By Nikki Haase
Two weeks ago we attended a three-day seminar called “Next Generation PMO and Portfolio Management” at a Project Management Institute (PMI) SeminarsWorld. We had two objectives. We both need the PMI credits, which will help us to maintain our PMP certifications. More importantly, though, we went to gather ideas on how to improve program management at RightStar. The stated objectives of the course were to identify the key elements of a successful Program Management Office (PMO), to determine the appropriate strategy for our PMO, to assess our PMO’s maturity, to learn about “next generation” or contemporary approaches to successful PMO implementation, to understand PMO metrics and measurements and to identify potential PMO pitfalls and best practices.
The leader of our seminar took the approach of a facilitator, not instructor, and he split our group up into five table teams of five participants each. The sessions were very interactive and included much discussion and team assignments. We chose to be at the same table so we could share ideas during the seminar. We worked on case studies, exercise questions and creative interpretation for which we were awarded points. Yes, our team won.
One common theme throughout the seminar was the need to improve communication. This applies to all levels of the organization – communicating with management, with project team members and with customers or project beneficiaries. This idea isn’t anything new, but the facilitator used effective examples to illustrate the impact of different communication styles. The most controversial statement he made was something he wrote on the board: “The Plan is a Lie!” Intended to provoke discussion, he was poking at traditional methods of project management that rely on rigid project plans that don’t reflect the accurate, real work being done by the project team. He encouraged us not to eliminate project plans (darn!), but to understand that plans should be seen as fluid and that they need to adapt and change as the project progresses. A more “next generation” approach to program management should be organic, which contrasts to the traditional mechanical mindset. He encouraged us to be better listeners and to improve discussion and understanding of assumptions and expectations. We should focus less on output and more on outcomes.
The challenge now for our PMO is to incorporate more of what we learned into our day-to-day practice. We have introduced a new tool that we hope will allow us to better measure and understand our project progress. But from our own work in service management, we all know that tools are most valuable if they are underpinned by good management practices.