Top Ten Mistakes Made by a New PMO Manager (with tongue mostly in cheek):

  • 10. Selling his/her house to be closer to the new job.
  • 9. Buying stock in her/his new employer’s company to demonstrate commitment.
  • 8. Failing to understand that PMO stands for “Project Managers are Opposed.”
  • 7. Believing what was said about senior management commitment during the interview process.
  • 6. Believing what was said about the skills of the PMO staff during the interview process.
  • 5. Thinking: “how hard can it be to get this organization to support something that is clearly in its best interests.”
  • 4. Thinking: “how hard can it be to get the project managers to support something that is clearly in their best interests.”
  • 3. Planning to hire an outside organization to develop all new procedures.
  • 2. Deciding that better project management training is all that’s really needed.

And the Number One mistake …

  • 1. Taking the job.

by William Duncan, the Newgrange Mailing List

1. Build relationships, not processes

Make no mistake: project management (and PMO management) is all about relationships. So, what are you waiting for?

Go and meet your new colleagues. I don’t mean just the ones sitting next to you, but all those who are likely to be working with you, directly or indirectly – Project Managers, heads of department, the finance team, procurement, etc. Introduce yourself, tell them something interesting about you, and find something interesting about them.

When a new PMO Manager comes in, it is still very common for their focus to be on tools and processes. Yet, most of the time, what’s broken is not the process (sure, it might not be perfect, but people are managing projects with some degree of success nevertheless), but relationships.

People are working in silos, not really talking to each other, not sharing the knowledge and the struggles and joys of managing projects. Go change this first: be the silo breakers!

After all, PMOs are integrators – we connect people.

2. Do an As-Is assessment

There’s no point in arriving with grand ideas for the PMO and trying to implement them right away, if the organisation shows low project management maturity and lacks solid foundations. Thus, I recommend you start by finding out where does the organisation stands, what are its strengths and areas for improvement, if you are to then build a PMO roadmap aligned to their needs and maturity level.

Start simple: while formal maturity assessments such as P3M3 are useful, you might want to start by simply asking questions (for instance, to the ones you went to meet, in the previous point).

Ask what works and what doesn’t, what should be stopped and what should be initiated – there’s no better knowledge than the knowledge of insiders.

Build a repository of projects and their status, as well as a repository of existing tools, practices, and processes (a red-amber-green approach will do to start with) – are they clearly defined, understood, adopted?

3. Co-design the PMO roadmap

I’m a big supporter of the idea that no one destroys what one helps to build. You might have plenty of ideas for your PMO, yet, if others don’t perceive them as relevant as you do, you can expect to face resistance and indifference (and a very hard selling to do).

Let’s clarify something: PMOs exist to serve, not the other way around. If you treat your stakeholders as customers, ask what they value, and what help they would appreciate to get from the PMO, you have much better chances of building a function that is perceived as a real value-adding business partner.

You are not expected to have all the answers, so gather all the relevant parties, use the knowledge you got from the previous point, and ask – where should we start? Resources are finite so you might want to convey that message in a fun and engaging way: assign a price to each potential PMO service, give each customer a budget, and let’s go shop, negotiate and prioritise the services to be provided by the PMO.

Another tip: give your roadmap a realistic timescale, don’t try to boil the ocean!

4. Build a community of practice

Communities of practice are powerful mechanisms to build engagement, share knowledge, and build a sense of common purpose – also, they can work as a support group too (and are the perfect excuse for free cake!).

Having the project teams coming together and discussing the challenges and learnings of their projects, with interactive activities facilitated by the PMO, are a great way to show the relevance of a PMO in promoting organisational learning and position it as the project teams’ BFF.

Very often, PMOs are doing great work but no one knows about it, so why not use communities of practice as a communication tool?

This is a great opportunity to share how the PMO is performing, make announcements, and build capability by discussing the fit of best practices. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

5. Make your first 100 days count

There’s a common perception that the first 100 days of your new role are vitally important since this is the time when others will form their views about you and your performance on the role. Thus, it is fundamental that you make clear – to yourself and others – what you intend to achieve in that period.

As with projects, you should define success from the offset, or you risk simply navigating without a direction. In order to do so, build a plan and break it down into smaller manageable milestones, with key performance indicators to guide you.

No one expects you to start a revolution (at least not in just 100 days!), but you should be able to demonstrate progress and a step change in comparison with when you joined.

There’s an extra tip: remember that you were chosen for the role for a reason. You deserve it, you proved that you have what it takes to lead this PMO. That’s a victory on its own and should not be forgotten. You have the competences, the attitude, and the passion. You are the right person for the job. Now, just do what you love and love what you do. I guarantee you: success will follow.

Still need that extra help in setting-up, advancing, or re-energising your PMO? Get in touch!