The Reactive or Proactive PMO: What Should We Stop Doing?

The Reactive or Proactive PMO: What Should We Stop Doing?

Insights | 21 April 2015

Ever tried reverse brainstorming (sometimes referred to as negative brainstorming)? It is a creative problem solving technique that can be applied in many situations. For example one of the most effective questions you can ask yourself in any environment is: What should we STOP doing?

One of my favourite applications of this: What should your PMO STOP doing?

Everyone typically wants to “brainstorm” (which often in this context becomes a “brain dump”) all the services that PMOs can offer, from assurance through to scrutiny and challenge. Take a step back and instead ask the confronting question of your PMO: what should we STOP doing?

This question may momentarily silence even the most fervent PMO advocate. And yes, I have experienced everything from silence to bewilderment to knowing looks being exchanged around the room (should we just humour her and then get back to real work….)

In effect, once you have recovered from the initial shock of literally turning your way of thinking upside-down, it is rather empowering. No, it does not (typically) generate a long list of what to stop – nor would most PMOs be expecting it to. What this exercise does is give you that alternative perspective, the chance to step out of the norm; it can be cathartic!

So… What should my PMO Stop Doing?

Having asked this question of many PMO professionals over the last 7 years, there has been an acknowledgement that in the past a PMO may be its own worst enemy. How? Simply by doing default (often inherited) “tasks” rather than focusing on building capability, aligning to strategy and enabling change.

The 7 Classic PMO Wastes

  1. Being the Template Kings and Queens. Now this is NOT to underestimate the value of a robust (and scalable) project or programme management methodology. As a PMO you do not want to be perceived as a “template shop” – it is not about template production and throughput.
  1. Being administrators. Travel co-ordinators? Meeting room bookings? Even picking up the dry cleaning (a somewhat disturbing observation made by graduate after 6 months in a large organisation…). No, no and no.

“If the P3O is seen as nothing more than an administration office, it may discourage people from deciding on a potentially rewarding career within a P3O”

Portfolio, Programme and Project Offices (P3O®), 2013

  1. Being bureaucratic. Such that project managers and teams must fill in every piece of project management paperwork with no tailoring or flexing allowed. As always there is a fine line here: the right level of documentation by the right people at the right time.
  2. Doing what we have always done. Because that is what the previous PMO person was doing. A simple real life example: the PMO procedures required a certain report (painfully pieced together in Excel) to be sent to management. The question why was asked – the answer, it is part of our reporting. A conscious (brave) decision was made not to send out the report one month. You guessed it – no one complained. Another month went by – again no one complained.Eventually it was agreed that this was a “past” requirement by one manager which since had been superseded. (Caveat: do ask questions of the right people before suddenly not sending information to senior management).
  1. Doing the PM’s role. Ever experienced the situation where you help a new PM through their reporting for the first month and then somehow you seem to be doing their reports from then on? PMO beware: A good project manager is an expert in negotiation and influencing (as a PMO you know this – you were the ones to mentor them in the first place!)
  1. Only focussing on the short-term. In the past many PMOs “happened” to support a particular initiative in terms of delivery and administration. Now most PMOs are recognising the “bigger picture” and ensuring that there is the equivalent of an enterprise/organisational PMO focussed on the strategic level.
  1. Being the Police or Big Brother. Enough said? Instead the focus should be on collaboration as opposed to control for the sake of control.

“…review what you do and do not offer…you may find you are delivering functions and services that may be better delivered by others…”

Portfolio, Programme and Project Offices (P3O®), 2013

Need help ensuring you are doing the ‘right things’ or want to set up a PMO, speak to us today +65 6818 5771

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