If just one month ago I was to tell you that soon that a large percentage of the world would be in a lockdown or social distancing and people would be fighting over toilet paper, you would probably call me crazy.

The scale of the impact resulting from COVID-19 and the difficulty to predict it, certainly puts it in the category of the ‘black swan’ events. I bet you didn’t have this risk in your risk registers!

Despite this crazy situation almost out-of-a-Hollywood-movie, the show must go on. And “Who you gonna call”? The PMO!

If your PMO is on lockdown, as most of us are, I encourage you to try to find the positive amongst the storm. In the world of busyness, we often don’t have the opportunity to stop and reflect on how the PMO is performing, communicating, or adding value to the organisation. Well, I have some news for you: you just got yourself one now.

  1. Help your project and programme managers to assess the impact of covid-19 in their projects and programmes: to support rational assessment and response to the COVID-19 Outbreak and its impact on your projects, initiatives and product development, have a look at this fantastic tool by Ricardo Vargas HERE
  2. Prepare for business continuity: the world and working practices might not be the same after this pandemic end. Some businesses might even realise that plenty of meetings could have just been emails, and that office space is not that much of an issue after all. So, what are you doing today to prepare for tomorrow? It’s likely that governance committees will still exist, projects still need approval, project teams still need guidance, and the PMO is still necessary. But what if the PMO disappeared? Being indispensable is risky business thus you should ensure that, even amongst a crisis, the PMO (or the services provided by it) can be fully functioning. Start taking notes.
  3. Be an information radiator: PMOs are expected to be the trusted single source of truth in organisations and, in a scenario where teams are working remotely, having a single point of information is more relevant than ever. “What could be the impact for the programme if training is delayed?” or “How many pounds are at risk to the portfolio if certain go-live is postponed?” are just examples of the types of questions that might be coming in your direction. Hopefully, you are already part of a digital transformed organisation and decision-makers can do self-reporting through near real-time solutions like Project Online, Project for the Web, or Power BI, so that you, PMO, can focus on providing insights rather than just data! If not, maybe it’s time to give us a call.
  4. Keep sharing the knowledge: PMOs should support learning organisations and, if project teams are not around to have a chat over the coffee machine, that should not be an impediment for you to still ensure that knowledge is flowing, being captured, and re-used. This is even more important since, due to the high contagious rate of COVID-19, we are all at risk of getting ill of a sudden. With tools that allow for work to be done anytime, anywhere, such as the suite from Office 365, there is no excuse for knowledge to be lost. Despite what empty shelves might suggest, trust me: knowledge is more valuable than toilet paper!
  5. Do a SWOT analysis to your PMO: understanding where the strengths and weaknesses (inside the PMO) and opportunities and threats (outside the PMO) reside is an important input to help build your PMO roadmap by considering different perspectives and capitalising on capabilities and resources that might already be at your disposal.
  6. Review your PMO roadmap: a (realistic) roadmap is a fundamental communication tool for PMOs since it allows for expectations to be set and to create a sense of purpose in the PMO team. If it’s not clear yet what you want to achieve in the next 3, 6 or 12 months, today is a great day to start working on that plan.
  7. Review the services provided by the PMO: if you don’t have a service catalogue yet, this is a great time to start building one so that a clearly defined list of services provided by the PMO is available and you don’t need to hear once again “what does the PMO do?”. If you already have one, why not review it? Are all services being delivered effectively, do you have KPIs in place to measure them? Do they still fit the needs of the business in this turbulent time?
  8. Professionally develop your PMO team: the role of a leader is to form new leaders. What are you doing to develop the future leaders in your PMO team? Use this time to reflect on the level of competence of each team member and what is in your power to support their professional and personal development. I assure you that there will be no shortage of solutions for capability building online!
  9. Keep connected: and I don’t mean connected to the screen, but to people. Make no mistake: PMOs are instruments of integration. It’s easy to become self-absorbed with rounds of conference calls or to become tired and disengaged if trying to keep your child busy and being productive at the same time while you are working from home. However, we are social animals. Thus, even if it is just for a virtual coffee break or to exchange recipes of how to survive self-isolation, please keep in touch with your team and peers. Social distancing should not equate loneliness.
  10. Lead by example: in times of crisis, the eyes of your team will be on you. You have a responsibility to lead amidst the uncertainty, the anxiety, the fear. Be brave to acknowledge vulnerability but also be kind to support others through the journey. People cope with stress in different ways and your role as a PMO Leader should be to drive behaviours and practices, being available to listen (sometimes that’s all it takes) and to give assurance on measures and next steps. Covid-19 is not “just flu” and not just about you getting it, but what that infection can mean to others. It’s not about my immunity but our immunity. This is the time to care for others and for companies to show real corporate social responsibility. It starts with you.

Keep safe and keep sharing your PMO love!