Stoking the dying embers

21 Oct

According to The New York Times 95% of bloggers give up. Thankfully, I’m not one to throw in the towel so easily and so after a brief hiatus of 1574 days (what’s 4 years and 4 months between friends) I’ve finally gathered my thoughts and made it around to resetting my WordPress login details.

Recently I read a post on LinkedIn entitled ‘Why command and control PMOs are killing project management’ which really resonated with me, enough so to stoke the dying embers of my PMO enthusiasm and rekindle those flames.

I’d forgotten that I used to be a really enthusiastic PMO Manager who started a blog and had grand plans to blog every Monday morning and who had no aspiration to become a Project or Programme Manager (it’s in black and white here). 4 years ago I was working quite contentedly in the PMO and was actually quite happy (and busy) setting up frameworks, processes, templates, templates with guidance notes and beautifully crafted and colour coded project and programme status reports.

In hindsight I was oblivious to the fact I was working in a ‘Command and Control’ PMO. Everything the PMO was doing was under the very best of intentions and senior management seemed to like all the paper, I mean who can argue with the merits of;

  • Introducing a very thorough (i.e. onerous) process for project justification
  • Checking the right versions of templates are being used
  • Rejecting project managers reports if the wrong colour is used for the traffic light indicators
  • Attending lots of paper-based governance meetings

In a nutshell the PMO was more focussed on what Project Managers should be filling in and in what format this should be presented to various senior management boards instead of supporting Project Managers to deliver projects.

Despite my earlier protestations about not wanting to be a Project Manager I clearly  fancied a change, and at the end of 2011 when an opportunity arose for a secondment  into a Project Manager role arose I took it (and continue to be there) and dropped my PMO pompoms like a hot potato. #fickle

The PMO continued on for some while beyond 2011 where I as a Project Manager was on the other side of the fence being actively chased for my highlight reports (which naturally had to be submitted on the correct template and showing the “appropriate ” Red/Amber/Green status to allay management fears regardless of whether that actually reflected the true status of the project). As far as I can work out the PMO was gradually disbanded (either that or they’ve also been very quiet for three years).

The world has changed since 2011 and so have the challenges faced by local government. We are now well into a period of prolonged austerity and faced with ever increasing demand for services local authorities are having to find innovative and creative ways to do things differently. The variety and scale of transformational change over the last few years has made for an interesting, challenging and sometimes frustrating time for Project Managers.

And it’s that last paragraph that I’m going to hide behind when I admit to not having given more than a fleeting thought about the value of a PMO because being busy is always a good excuse (and plus it makes my brain/pride hurt a little thinking about it!).

I’d still describe myself as a PMO Cheerleader. Based on my previous experience, it’s clear a one-size fits all approach doesn’t work, however I still feel there is a place within the organisation for a PMO to support the current transformation agenda through;

  • Supporting Project Managers
  • Keeping the organisation focused on benefits delivery
  • Good practice
  • Lessons learned from previous project
  • Clear and concise information that enables decisions-making, removes barrier and reduces risk to the organisation

In my opinion there is a direct correlation between realising the value that a PMO can add and the organisation’s project management maturity level. One way of measuring this is to look at how committed an organisation is continuous improvement/developing its project managers. I think I need to give that some more thought.

Time to stoke the PMO fire

29 Jun

Appraisal time is upon us and it’s been a useful reminder that it’s time to stoke the PMO fire. The team has been through a challenging period of change over the last 6 months;

  • We’ve moved out of IT and into a more corporate facing team
  • Welcomed three new members into the team (bringing our numbers up to 5 Programme & Project Support Officers )
  • Received the news that we have to reduce numbers by  2FTE’s
  • Started a recruitment and selection process
  • At the 11th hour postponed the recruitment and selection process until the Autumn as a result of new funding for 2FTE’s coming to light

Despite all of this uncertainty and the very real threat of job losses I have been impressed by the professionalism that my colleagues have maintained throughout. As the team manager it is my responsibility to re-energize and refocus our efforts (and hopefully that will go some way towards taking our minds off what the future may hold for the team).

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Response to Social Media investment

7 Jun

In response to an earlier post (Using Social Media to make a long-term investment in the PMO) I thought I’d give an update on my findings one month down the line.

I’ve had some really helpful and useful responses on the Community of Practice for Public Sector site. I’m currently suffering with writer’s block on creating a dashboard/progress/RAG report for reporting on progress on benefit realisation for a major change programme. Some very helpful PMOsters in other local authorities have sent copies of their reporting templates as well as links to web based systems they’re using which I’ve been able to demo. To be honest I had quite low expectations of the CoP and posted a plea for help not really expecting a response any time soon (this was based on the fact there were a lot of out dated and unanswered posts on there). However, I was pleasantly surprised….I had an initial response fairly quickly and then over the course of a week had responses from 5 or 6 different people. I took from that that there are people out there who are facing or have faced similar issues in there own roles and are eager to share knowledge and experiences. The lesson I learned from this was not to be shy about asking for advice or guidance , and as mother says “If you don’t ask you don’t get.” I also realised there’s a responsibility on me to post in things like the CoP – I can’t expect others to share info if I’m not prepared to. Continue reading

Three years in a PMO: Lessons learned

23 May

Having recently moved out of ICT Services and into Corporate Services, I’ve had some time to reflect on what I’ve learned over the last three years about establishing and maintaining a PMO;

  • Senior Management support is a critical success factor – without it the PMO will undoubtably fail or even worse be seen as purely administrative.
  • A PMO needs a senior-level ‘sponsor’ who not only understands the value that a PMO will add to the organisation but who is also prepared to promote it across the organisation.
  • “Slowly, slowly catchee monkey” is a much better approach than rushing in and trying conquer the PPM world in one fell swoop – from my own experience a big bang approach wouldn’t have worked for us mainly due to the maturity level of the organisation in relation to project and programme management.
  • The P30 manual was a real godsend – it was a positive advancement in the PMO road map and helped to clarify my own thinking on the type of PMO that a) I wanted to work in and b) would add the most value to the organisation. The book summarised everything I wanted to say but much more eloquently and was definitely inspiration for my aspirations.
  • PMO professionals need to be confident that they know what they’re talking about (and be prepared to get on their PMO soapbox and shout about it) – it’s all too easy to be railroaded by colleagues and managers who have their own opinions about what a PMO should do  (and these are often misinformed and outdated). The danger is that unless you speak up and stand your ground the PMO will end up filling an administrative void and not adding any real value to the organisation.
  • Ask colleagues and managers for feedback – the PMO needs to continually evolve alongside the changing needs and focus of the organisation – its’ all too easy to do as you’ve always done and if you’re not careful you’ll end up stagnating.
  • Continual research into industry best practice and proactively finding out what other organisations are doing is essential for continual development . There’s no need to reinvent the wheel; there’s a wealth of information ‘out there’ relating to PPM and PMO’s – you just need to be bold enough to go and find it. If you don’t ask, you don’t get….and in my experience PMOsters are more than happy to help out a comrade.

Using Social Media to make a long-term investment in the PMO

17 May

In order for the PMO to evolve and mature relies on the team (and ultimately me as the manager) to be;

  • Proactive in seeking out best practice approaches and methodologies
  • Willing to share our experiences and lessons learned with others PMOsters
  • Open to opportunities to meet other PMOsters and learn from them

There is a wealth of PMO related resources available online and my objective for the foreseeable future is to immerse myself in all that is free to access (I am working in local government after all) with the aim of improving the service that the PMO provides as well as contributing to my own personal and professional development.

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Benefits Management: Schoolgirl Errors

16 May

“We need to get better at realising benefits” is a phrase that I’ve heard more and more frequently within the local authority that I work for but that’s hardly surprising when the public sector is under increasing pressure to provide the public with more for their money.

I first took note of Benefits Management when I took the MSP Practitioner course a couple of years ago. To be honest I didn’t really give it a second thought other than that it was a chapter in the MSP manual that I needed to rigorously highlight and mark up with post-it notes.  About a year ago I had the opportunity to attend a one day ‘Introduction to Benefits Management’ training session and I suddenly realised it wasn’t some mystical art only attempted by uber-intelligent lifeforms. It was a really useful session which made me realise that the whole point of undergoing any change is to get something positive or worthwhile out of it (i.e. a benefit). My objective coming away from that training day were to go back to the office and apply some of the learning and techniques to a real life scenario.

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Farewell IT PMO (Part 2): Hello “Corporate PMO”?

9 May

So, after three years as the IT PMO we’ve recently left the IT department and moved in to a team that supports business transformation and the delivery of change. Over the last three months or so I’ve had various discussions about the vision for the PMO  moving forward. Having spent some time writing new job descriptions for the team I think I’m clearer on where will we add the most value and as it stands our focus will be on the following;

  • Supporting governance of corporate programmes and projects
  • Supporting the Authorities’ transformational change programme
  • Supporting the delivery of change (e.g. dedicated support to priority programmes and projects)
  • Striving to become a centre of excellence for programme and project management and transformational change across the authority

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