PMOs need to share the burden when things go wrong

“”To change and to change for the better are two different things.””

– German Proverb

when I did some research on the benefits of implementing a project office in an organization, I found some good news. Meta and Gartner report companies can expect a 30 per cent-plus improvement

in project efficiency if they have a well-run PMO. This can translate into large savings if you consider every initiative underway in every corner of your company is actually a project.

So what’s the bad news? You don’t get there overnight. And I have seen project offices fail because they overlook this fact. Setting up a PMO means travelling at a speed that allows everyone to stay with you. Your project office will increase its chances of success if you can answer yes to the following five questions:

1. Are we solving the right problems? You can’t solve all your companies’ project problems overnight. Pick which problem you are going to tackle first. Introduce change gradually, or you will risk choking your PMs with too much too soon.

2. Is senior management an active sponsor? You will need them to understand and approve of the direction you are taking. Senior management needs to be active in reinforcing the direction and importance of the PMO. If you are running the PMO, it is your job to get them involved. Ask senior management what they think the answer to the first question should be.

3. Are the project managers buying into the changes you are proposing? As you begin to set up a PMO, remember you are about to introduce change to those PMs who are already up to their eye-teeth trying to deliver change. To successfully introduce change you must do it with their buy in and at a pace they can adapt to. You can’t ram methodology down their throats. Think of your role in the PMO as being a coach who will work behind the scenes. If you can’t mentor every PM, establish a buddy system, where more senior PMs mentor newer ones.

4. Does your PMO share in accountability for project failure? Don’t underestimate the importance of this idea. The answer better be yes. The PMO cannot be an armchair critic — it needs to declare publicly that it is willing to shoulder the responsibility. This will not only ensure the PMO works to make projects successful, but it will send a clear message to the PMs that you are on the front lines with them when the going gets tough. And, as we all know, the going will get tough.

5. Are you introducing change at an acceptable pace? Avoid massive PMO initiatives and stick to making changes incrementally. After all, your PMs can become overwhelmed by too much methodology too soon. Build a solid project office house one brick at a time.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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