value.

The members of the PMO are a great collection of knowledge. They should be encouraged to share their knowledge with each other in a collaborative approach.

The concept of a project management office is almost always to provide value. It’s the execution that often takes much of the value away.

How effective is your project management office?

If you would like to learn more about a career in Project Management, get Lew’s book Project Management 101: 101 Tips for Success in Project Management on Amazon.

Please feel free to provide feedback in the comments section below.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net