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Transforming To An Agile Project Management Office – A Study in Trust and Courage

Transforming Project Management OfficeArticle Written by Gwen Miller, PMP, APMC, CSM 

Agile Methodologies such as Scrum, XP, and Kanban are here to stay.  To keep pace, Project Management Offices (PMOs) need to transform from traditional command and control, task oriented organizations to lean and mean agile machines (couldn’t help myself, just sounded cool!!).  Can the PMO demonstrate the courage to take on the transformation and trust that it can facilitate processes that assist with adding business value and lead continuous improvement?  I say ‘Yes we can!!’ (‘Just do it’ was already taken). 

Let the Transformation begin! 

Or maybe not.  Here is where things get a little challenging.  Here is where traditionalists hold tight to the PMBoK and get on their soapbox.  How can the PMO support ‘lightweight practices’?  We need all that documentation and those processes otherwise what will we do.  Indeed, what will we do? 

In my experience, the PMO has always been the keeper of the project processes.  In a Agile PMO, that does not change.  In fact, it is paramount for the PMO staff to focus on ensuring that Agile Methodologies like Scrum are implemented as best as can be.  Process for process sake will sink any transformation.  Think waste reduction.  The concentration should be on helping scrum teams look for non value added activities to be eliminated from the process. 

How will we report on project status? 

Many PMO’s find themselves lost if they don’t have the standard MS Project Plan/Gantt chart that provides numerical and graphic representation of the project’s status at any point in time.  Agile makes the status of a project very visible.  The scrum team creates a task board that represents the activities to be accomplished during that project (I like to think of each sprint as a project) and updates it on a daily basis.  As those walking by notice that things seem to move on the task board and that represents progress. 

ScrumMasters track other metrics like burn down charts.  A sprint burn down chart graphically represents the work remaining over the duration of a sprint which feeds into the release burn down chart which represents the progress against a release plan.  Agile’s version of the gantt chart (in my opinion). 

Is that all there is? 

No, that’s not all.  But enough to get started and other articles will follow.  There is much for the Agile PMO to do to ensure success and it all starts with the process.  Trusting that the role of the PMO is just as important in the lean/agile world, if not more so, as it is in the traditional setting, and having the courage to adapt its role will ensure longevity for the PMO and start the transformation to a value added organization. 

Do you trust in the process and have the courage to change?

 

© 2011 Gwen Miller.  All Rights Reserved. 

Visit website Gwen Miller, PMP, CSM 

or Follow on Twitter  @GwenMillerPMP

 

Is It Possible To Change The Image Of The Project Management Office (PMO)?

Prpject Management OfficeArticle Written by Gwen Miller, PMP, APMC, CSM 

Can we take the Project Management Office, known to be a cost center, and make it a cost-effective center?  What would need to change to make this happen?  Is it even possible?  I think it is quite possible. 

Can we remake this image? 

During economic downturns, business programs are under scrutiny.  Every area needs to cut back costs.  One of the first departments that come under examination is the PMO.  Why does this occur so often?  The perception of the PMO being just a cost center.  While PMO resources are completing initiatives that enhance operational efficiencies and generate revenues, why would leadership have such a low opinion of the PMO? 

Should the PMO leader just surrender to the current perception and low opinion?  Or is this an opportunity for the PMO leader to demonstrate to the business the true value of the PMO?  Is this the right time for the PMO to make highly visible their value proposition? 

The PMO Extreme Makeover 

Time for the PMO constituents to confront the challenges that are influencing the perceptions of low or non value add services being delivered to the business.  The makeover needs to begin with a point in time evaluation.  Was a business case or PMO charter created that authorized the setup of the department?  

This document should drive the focus of the questions to determine where the PMO is missing the mark.  If nothing was created to establish the PMO and layout the services it was to deliver to the business, that might be one of the usual suspects for the perception dilemma.  Nonetheless, it’s never too late to use the evaluation as a driver to create the documentation that establishes the menu of services going forward. 

The evaluation should consider the strength or weakness of executive support, the commitment of the business, scarcity of resources for number of initiatives, project management expertise, and publishing of performance metrics.  Taking the temperature of these areas, plus others you may determine are important, will uncover the problems that are hindering a more positive attitude toward the PMO. 

Use the results to begin the makeover necessary for the elevation of the PMO’s value.  Make visible the business metrics you are measuring to demonstrate the value add, create a baseline of project performance measures that demonstrate improvement in project delivery (on time, on budget, with quality and customer satisfaction), ask for visible, consistent support from the executive by enlisting a champion for the PMO, create and distribute accurate status reports for projects in flight, and if there was no PMO charter or business case created when the PMO was established, now would be a good time to build one based on the outcomes of the evaluation and to drive efforts to generate and establish PMO value. 

It is never too late to set up the PMO for success.  Is your PMO at risk of being under-valued or have you created the right environment for a positive perception right from the start? 

 

© 2011 Gwen Miller.  All Rights Reserved. 

 

Follow on Twitter  @GwenMillerPMP

Can You Whip Me Up One Of Those PMO Thingies? I need it by Thursday.

Article Written by Gwen Miller, PMP

I can tell the economy is improving.  I have seen so many calls for ‘HELP’ in the past month.  But it was one 9-1-1’s in particular that got me pondering, ‘Do the executives really understand what it entails to set up and deliver a Project Management Office (PMO)?’

This distressed young man stated, ‘I was just hired by this company and was told that we are going to set up a PMO for the company.  Oh, by the way, NONE of us are Project Managers.’ (there were others to take on this raft over the falls).

I could feel the tension in his words, ‘here I am just starting out my career with this company.  Really thankful to have a job.  Want to do really well on my way to a successful career.  What did I do soooo wrong in my life to be tasked with creating something I know absolutely nothing about.’

I could tell there were others in these discussions that were just as disgusted as I was, (ARE YOU KIDDING ME??  ARE THEY TAKING THIS SERIOUSLY??), as we inundated this poor, lost soul with our own flavor of what he should do.

It shows that organization has no concept, or lacks an understanding, of just what a PMO is (and I know there are many more offenders out there).  Perhaps that is because we have yet to come up with a standard definition. There seems to be as many ‘flavors’ of PMO’s as Baskin and Robbins ice cream.

Just reading all the responses, I thought ‘If I were in his shoes, what would I do?’  Now that he is mulling over all the information provided to him through the group discussion.  And then there are all the websites he can glean further information in which to begin formulating his CYA plan.

I kept hearing those immortal words from Dragnet, ‘just the facts ma’am’.  So the facts are the leadership of the organization or whoever the PMO sponsor is, will need to provide some insight into ‘what’ the team will be expected to deliver.  For example, they might need an Administrative PMO.  This type of PMO focuses on documenting and reporting on the projects in progress.

I would hazard a guess that is what they are going for (and I am going out on a limb here).  They need information so they are tasking a group to get it for them.  For the other types of PMO’s there needs to be an understanding of the project management to create a standardize methodology, tool and templates, program and portfolio mangement, resource management, training, and strategic planning.  I hope my guess is right.

So once there is clarity and expectations are understood, document this knowledge in what is known as a PMO Charter.  In simplistic terms, the PMO Charter is the authorization to establish the PMO and its role in the organization.  It will include such details as whom the PMO sponsor is, the services that it will offer, the staffing necessary to deliver those services, and who the customers will be.  It should also provide a start date when the services will begin to be delivered.

This is where the advice gets a little tricky.  Since there is no PM on the team, I can’t just say ‘now treat it like a project, define the tasks needed to get the PMO implemented, and provide the project plan to the team, give leadership the delivery date and lets go!!  Not that simple.

At this point the team will need to begin determining the tasks to get to the end game.  Time for team brainstorming.  Assuming each team member understands their role; have them write down tasks on a sticky note.  No debate, no conversation.  Quantity not quality.

When everyone is done, paste the sticky notes, in random order, on a blank sheet of paper where they can be viewed with the rest of the team.  Start looking for logical groupings.  Before you know it, and you may have a couple of stragglers out there, you have at least enough information to understand what needs to be done.

List the tasks in a spreadsheet.  Assign who on the team will complete the task and ask them how long they think it will take to complete.  At this point, you will have a very rough and primitive plan to implement the PMO.  Hopefully, there is enough time allotted in the PMO Charter to get everything set up in time to begin service delivery.  Hopefully the PMO sponsor understood time would be needed to get set up.

On a wing and a prayer.  I have not seen any further correspondence from this young man.  I hope he is busy fighting in the trenches to get the PMO implemented.  I do hope he will come back to the group for more guidance if he runs into issues.  I secretly wish that his leadership will somehow come by this article and give some thought to ‘Is she talking about us?’

What needs to happen to get company leaders to understand what Project Management is?  Do your leaders get it?

 

© 2011  Gwen Miller, PMP