The PMO has the power to support your organisation’s revolution – Part 1 of 2

Intro

The theme of my blogs are based on organisations recognising uncertainty, and finding better ways to respond. I mentioned in my last post that the Project Management Office (PMO) is critical in supporting their organisation to survive and thrive in an uncertain competitive environment.

Here I’ll describe how the PMO can support and facilitate your organisation’s revolution to move beyond competitive myopia, internal ineffectiveness and towards becoming a learning enterprise that’s resilient and highly competitive.

I’ve split this into two posts. The first will identify some common dysfunctions, being agile, and introduce a roadmap for the PMO to support their organisation’s transformation. The second post will focus on being lean, discusses how the PMO plays a central role, and whom they interact with.

Common Dysfunctions

Let’s start by considering these job requirements in this recent Agile PMO job ad. It’s not all bad, but parts of the description are indicative of some PMO teams helping to perpetuate the dysfunctional practices of organisations not effectively recognising and handling uncertainty.

Taking ‘inspiration’ from the job advert, let’s examine some of those dysfunctions. Below in the red hexis (with dashed borders) I’ve identified what I believe are common dysfunctions. In the yellow hexis (with solid borders) I’ve captured some of the negative consequences.

No doubt some hexis could be rearranged and others created. Hopefully you get the gist that often the PMO supports organisational practices and mindset that cater well for certainty. There’s emphasis on consistency (not flexibility), best practice (not emergent practices) and compliance (not responding to change).

Those red hexis may be appropriate for mature business models (their cash cows), but the competitive market is changing too fast for your organisation to rely on those. To continue your organisation’s mission and vision, it must shift towards identifying and handling uncertainty.

This means organisations need practices that address the problems identified in the yellow hexis, and I believe the PMO are well placed to support that revolution.

To achieve this the PMO should support product management, sales and the executive committee to prioritise a portfolio of products and initiatives. This is achieved through Lean and Agile ways of working. In this post I’m focusing on agility; the second post will focus on lean ways of working.

Being Agile

Here I’ve attempted to express the Agile Manifesto values for the PMO, which will help to tackle the common dysfunctions.

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and consistency
  • Support learning outcomes over comprehensive governance
  • Facilitate value-stream coordination over siloed negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

As with the original agile manifesto, while there is value in the items on the right, the PMO should value the items on the left more.

It’s also important the PMO supports their organisation in planning and reporting on the constraints appropriate for each initiative. The traditional Project Iron Triangle controls for cost, schedule and scope; these tend to be the traditional constraints an organisation observes, and which the PMO monitor and report on.

To support agile initiatives these remain important constraints. However value and quality are also important. With the cost, schedule and scope constraints they form the Agile Iron Triangle.

Focusing on value helps us understand that not all of the scope is needed to release a product early and get early feedback; this ties into supporting conditional incremental budgeting. Focusing on quality ensures the product is reliable and adaptable for an uncertain future.

The challenge for the PMO is that unlike cost, schedule and scope, value and quality are subjective. They need to agree with their organisation a way to measure those subjective measures.

Roadmap for your revolution

Here’s a sneak peak of a flexible roadmap for the PMO to support your organisation’s revolution. Follow my posts to learn more, and I welcome feedback to improve and publicise it.

Conclusion

I’ve put forward the case that PMO is critical in supporting your organisation in recognising uncertainty and finding better ways to respond. I believe the PMO should support the approach your organisation takes to survive and thrive in an uncertain competitive environment. This means their practices and mindset needs to realigned to agile ways of working.

That means the PMO should help their organisation gain an ability to rapidly test assumptions with a degree of dispassion and objectivity.

In the next post I’ll introduce how lean ways of working will enable the PMO to support your organisation’s revolution.

Let me know what you think, and contact me if you’d like to learn how I’ve helped clients on this journey.