Managing a successful PMO (Project Management Office) is difficult at best—and if that PMO is global, the challenges increase exponentially. This paper addresses those hurdles, including risks and best practices, and highlights the PMO director’s behaviors that are critical to drive that success. Topics discussed are establishing an organizational structure, leading with a strategic bias, creating paths for clear communication, controlling change management, setting expectations, and addressing cultural differences. Real world examples and results underscore the practical advice and information provided for immediate application. Readers will be able to improve their capabilities in running a global PMO, avoid costly mistakes, differentiate and appropriately utilize different leadership styles, and be able to understand and incorporate cultural differences. While much of the information discussed may apply to any PMO, there is special consideration given to global concerns.
Typical PMO Failures
What is failure? PMO failure is the inability to significantly impact bottom-line results so that upper management finds value in the activities of the PMO. There are many individual components that account for the failure of a PMO, and sometimes multiple reasons, but the majority of PMO failures are due to a few high-level causes.
With the typical business mentality of “hit the ground running,” many PMO directors are forced to react and address concerns of senior executives without first evaluating root causes, setting strategies and attainable goals, and implementing metrics to measure success. Comprehensive strategic planning is critical. In that vein, you must ensure that the PMO goals are aligned with the business and company goals. Otherwise, your direction may conflict with that of your peers and engender resistance. Additionally, setting strategies to ensure that you are perceived as a service organization and not as an audit or “police unit” will assist greatly in your endeavors. If the PMO direction is unclear or constantly changing, the ability to “herd your cats” will be significantly impeded.
Darrel Raynor (2009) agrees that it is critical for a PMO to prove return on investment. First, you must establish the PMO cost in dollars: <a href="https://www.msystraining.com/product-category/project-management/"project managers, additional work activity of non–project managers, and additional costs (travel, software, PM tools, etc.). Then it is imperative that you determine the benefits that the PMO is providing the company—shorter cycle-times, customer satisfaction, decreased project costs, greater on-time delivery, and process efficiencies—and then dollarize them. Business units do this to support their existence, and it is essential that you follow suit.
Inadequate Top-Level Support
Many PMO directors realize too late that their attempts to run a truly effective team are thwarted. Upper management may not realize the strategies, cost, and level of effort necessary to make the successful PMO a reality. Frequently they will dictate inefficient courses of action. Senior management should instead hold the PMO director accountable to the results. You must negotiate time, budget, and the flexibility to determine critical activities with senior management—highlighting the impacts, both positive and negative, in dollars and goals.
If you are already in a situation in which senior management has predetermined your activities and you are unable to change their mindset, this may be due to your influence level or their expectations. In this circumstance, one of the best courses of action is to acquire an external SME (subject matter expert) to promote the value of a well-run PMO to senior management. Many times an outside voice is given credibility more readily than those that are familiar.
Suggested Read: Finding the competitive edge: Project success rates
Poor PMO Director Role Fit
The most effective PMO directors possess rare and comprehensive skill-sets. They must be strong leaders—collaborative, communicative, strategic, visionary, driven, and respectful. Additionally, they must also have a strong business sense, project management expertise, and either industry experience or the opportunity to surround themselves with experts until they learn all aspects of their business, including technical competence. These people are few and far between.
If you, as the PMO director, rely on technical or industry expertise as your main skill-set, your organization will typically become too tactical, reactive, and immersed in detail. Great leaders know how to learn quickly (through MBA courses, project management seminars, etc.) and how to surround themselves with qualified experts. If you are not strategically inclined, then ensure that there is someone on your staff whom you substantially utilize in this capacity or partner with an external expert.
Deficient Teamwork and Cultural Understanding
Many of the less effective PMO directors I have worked with did not discern cultural differences and how to utilize them to create great teamwork. While paying “lip service” regarding their sensitivity to other persons of other cultures, they did not take the time to go into their staff’s houses to understand how they live, to learn their family’s names, to appreciate the true differences in what is valued as a reward in their culture, or even to accurately perceive the toll it takes to constantly attend conference calls at an uncomfortable time. Great teams give the best results. Great team members have a feeling of belonging and accountability to the team, and it is responsibility of the coach, the PMO director, to instill that sense of allegiance.
Think also of the PMO itself as part of the team in the company. How are you benefiting the broader company team? Are you able to ally with your peers? Do you, as part of a business unit staff, have a teamwork mentality? Requesting feedback can be invaluable, but only do this occasionally and in a variety of ways—through one-on-ones, surveys, or even structured meetings.
Poor business performance will be a reality if any of the above is not addressed—often costing the company millions of dollars. Your best performers will seek other opportunities. More importantly, you may have decreased profitability and customer satisfaction, and the negatives experienced by management and peers will influence how they value and interact with any future PMO director’s efforts—making it even more difficult to be successful.
There is no “silver bullet,” no one perfect solution. Unique combinations of cultures within the company, preconceived notions, organizational structure, and many other factors affect a potential outcome. To succeed, you must have the knowledge of the dozens of critical comprehensive activities to achieve results in your situation and be able to efficiently deploy the necessary changes. Evaluate your own strengths, weaknesses, experiences, and knowledge. If you recognize that you need help, ask the experts! Let’s move on to address some potential pitfalls and how you, as a global PMO director, can avoid them and alter your behavior to be outstanding.
You can attend our Online Agile Training facilitated by our trainers who have more than 15+ yrs. of training and industry experience.
MSys Training is the markets-leading learning services company. Our customized training solutions are efficiently tailored to meet organization and individual goals. With various training formats, technologies, and approaches, we recognize the need for custom solutions that fit your company’s systems. MSys Training is highly recognized for its global expertise on trainings to co-create significant business value.