Project Management Office (PMO) Consistent, Structured, who cares?
In my last 20 years of running PMOs, one of the key components of being successful is consistency. I talk about this all the time. The importance of consistency is the key to running a PMO. Today, I want to focus on this topic, but I want to put a unique spin on this today, where I focus this not from the PMO Manager’s perspective, but more from a Project Manager’s perspective who works in the PMO.
There are 3 different areas I want to cover with topic today, so let’s get into it. These include:
Phase 1 – PMO Structure and Consistency
Phase 2 – What’s in it for me, the project manager? WIIFM?
Phase 3 – Why it all matters?
Sound good, ok let’s keep going, I think you will love this topic.
Phase 1 – PMO Structure and Consistency
Let’s start this process off with a question for you. What are some characteristics of soldiers going through basic training? Well, that’s an easy one right, it comprises:
- Getting up at the same time
- Eating at the same time
- Marching at the same time
- Wearing the same clothes
Is there anymore you can think of? Nope, that’s ok. You are getting the point there and where I am going with this topic. Ok, now let me ask, what is the one word you think of when you hear eating, marching, and wearing the same clothes?
Can you think of it?
Yep, you are right…. Consistency….
Would we say consistency is important in the army? Yes, 100% because if you did not have that consistency, you would have:
- Soldiers getting up when they feel like rolling out of bed.
- Soldiers demanding their own menus and eating what they want to eat.
- Soldiers wearing many varieties of clothes, where they feel comfortable and expressing their personal choices.
It would be Chaos!
Yeah, that will not work for any army in the world, and so it really should not work in your PMO as well. Not if you are going to scale, and scaling PMOs is critical. Armies around the world have been using that theme of consistency for hundreds and hundreds of years and it seems to work well. But let’s keep going because armies and PMOs don’t really connect well together, so let’s keep going. They do, but let’s keep going.
I know what you are saying right now, “But Bill, where are you going with this, this is not the army!”. You are right, the PMO is not the army, I get that, but that is ok because my overarching point is that PMOs need consistency. They need consistency across Governance, Resource onboarding, Prioritization, methodologies, tools, training… etc. If you don’t have consistency in your PMOs, you will have chaos that might be hard to recover from if you let it go too far and too wide. But, you are right, it is not the army!
I was managing a large PMO at Microsoft several years ago and I had a situation where I had eight different project managers running eight different projects for a General Manager (GM) in one organization that my PMO was supporting. Let’s think about this for a second eight projects, one GM, and eight different project managers. So, in that case, think about what that GM would receive each week.
- 8 Status reports
- 8 Status meetings attending
- 8 Steering Committees
- 8 views of what Red, Yellow and Green Color Conditions
Now, put on your imagination hat for a second and let’s pretend that this same GM receives:
- 8 Different flavors of status reports
- 8 Different status meeting agendas
- 8 Different Steering Committees meeting agendas
- 8 Different Red, Yellow and Green Color Conditions
How well would that work? It would not work out well! It would be Chaos. Remember, if you don’t have consistency in your PMOs, you will have chaos that might be hard to recover from if you let it go too far and too wide. Ok, I get this scenario would be bad, but I am a PM, How does that impact me? I love that question and it leads directly into my next topic.
We agreed earlier that PMOs need consistency to be successful, but I would argue that so do project managers. But don’t trust me, let’s ask our good friend “Google”. Hey Google, can you search “how does consistency help project managers?”.
Ok, let’s see the results:
Ok as you can see several results come back, but one I found here I think you are really going to like. Here is that link: https://pm-alliance.com/consistency-contributes-project-success/ the article is called “5 Ways Consistency Contributes to Project Success” and it a great read.
In this article, and I am not going to rewrite it, but it had five key points I want to cover in more detail.
- Ensures everyone is on the same page
- Enables you to have the data you need
- Keeps stakeholders and sponsors engaged
- Reduces the influence of bias and subjectivity
- Boosts continuous improvement efforts
Remember, we said it earlier that PMOs need to put consistent processes in place for PMs to take advanced of these benefits! – But when they are there…. Your life gets so much better!
So, let’s look at each of those five areas in more detail now.
1 – Ensures everyone is on the same page – I think this one is so important because of the following reasons:
- People feel more engaged and connected to the success of the project if they are on the same page with other team members.
- Will work harder, longer and show more commitment to the project.
- Win-Win for everyone if everyone is connected and on the same page!
2 – Enables you to have data you need – This is another one that I think is so critical because data surrounds us all over when managing our projects. Let’s look at some of those examples now.
|Project Management Data||Financial Data|
|Risks||Organizational Budget Data|
|Issues||Project Financial Data|
|Resources||Vendor Budget Data|
If you are interested in learning more about data and becoming an expert in creating dashboards and reports on your projects, check out my PowerBI Dashboards and Reports class here.
3 – Keeps your stakeholders and sponsors engaged – I love this one because without stakeholders engaged on the project, you will struggle to deliver a successful project. This is a fact that has been proven repeatedly from project to project. Let’s look at some points of why they are so important.
- Sponsor engagement is the key to running a successful project.
- When are tied to the hip with your stakeholders, you are going a higher success rate with your projects!
- PMs who don’t connect or engage stakeholders often struggle with their projects!
4 – Reduces the influence of bias and subjectivity – This is another one that I think is so important for project managers to understand while they are managing their projects. Let’s look at some of these key points now:
- This avoids decisions being based on personal preferences, favoritism, or fear.
- Consistent way in capturing data to ensure project are prioritized and approved for execution.
- So important to reduce the negative effects on personal decisions.
5 – Boosts continuous improvement efforts – Finally, driving consistent processes in the PMO that project managers can follow are important to the success of the PMO and the projects. Here are some consistent processes we would look for the project managers to follow, but the PMO sets up to be followed:
- Consistent methodology
- Consistent Risks, Issue processes
- Consistent finance processes
- Consistent project schedule management process
- Consistent decision / escalation management process
This is a process I am very familiar with and passionate about because it is something I have done in my PMO for years. Developing a series of process improvement projects that improve the PMO but executed by the project managers in the organization, both keep them engaged in the PMO’s success but also keeps the organization maturing for years to come.
That’s it. Those are the five main reasons project managers need to acknowledge that consistency contributes to project success. When PMOs and project managers are in sync and connected, it proves to be very beneficial to both parties. Remember my Microsoft story, true story, by the way!
Phase 3 – Why it all matters?
Ok, the last section and I will end this off quickly, but it focuses on why this should matter to you. I used something early like “who cares?” but you must understand the reality of this situation from someone who has done this for the last 30 years with 20 of them being in the PMO space.
PMOs come and go all the time. I have managed 10 PMOs across four companies in my career. Why? because PMOs come and go, they come and they go. Do you think I would have managed 10 if they stick around for a long time? Nope, I managed 10 because they start up, shutdown, start up, shutdown. This is called the “The PMO Cycle” and I documented it in detail in my book “The PMO Lifecycle: Building, Running and Shutting Down” up for sale on Amazon today.
If you don’t think that working in a PMO is important or, better yet, working for a manager who is familiar with Project Management or PMOs, let me ask you this question, “Have you worked for a Non-PM Manager before?” You know the people who have NO knowledge of project management! How well did that work out? Here are some questions to think about when working for a non-PM manager:
- Do they understand project schedules?
- Do they understand risks and issue management?
- Do they understand how many projects they can assign to you and still be successful?
- Do they understand the challenges of running several projects at once?
I think you know where I am heading here. Should I say the word “Chaos”
That’s all I have for now, let me know what you think, and I have a free webinar on this topic that I would love to share with you here. Check it out here: PMO Consistent, Structured, Who Cares?
What do you think?
If you liked this article, then I must point you to this one on building PMOs. Check it out here. How to Build a Project Management Office (PMO)
Or of course, once you got the PMO built, you have to focus on your people. Check this one out here, you will love it. How to Build a People Focused PMO!
Bill Dow, PMP
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