In a perfect world, a Project Management Office (PMO) leader launches a PMO, his or her years of experience allows for crafting of a methodology so responsive and compelling that projects are delivered flawlessly every time. Company employees embrace all changes to processes. And management stakeholders pat themselves on the back for the value they introduced by chartering the organization.
The reality is far different, with Project Management Offices frequently going through several iterations and multiple leaders before gaining ground and bringing tangible business value to the organization. The root cause of this is that many individuals undertake the effort of launching a PMO without a clear understanding of the factors that shape the organization. Start-up PMOs have three key factors that influence the way they operate. Keeping these items in balance is the difference between a successful PMO and one that has a good chance of going through multiple starts and stops before delivering business value.
Project Management Knowledge
Leaders who decide to create PMO typically do so because they want predictability in project delivery and insight into the portfolio. This, of course, requires competency in Project Management as a discipline, and knowledge of best practices preferably gathered through years of experience in diverse industries. Where many PMOs fail is that PMO leaders often focus on methodology and process as the key ingredient to success. Project management knowledge, however, is only one leg of a 3-legged stool. It must be kept in balance with two other factors also influencing the shape, perception, and ultimately the viability of the organization.
Like the PMO leader who comes to the table with his or her knowledge and ideas of what the PMO should be, PMO stakeholders also come with their work experiences, best practices, and consequently, their expectations of the PMO. Failure on the part of the PMO leader to understand and exceed these expectations frequently leads to involuntary PMO leader turnover. Conversely, stakeholder expectations out of alignment with the PMO leader's project management knowledge frequently leads to voluntary attrition in the PMO leader role.
Launching a Project Management Organization is, at its heart, a change management effort. It asks people to do things differently and it creates new lines of communication to provide a level of transparency perhaps not available previously. Where new PMOs frequently stumble is in the attempt to drive change at a rate faster than the organization can bear. The end result tends to be a PMO “in name only” where processes exist, but employees are reluctant to use them. Or, projects are undertaken in the shadows to avoid engaging the PMO.
Project Management Organizations can provide both strategic and tactical value to organizations. They can provide strategic decision-making support to help allocate budgets to the right projects. And they can ensure consistency and transparency in project delivery. However, many new PMO efforts flounder resulting in multiple iterations of the PMO or PMO leader turnover. Success is ensured by keeping three factors in balance at all times. The PMO is influenced by more than just subject matter expertise or project management knowledge. It is also shaped by what stakeholders envision the office to be and the company culture in which the organization operates.
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