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From Acorn to Oak: PMO Maturity in your Organisation, Your Team and You

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From Acorn to Oak: PMO Maturity in your Organisation, Your Team and You
Wednesday 16th & Thursday 17th September 2009

In 2008, P3O, the new Portfolio, Programme and Project Office framework was launched to the PMO community. In September 2009, the ppsosig launched its 16th conference From Acorn to Oak: PMO Maturity in your Organisation, Your Team and You focused on the next steps in growing your PMO.

The two day conference, saw 60 delegates in attendance and focused on the move from awareness to a greater understanding of the current guidance and tools available to assess your organisational and PMO maturity.

The conference provided expert led presentations and interactive sessions combined with networking and discussion groups on key topics such as PMO maturity models, structures, assessments, PMO roles, PMO team development and personal development.

The full agenda included;

PMO Maturity Using Organisational Maturity Models to understand how weaknesses and improvements in PMOs are identified
PMO Structures Explore the challenges that organisations will have to face in establishing or re-energising PMOs
PMO Assessments Understanding the scope and value of performing PMO self assessments
PMO Roles Greater awareness of P3O guidance and typical roles & services
Developing Your Team Through identifying and reinforcing the key issues in establishing a professional PMO team
Developing Yourself - Identifying key skills and competencies that are required to improve your professionalism


Chris Walters opened the 16th PPSOSIG conference and welcomed the delegates. There was a diverse mix of delegates from both public and private sector, each with a slightly different PMO set up, but thats the beauty of the PPSOSIG conferences. The conference provides a mix of presentation from industry experts, workshop and facilitated sessions to help delegates understand and learn what works for their organisation & managed networking sessions.

P3M3 Organisational Maturity
Rod Sowden

Presentation on P3M3 sets the scene for the two days focused on PPSO maturity.
The Maturity Levels 1-5 is a particularly interesting slide that relates very well to PMOs, what level is your PMO?
Is P3M3 a missing link for PMOs, especially after the launch of P3O?

Programme Office as a Centre of Excellence
Sue Vowler

The CoE in Context, there are two different models as depicted in the P3O model slide in the presentation. The feelings are that people responsible for PMOs cant just attend training and then come back into an organisation and start delivering. There is a need to understand how certain models work in other organisations, how methods like MSP and PRINCE2 have been tailored to fit the organisation etc

The Centre of Excellence has four components, its not just about a bunch of templates!

- Standards, methods and tools
- Organisational Learning / Knowledge Management
- People and Skills (P3RM roles and competencies)
- Internal Consultancy

The internal consultancy part is crucial especially for taking people within the organisaiton on the journey and showing them and supporting them. Sue shared some ideas about how to make the PMO more visible physically around the office, including posters, leaflets and other materials (see the OGC website for more detail). Creating Quick Reference Guides allows the CoE to promote themselves and provide information to the wider team and organisation. Sue talked about her own pack she carries around, ready to pull out the right leaflet depending on who she meets! Be prepared!

Organisational learning and knowledge management covers areas like repositories of good practice, lessons learnt and the networking that should happen, i.e., attending PPSOSIG, Seminars, conferences, best practice showcases

People and skills includes skills analysis, career development maps, secondments, buddying etc. Just as much effort should go into skills development of the team as it goes into the development of the CoE. PMO Managers should be looking at how they can raise the bar of their skills capability within the CoE. For cash strapped departments, secondments are a good way to get the staff in from other areas of the business, but training and development is crucial (depends on the kind of manager you are to get the best out of this)

The training and education aspects of the people, when was the last time you carried out a training needs analysis on your team for example? And do you have a training plan? Its crucial that the people aspects are backed up with training and education and there are ways to do this that dont cost

Back to internal consultancy, Im intrigued to see how many people carry out this at the moment. How many can say they are a trusted advisor or critical friend? Read on for the interactive sessions that address this.
An interesting slide on the different types of workshops that the CoE can facilitate, a great way to get the internal consultancy in motion. See the types and techniques slide. Sue is a prepared facilitator with a pocket full of post-its and blu-tack, a trick many PMO professionals should try!

Organisation / PMO Self Assessment
John Zachar

Presentation kicked off by getting the audience to think about what theyve already got before you can move onto where you want to be? John talked about the different types of definition for PMOs eg, the railway signal box the primary purpose is the throughput of information (data in, information out to the relevant people). The TV station room (a PMO that helps decide which programmes and projects are going to run etc). There are a whole host of PSO (Project Support Offices) and PMO (Programme Management Offices) and John gives the delegates some guidelines to help them better define their own organisations PMO

The delegates were then taken through the Self Assessment:

Answering the questions / performing the analysis helps to determine what type of PSO (used generically) is desired; whether the PSO exists or is only an aspiration. Emphasis should be made on leaving those questions blank where the answer is NO / NA / UNKNOWN / etc. Only YES answers should be marked.

Helping the delegates determine what type of PSO they are / want is challenging. In all the years John has never had a perfect fit. It has always had to be an assessment of what is the best fit!

Look at their numbers of As, Bs, and Cs, and see if you come up with the same fit that they do, if not challenge them. In every case, there will be a desire to try to get to Partnership, especially if a PSO does not exist and is only being proposed at this stage.

Comparing results amongst those at the same table, WHY is always a good question to ask. Why did you get that result? What does the result tell you? Is that a surprise? Or expected? Why? Would the sponsor of the PSO answer the questions in the same way? Why or why not? What about others on the demand side of the equation? And those on the supply side of the equation?

Pushing, Pulling & Cruising Interactive Session
Lain Burgos-Lovece & Sarah Branwhite

Lain and Sarah introduced the afternoon workshop session by giving an example of how a PMO found itself pushing the organisation, being pulled by it, and cruising along with it, as the relationship progressed.

Day One Summary
Lain Burgos-Lovece & Sarah Branwhite

Lain and Sarah summarised the first day of the conference with some findings from all the sessions. Observations related to the written output from the last session of Day 1, plus other discussions during the day. It was clear that many PMOs are in a state of flux, perhaps knowing what needs to be done without having the means or support to do it. Many useful suggestions and experiences stress the conclusion that there are no standard answers, but that once the context and stakeholders are identified, then what to do in each case becomes a lot clearer. Expect to evolve with the changing situation.

Developing Your PMO Team
Melanie Franklin

Melanie kicked off the session by talking about the size of the majority of PMOs, 3 to 4 people with a few exceptions like PMO of One or large teams. Reminding us all that PMOs are in the service industry and need to deliver a valuable service to the organisation. We must also be aware that we have competitors, the Programme and Project Managers themselves, if the PMO services are not up to scratch they will carry on delivering what they need to with or without the PMO.
There is an opportunity for the PMO to get out there and tell the organisation, its not just project admin, it can be a strategic valuable service. The PMO need to market and advertise their services. The client is buying the services of a team, not an individual. Its the collective that gets the job done. The team definitions are fun (in the presentation slides), definitions make the assumption you have a full choice and the opportunity to build the team from scratch. But how often is that actually the case?

Asking the audience What are the criteria for effective, highly performing teams?, the results from the room were:

Clear vision (common goal)
Honesty and trust
Pieces that fit together
Buy in to common objectives
Having fun
From the slide Effective PMO Team, mentoring/coaching, guidance and advice are the main criteria that a client is looking for in a PMO. The difficulties in building a PMO team? Were always in a team of flux, especially in a PMO. The Forming storming norming and performing is especially the case with a PMO. People move in and out all the time. When forming a team, the most successful teams are the ones that actually sit down and really look at the objective of why theyre there, which projects they might support, who does what and when, what happens with the holiday season etc. Formalising what a team does is an effective thing to do and speeds up the forming.

The Team Charter is an effective exercise, Melanie feels this is particularly important because if its skipped you will pay the price later down the line, the storming phase is drawn out and the team can become frustrated and argumentative! Teams need to move quickly to the norming and performing so the Team Charter is all about asking the team to think about the skills they have and how and who is going to do what

The delegates were then asked to create a Team Charter for a PMO from the perspective of the client.

Back to the norming and performing, how can capability be developed in the team (without training expense) through sharing experience. When an experience is a shared, a learning point is passed on to the team, or a moment of clarity. One experience shared many times is the motto at Maven, the delegates are now going to think about Develop procedures to build capability within the team, the team with the best idea wins the chocs!

Speed Dating, 10 minutes each everyone in the team talks to each other (Roses and Thorns)
Champion of Champions
WIKI (use it for sharing best practice, my portfolio of ideas)
Food for thought (good for work life balance too)
Pass it on, pass it back (like pyramid selling!) Choc Winner!
Incentivising (social, food drink or time off etc)
Growing the Passion (advertising)
Day in the Life video (small clips)

Setting up a PMO from scratch
Paul Allen from Office Depot

Paul Allen at the Office Depot, shares the journey he and the team have been on over the last 18 months. Starting from scratch the PMO had nothing in place, no preferred method, no project board, nothing. Starting with the areas (the strategies) the board wanted to cover and include within the PMO remit, Paul looked first at the method and the training that would be required for the 12 project managers within the business.

Then Paul was slightly at a lost about what else he could do to improve things, then P3O came along in November 2008. He was able to use P3O to articulate to the board the menu of services and to map the Office Depot business onto the P3O models. Using red, amber, green on the P3O models he could also see where they were and where they wanted to get to. The business was very silo in terms of the departments where project delivery was happening. Colleagues from each departments were then expected to attend the project board meetings in other departments to understand what delivery was happening (through a helicopter view) and therefore attempt to break down the silos.

Theyve come a long way but they also have a way to go and its not perfect. Feedback is coming back like wed like stakeholder management mapping, checklists and methods etc which is great. The menu of services were wanted, but then the PMO had to deliver. Expectation setting about menu of service delivery was crucial, especially expectations around when they would be delivered.

Asked about the success of the PMO and what one thing is needed sponsorship! Without it, the PMO couldnt be a success. Communication, communication, communication has also been crucial and in hindsight, communication with the stakeholders could have been improved.

Developing Yourself
Donnie MacNicol

Donnie kicked off his session with a focus on each individual in the room. Prior to the session, Donnie had distributed a questionnaire which delegates were asked about their skills, experiences, attitudes etc and where and what they want to achieve in the future. The questionnaire helped form the basis of the presentation which essentially kicked off with, you should be able to understand who you are and what youre about before you can hope to develop yourself.

The competence model was of particular interest (especially the riding a bike analogy, see the slides and think about this, how does also work in your own personal situation or approach to leanring something new?)

Donnie ask the audience to do the 2 minute elevator pitch, think for a couple of minutes then pretend that you have an executive outside the door, what is your vision for your PMO and what is its objective for the business. The delegates then spoke to their neighbour and gave the two minute pitch. Its surprising that many have not thought about this for a while, especially when you consider how crucial it is for PMOs to continually market and sell themselves to the organisation.

Another area which was interesting was behavioural change. Apparently it takes about 4 weeks to do something as simple as brushing your teeth with your opposite hand, 4 weeks for this to become a unconscious competence. Relating this back to the world of PMO, is it so unsurprising that take up of its services or newly introduced processes take so long to happen? It certainly makes sense for PMO professionals to think further about the behavioural aspects of people and teams within organisations and how certain approaches might prove more benefitical than others.

Other aspects covered included transitioning your career, mentoring vs coaching and listening


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