Doing More with Less: PMO Metrics to Keep You from Drowning

Author: Rachel Hentges

In this fable, are you the fox or the goat?

There once was a fox that fell in a well. A goat happened by and asked him, “Sir Fox, isn’t that water fine to drink?” The fox said, “Oh yes, Sir Goat, it’s the finest I’ve ever tasted!” at which point the goat jumped in the well. The fox, quite bedraggled and waterlogged by now, quickly persuaded Sir Goat to let him climb out on top of him, and the fox, in turn, promised he would go get help. The fox clambered over the drenched goat’s back and went on his way, leaving the silly goat to drown.

This fable is probably older than time (it’s Aesop’s which were written in the mid- 6th century B.C. so that’s about right) but it pretty well summarized the plight of PMOs who don’t bother to measure what’s working especially when it comes to resource management and so convince others that what’s happening is great (come on in, the water’s fine). These organizations end up causing the demise of every person (or goat!) who believes they will be saved by the way things have always been done or by not bothering to measure what’s really working. If you think a less mature or poorly optimized PMO will help you out of the mess you’re in, you’d do well to get a recording of the third in our series, Plan, Manage, and Measure—Doing More With Less: It’s Not Just a Mantra, It’s a Necessity!

In any event, the presenter Andy Jordan, is a force to reckon with—one of the coolest things about the webinar to me was how he shared so many anecdotes about what went right—and often goes wrong—when trying to target resource effectiveness. Did you know that to make sure you’ve done resource capacity planning well, the first thing you need to do is identify potential problems and red flags? That the same-old, same-old triple constraint of time, deliverable and budget are no longer driving success? PMOs who are still measuring according to them, and not to business value, are sunk.

It’s All About the Benefits

Teams must align to business benefit, not annual plan. PMO leaders must learn how to show stakeholders the value of shorter timelines and more autonomous project teams by measuring results. Planning horizons are shorter for even classic projects and timelines are shrinking—primarily because many projects are digital. This digital disruption has made every company a technology company while chasing the best customer experience they can deliver. Whether that’s internal clients for Embedded IT or glutted financial services professional consulting firms, decisions can’t wait for the next planning cycle. If your PMO is still drowning in a sea of permissions made annually and allocated according to well, who knows what, you’ll never survive.

Challenging? Sure. Impossible? Nope. Here are four ways that Jordan says your PMO can adjust to these changes using better, faster, high-quality, and benefits-driven RM while keeping your head above water:

1)  Figure out how you identify problems and then—maybe do nothing?

Resources aren’t measured using traditional performance measurement and not every mistake is an endemic issue eating into your effectiveness or profits. By this, Jordan means that if success criteria are inconsistent then don’t freak out if your measurements of success don’t fall neatly into predetermined boxes. Knowing what “good” looks like and recognizing anomalies and variances will help you “separate symptoms from causes” and truly drive change that matters.

2) Create the right environment – align your project and resource managers.

Invest the time and effort in an umbrella project that pulls project management and resource management teams together and helps them align with the most successful approaches and principles they’ve used. All roles, levels and functions must be a part of this effort so drive your goals by ensuring that everyone knows why you’re doing what you’re doing and buy-in is high.

3) Target improvement.

Blaming others when something goes wrong is not effective and creates high attrition in your services PMO. Share baseline performance with the entire team and then create a reasonable target to establish expected future standards. You can measure multiple data points such as business outcomes, utilization, productivity, quality, and consistency but if you don’t set a goal and execute toward it in a specific timeframe, well, the exercise doesn’t matter much. It doesn’t matter if the goat can swim, if he can’t get out of the well, he’s eventually (literally) dead in the water. That’s not to say that every project has the same metrics to shoot for—baseline expectations must be adaptive to reflect challenges in the real world.

4) Be in it together.

Start your efforts at the top and gain leader sponsorship and stakeholder buy-in, but don’t stop there. When project managers lead a collaborative, engaged environment where individuals feel competent and confident, you know your inclusive attitude (not like the independent fox) has worked. There’s so much more that Jordan shares during this section of the webinar about how to drive these types of change programs. Do yourself a favor and block out the less-than-an-hour it takes to listen. That block can be the first step in getting you and your PMO out of the well in which you’re floundering.

This Do More With Less webinar is part of our series—Plan, Manage and Measure—which shines a spotlight on how resource management throughout the project and portfolio lifecycle can accelerate PMO excellence.