How getting the right feedback can help your PMO soar 

Noun information about reactions to a product, a person’s performance of a task, etc. which is used as a basis for improvement.

It is widely accepted that feedback works most effectively when it happens in quick response to the target behaviour (www.successfactors.com), however when it comes to PMO work we often focus on receiving feedback in a more remote fashion, at key intervals during the annual cycle.

We often collate that feedback which (let’s be honest) tends to come from our biggest champions or harshest critics) and we find areas to focus on.

Service Feedback Machine – London City Airport

During our Wellingtone PMO Practitioner course, we talk about feedback and how great it would be if we were able to have an instantaneous approach to how people perceive the PMO is adding value to their day (or not as the case may be).

We did find one such organisation who approaches feedback like in an airport:

  • Directly following an interaction 
  • Simple to use 
  • Friendly 

Most of our PMOs do want more than this ‘one button’ feedback  mechanism as they try to enhance the services they offer to the business and grow in maturity – they need more insight. 

So, we need to go back to the why (as always). First, lets acknowledge that the VUCA world we live in means that PMOs need to ensure that they are both adaptive and ambient (constantly sensing and adapting) – you can read more about this on the PMI.org website; and to help with this the natural reaction is to get as much data as possible, (often) through surveys.  

But how do we make sure that feedback is useful, actionable, and coming from the right place? The first thing we need to do is focus on four key goal areas when it comes to our interactions with our Customers: 

  1. Reaction – what did the person feel about the interaction versus how we expected them to feel 
  2. Learning– what did they learn from the interaction, did they learn what we needed them to 
  3. Skills – what new information can they now use or what behaviours can be developed following the interaction based on what we were trying to change 
  4. Results – how effective was the interaction when compared to the original goal 

As with all things, if we don’t know what we are aiming for, we wont know whether we have been successful. 

At the University of Auckland, some work was completed to understand more about educational feedback (Review of Educational Research March 2007, Vol. 77, No. 1, pp. 81-112) and some interesting points shine out for PMOs when working with Customers which are worth looking into. 

They proposed that there is a distinction between feedback about the task, about the processing of the task, about regulation, and about the self as a person.  

Task level feedback concerns itself with how well a task is being (or has been) accomplished. In the PMO world we can consider knowledge building activities, capability development, and even identifying projects that need help and support. 

When processing a task, it is important to understand how well the process works in terms of highlighting areas and managing dependencies. 

Regulation provides a space for people to consider their commitment, control of a task, and confidence to complete it. It can be very useful when developing PMO or Project Management professionals. 

Self-feedback looks inwardly to understand how the individual engages with a task, and manages progress towards their goal. This type of feedback is personal and rarely used en-masse but more focused towards a coaching scenario. 

So, when you find yourself coming up to your annual feedback cycle, maybe consider how you write your questions to ensure that you  are taking into account all of the above concepts (and no, not all of them will work for everything). 

Top PMO Feedback Tips

  • Keep some questions open – it is important to get data, but the perspective of your Customer is also key to you succeeding so give them an opportunity to input openly 
  • Ask about the pain points – all Customers have pet peeves; find them and if within your control, address them to make them feel like you personally did something for them 
  • Ignore the extremes – sometimes you will have extremely happy and extremely unhappy people; usually though most feedback tends to cluster, so remove the extremes before you analyse – it will skew your data and it might be there simply because someone had a bad day at the office! 
  • It’s not personal – all PMO people are passionate about making a positive difference; so, take the negative alongside the positive as am opportunity to blow your Customers away in the future 

By Emma-Ruth Arnaz-Pemberton, Wellingtone