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Positioning the PMO for Success

Have you ever been part of a floundering, unproductive Project Management Office (PMO)? Or have you ever been part of one that completely failed? Or created or led one that completely failed? It happens far more than you think. The failure points and underlying reasons the PMO infrastructure failed in these organizations is quite similar across the board so I’d like to share these with you and my associated thoughts on each.

Make sure you have leadership buy-in. Buy-in from an organization’s senior leadership is absolutely critical for PMO success.

Appoint strong leadership.

Too many organizations create a PMO and then hand over the reins as PMO Director to whichever project manager they think is the best leader in the organization. Sounds good right? Wrong. What they are doing is still expecting that person to play the role of the project manager. If that is the case, then the PMO will not grow, may not even sustain, and will likely flounder and fail. The solid PMO that will last and thrive is the one that has a strong, focused leader at the helm. This individual needs to be ready to assist when needed, praise when it’s worthy, criticize when it’s necessary, and help create PM careers for his project managers on an ongoing basis. Oh, and they need to communicate, inform, direct, make decisions, and knock down roadblocks, too. If they are spending 50% or more of their time – even 25% of their time – managing projects than they will not be effective PMO Directors. The PMO will not have strong, focused leadership. Do not go down this path with your PMO.

Fill with experience.

PMP (Project Management Professional) certification is a nice to have and I believe that every dedicated project manager should eventually be certified and their organizations should encourage it and fund it. I wholeheartedly back that approach. That said, when creating and staffing the project management infrastructure, look for experience first, certification second. You can always get certified and find a great PMP prep place to get you there – often times with a money back or retake guarantee. Even some pricier ones will get you prepped and certified in just 5 days. But you can never replace successful experience with some learning touch points thrown in in the form of failed projects. That’s how you’ll get your PMO off to a fresh start and a successful start.

Please don’t skip lessons learned.

Lessons learned sounds like a great process, and it is. It’s helpful, we learn good things and bad things about the way the project went from others on the team, from our all-important project client, from leadership if they participate (and they should!) and other stakeholders on the project that had a significant level of involvement. Now, do we actually perform lessons learned sessions? Sadly, with most project managers and project teams, it’s more talk than action. At the end of the project, everyone is ready to implement, handoff and move on to their next projects. Getting individual team members and the customer to stay involved post-implementation to air grievances or praises is not likely to happen no matter how hard you try. The solution? Schedule ongoing lessons learned sessions DURING the current project – such as when a major deliverable is completed and delivered to the project client. That way you can take what is discussed – good and bad – and improve performance not just on the next project, but on this current project as well. Win-win-win.

Summary

It isn’t absolutely critical that you have a PMO in order to run successful projects in the organization, but I highly recommend it. A larger, project-driven company needs a formal PM infrastructure to realize ongoing PM successes and the solid, structured PMO will help get you there.

Download our PMO Toolkit to get some definitive actions you can take to position your PMO for success.

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