Q&A Responses to Driving Organisational Agility

In a recent webinar with PMO Strategies Founder, Laura Barnard, the audience had some great questions about organizational agility and how that relates to the PMO. Here are her answers to the Q&A portion of the webinar on Driving Organizational Agility. If you missed the webinar and you'd like to watch it on demand - click here.

How can Product Managers and the PMO work together/complement each other, and how can we communicate that to the organization and business leaders?

Everyone that is working in Product Management and the PMO should be focused on the same thing – achieving high-IMPACT outcomes on the delivery of the organization’s strategy. If either group is focusing on “us vs. them” or wasting any time on why their “way” is the right way, they are doing it wrong. Us vs. them is a false argument.

Products are delivered through projects. PMOs are there to help the organization deliver those projects in a way that ensures the highest possible return on investment for every project. Whether those projects are deliverables for an overall product or not, does not matter in terms of how the PMO can provide value.  One important way to quickly add value to any organization is to provide an uncomplicated portfolio view of all products and projects underway. The business leaders still need transparency into the work taking place and they still need to have information at their fingertips to make educated and informed decisions, no matter what implementation approach or organizational design approach is used.

If we are talking about how the groups are organized, it is perfectly fine for the product structure to drive how teams deliver…but they are still delivering projects, therefore they still need support in ensuring those projects get delivered.

In some organizations, to help the organization achieve the business outcomes, the PMO must shift how it delivers value. This requires PMO teams to be flexible in how they serve the shifting business needs. For many, this will require them to let go of the services that do not provide value and instead focus energy on ways that directly help the organization achieve its goals. There are plenty of things that a PMO can do to provide value in an organization that is shifting to more of a Product Management focus or using Agile methodologies to deliver on projects. I talk about this at length in this podcast episode: 

What is the role of the PMO with Agile methodologies?

To be 100% clear, PMO is NOT synonymous with waterfall implementation methodology. In fact, if a PMO is focused on one particular methodology, they are probably missing the goal of what a PMO is there to do for the organization.

PMOs of the future, the ones that will thrive now and into the new normal, will be organizations that can learn how to let go of the minutia that is taking up an inordinate amount of focus and shift gears to looking at the bigger picture. They need to learn to shift their perspective from the trees to the forest so they can help the organization drive the kind of decisions they are facing today and well into the future.

If PMO leaders want a seat at the table in the decision-making conversations happening in their organization, they need to learn to see the world through the leadership team’s eyes. That means we are looking at the overall portfolio, helping to support decisions about how to best allocate resources across the portfolio so that the most important business priorities are getting the focus and attention they need. The goal is to focus on the forest while not forgetting to water the trees.

There are countless services a PMO can provide that have nothing to do with a particular implementation methodology and I lay out many examples in this podcast episode:

What are some prioritization techniques used to sequence projects based on outcome?

Project portfolio management does not have to be a complicated process, nor should prioritization. In fact, the more complicated the process and the more metrics you try to collect and analyze, the more energy it takes to participate int e process – meaning it takes longer to get to the decisions that drive the action and momentum needed to achieve return on investment.

The goal is to make it simple.

In the case of prioritization based on outcome, you are simply looking to develop a small set of metrics that align to the strategic goals of the organization. If that is not clear, that is where you start because every project should align to the goals of the organization. They do not have to all be strategy projects, but they should clearly align to the goals that are being tracked for the organization. If they are not, there are goals missing or the projects should not be done. Part of the challenge with businesses today, and especially during this year of crisis, is staff being pulled in too many directions and distracted by projects that probably should not be done in the first place.

Once you have that small set of metrics, it is easy to weight the projects based on how much they help the organization achieve those outcomes and ensure that the ones that will help the organization move closer to its goals are prioritized higher on the list.

We have an entire track dedicated to project portfolio management in our annual FREE virtual conference. Learn more here: PMO IMPACT Summit.

What would be a good approach to help an organization see the value in devoting more resources to PMO for the overall success of the organization especially when senior management is still on the fence about funding and empowering PMOs and PMs?

That’s easy. Provide real tangible value that is solving their business problems. If you do that, your PMO worth to the organization will be obvious.

Too many PMO leaders make the mistake of trying to “sell” the value of the PMO and convince business leaders to invest in the PMO before they have shown real value. The secret to not ever having to sell the value of the PMO is to solve the business problems your business leaders have identified and to do so now, not in three months or a year. When you are addressing their pain points, the things that keep them up at night, they will be begging for your help. In fact, be prepared for the conversation to change from, “What have you done for me lately?” to “How soon can you fix this?” - Are you making sure your PMO stays relevant? - Pitching PMO Services - Keeping Your PMO Relevant During Coronavirus

Is working in the PMO a valid long-term career?

Absolutely. If you do it right.

If you are focused on how many outputs you can create (numbers of templates or steps in process, numbers of projects, etc.), you will struggle to find your place in the world of PMOs that are thriving. However, if you are laser-focused on helping your organization achieve high-impact outcomes on their projects, looking for ways to solve pain points, and accelerated project delivery with as much return on investment as possible, your future as a PMO leader is bright. In fact, the PMO can be a great launch point for the next step in your career ascension because PMO leadership is business leadership. If you show you are a business leader, they are more likely to tap you on the shoulder for other business leadership roles in your organization, as well. It happens to my students regularly.

Check out our podcast, starting with the early episodes, and I will take you on a career development journey that will help you build a long and successful career as a PMO leader.

How do we as leaders balance VUCA with our responsibility of managing and alleviating our teams stress?

First, we must understand that VUCA is not new to us in project related roles. VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. Which of those have NOT appeared on your recent projects?  

Often referred to as “cat herders,” we are used to having to make order out of chaos. The key to thriving during this chaotic time or any time we are faced with VUCA is to go to our strengths. When we remember that this is the magic we bring to the table, it is a lot easier to see any chaos as just another problem to be solved with the tools we already have at our disposal. In fact, we are probably the best positioned to help others in our organization handle chaotic times.

I lay out a very detailed approach to helping your team and support them during this time so that you can all move forward to respond to the VUCA happening now in this episode in the PMO Strategies Podcast:

Do you hear of conflicts or alignment around Organizational Development and PMO?

In many organizations, there is a team or group that is responsible for ensuring the changes are adopted by the staff of an organization when they are rolled out. I think this is dangerous. Change management is the responsibility of everyone that is involved in the change. It is too easy to abdicate the responsibility to Change Management team if one exists.

To avoid that problem, it is helpful if the Change Management team educates everyone involved in the change that it is their responsibility and instead of “managing the change,” they teach everyone how to be a part of the change, providing them with tools and guidance.  

For more on change resistance and bringing people through change, you can check out this podcast episode: