Sunday, November 18, 2012

Leading a successful PMO in the times of Speed-to-Market & Agility. An exclusive interview with Peter Taylor


“Project Management Offices (PMOs) fail to help most companies reduce IT cost or improve performance, according to new research from The Hackett Group, Inc. (NASDAQ: HCKT). In fact, companies with high utilization of PMOs see materially higher IT costs while also failing to deliver projects with higher ROI or better on-time and on-budget performance, according to the research. The research also found that companies have significantly reduced their use of PMOs over the past three years, in part due to their inability to positively impact performance”.


I met Peter Taylor in Warsaw at 7th International PMI Poland Chapter Congress last week and asked him a few questions on his book Leading successful PMOs and the future of PMO. Peter will be in Poland (Sopot) again 1 February 2013 to deliver a one day workshop: “Leading Successful PMOs. How to build the best PMO for your business and keep it relevant” and on 31 January he will be also speaking at PMI Gdansk Branch seminar. For more information please follow PMI PC website or PMI GB on Facebook.

Part I – questions on the book “Leading successful PMOs


Malgorzata: What does a good PMO mean for you?

Peter: As with most things in life (and business) getting a balance right can prove far more effective, especially in the long run, than having a single focus that ignores other key elements. The same is true of the PMO. A balanced approach will definitely pay dividends and will not only ensure that the PMO is as effective and efficient as possible but will also aid the acceptance of the PMO by the rest of the organisation.

For example if your PMO is created solely with the purpose of being the ‘project police’ then you will be in for a very short run. No doubt the role of policing projects is one part of the PMOs responsibility but not the only part, such an approach may work for a short period of time but it is not sustainable. And if your PMO is focused on fire-fighting then again it will work for a while but not beyond that as it is demoralizing to only work on problem projects and deal with escalating issues. Far better is to prevent the fires from even starting. So a ‘good PMO’ is for me one that keeps a good balance of activities and focus.

Malgorzata: I like your PMO declaration: “doing the right things, in the right way, in the right order and all with the right team”. So, what does exactly a PMO do?

Peter: Continuing the theme of balance then I always describe that a PMO should make sure that they cover what I call the ‘5 Ps’:
                    P = People
                    P = Process
                    P = Promotion
                    P = Performance
                    P = Project Management Information System

It may be tempting to just think of the PMO as all about the process, the means to ensure that good project management is achieved through methodology and quality assurance etc but that ignores the people side.

And it may be that your consideration is towards the project management community and your focus is drawn towards the people (projects are all about people after all) and so you direct your efforts as a PMO leader towards training and team building etc but this ignores the project mechanics.

You may also accept the need to build a good tracking and reporting system, supported by an investment in a project management information system, to deliver the visibility of project health and progress towards business goals.

But without the inclusion of a promotional program it could well be the case that all of the good work you, and your team, achieve in the areas of process and people will go unnoticed and unappreciated by both your peers and the executive.

The best PMOs balance all of this to achieve the most effective development of capability, representation of capability and sharing of capability and achievement.  And at the end of the day it is a supporting business unit to the strategic intentions of the organisation.

Malgorzata: The title of your book is “Leading successful PMOs” and many people confuse the different attribute of management and leadership. So, what’s your definition of leadership and how does it apply to a PMO?

Peter: The simple answer is that PMOs must be lead as their definition of function and operation is not yet truly settled and so it is not a management task as such.

‘If there is a clear distinction between the processes of managing and the process of leading it is between getting others to do - managing - and getting others to want to do – leading’ so said James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner in their book The Leadership Challenge.

Being successful in project management is not just a case of do ‘A’ followed by ‘B’ and all will be good – it is much more complex than this – and being a good PMO is about finding your place within the organisation, connecting to strategic intentions and driving change through the business.

‘Leaders work on the culture of the organization, creating it or changing it.  Managers work within the culture of the organization’ says Edgar H. Shein in ‘Organizational Culture’ in J. Thomas Wren, ed. The Leader's Companion.


Malgorzata: What makes a PMO successful? Could you please share both your view and the view of the survey respondents?  There was a survey conducted for the purpose of your book, where 822 respondents supplied their opinions, views and comments.

Peter: Much of what I have already covered allows a PMO to be successful but the number one element uncovered in my research for ‘Leading Successful PMOs’ was that each and every PMO needs to be unique and that an ‘out of the box’ approach won’t make for the best PMO for your particular organisation at this particular point in time. Add to that the fact that a PMO is not fixed – it needs to flex in it style and approach according to the demands of the business (and projects) it supports.

Malgorzata: What makes a good PMO leader? Please share again both yours and the survey respondents’ opinions?

Peter: The key skills seem to be that a PMO leader needs to have a passion for projects (some of the PMO failures I have come across can be attributed to the fact that the PMO head had no project background experience). Secondly they need to be great communicators and strong negotiators – to help the PMO find its place inside the organisation and explain the value. They also needed to enthusiastic about leading change and finally they must not be afraid to tailor their PMO to the unique model that suits the business.

Malgorzata: And last, but not least question related to your book. In the Appendix 4 you’ve mentioned International Project Management Day and Frank Saladis, the founder of the IPMD. The purpose of IPMD is to promote appreciation for project managers, their teams and their achievements. And to promote the value of projects as a method for achieving success in any industry. Frank suggests doing 5 things in support of IPMD. Can you please explain what these 5 things are and what have you done this year? I have attended Synergy  and set up my blog on project managementJ

Peter: Yes, International Project Management Day is a great idea from Frank so every project manager should be aware of this and join in the annual celebrations (it is always the first Thursday in November).

Frank suggests:
1.         First do something positive for yourself to increase your sense of personal power and self-worth
2.      Second, take the time to say thanks to your project managers and team members. Do something organizationally to recognize and appreciate those working on projects with you
3.              Third, participate locally in project management events
4.             Fourth, create or join a regional mission to enhance the public relations of the industry
5.            And finally, identify actions you can take to build your international network and become an international ambassador of project management          

And what have I doneJ? Well I do spread the good work about IPM Day in my blogs, podcasts and through my books, I travel the world speaking and delivering workshops on project management with one special presentation being ‘PM Superstars’ which is all about what a great job PMs do and how they can engage with people outside our project world.

PMI Gdansk Branch with Peter at PMI PC Congress

Part II – questions on the future of PMO

Malgorzata: PMOs fail to help most companies reduce IT costs or improve performance, according to new research results from The Hackett Group, Inc. So what this report shows is that PMOs with high utilization rates actually increase costs, did not produce better business outcomes or project delivery and has been on the decline since 2009.  So why even bother with implementing a PMO? What’s your view?

Peter: Well it is interesting research but it really comes down to building the right PMO for the job in hand. I totally accept if you empire build or put together something that is bureaucratic and costly then a) it won’t deliver and b) it should be changed.

I am going to go back again to the balanced PMO – the one I lead in Siemens was reviewed and we were thrilled to receive the report that said ‘We were too valuable to lose (but not too expensive to keep)’. It seemed me that we had the right balance and so the PMO journey continued. There are other reports that suggest contrary to the Hackett report that the investment in PMOs was on the rise – either way they must be ‘fit for purpose’, if they are then they are a great way of connecting strategy to projects and ensuring high success rates.

Malgorzata: Do you agree with Don Kim that the traditional model of the PMO needs to get seriously re-evaluated, revised, then field tested to make sure it works? What’s your recommendation?

Peter: I don’t even agree that there is a ‘traditional’ model of a PMO – there are many models (Supportive, Directive, Controlling, and Blended), there are many types (Departmental, Special Purpose, Internal, External and Enterprise), there are many levels of maturity and focus and so on and so on. The PMO is not an ‘out of the box’ use it again and again animal, it must be right for the needs of the business.

Here’s a simple way to test if you are leading the right sort of PMO:
‘Call up your CEO and then count the number of seconds before he recognizes your name...’

If you are really connected to the business, at the right level and with the right PMO profile, then your CEO will know you and your PMOs work.

(You don’t have to start with the CEO, you can try this out moving up the organisation level by level – who at two levels above you knows you and the PMOs work? For those that do say ‘thanks’ and for those that don’t; well tell them about it).

Peter's Bio

Peter is a dynamic and commercially astute professional who has achieved notable success in Project Management. His background is in project management and marketing across three major business areas over the last 28 years and with the last 8 years leading 3 PMOs. He is also an accomplished communicator and is also a professional speaker, workshop trainer and consultant – specialising in PMO coaching.


Peter is the author of ‘The Lazy Project Manager’, The Lazy Winner’ and The Lazy Project Manager and the Project from Hell’ (Infinite Ideas), as well as ‘Leading Successful PMOs’ (Gower) and forthcoming books ‘Project Branding’ (RMC) and ‘Strategies for Sponsorship’ (Management Concepts). More information can be found at www.thelazyprojectmanager.com  and www.leadingsuccessfulpmos.com  and www.thelazywinner.com  – and through his free podcasts in iTunes.

1 comment:

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