Holding a joint lunchtime event with the Knowledge SIG in Birmingham this week was an ideal opportunity for PMO practitioners to spend a couple of hours discussing Knowledge Management with the people who know rather a lot about it. Knowledge Management for a lot of PMO practitioners, starts and ends with lessons learnt – in fact many have downgraded that from lessons learnt to ‘lessons recorded’ because in reality that’s what the majority of the work they actually do – the recording.
The PMO Knowledge Caf was an opportunity to see what advances have been made over the last decade in Knowledge Management – and for many PMO practitioners in the room it was an opportunity to see beyond ‘lessons recorded’.
The PMO Knowledge Caf consisted of four tables – each table with a different discussion point. In this article we take a look at the menu item – K to the M to the PMO - Knowledge Management in the PMO – What it is and what is isn’t.
So what is Knowledge Management and what can the PMO be doing more of?
Knowledge Management is not about a set of records or details about previous projects in a database – it’s about conversations, interactions, networks and communities of people sharing their experiences. It is about using what has happened before to inform and educate others (the learning bit of ‘lessons learned’); it’s about bringing people together so experiences can be shared and more collaborative work can happen in the future. Ultimately it’s about not reinventing the wheel every time a new project starts because someone somewhere has been through the experiences before.
The trick of course is how does knowledge management really manifest itself – and what can the PMO be doing to not only instigate it but also help others to get the most out of knowledge sharing?
If we think about the PMO being the central hub of a network – the project network – it quickly becomes apparent that the PMO is in a prime spot to be the maven.
“A maven (also mavin) is a trusted expert in a particular field, who seeks to pass knowledge on to others. The word maven comes from Hebrew, and means one who understands, based on an accumulation of knowledge.” Wikipedia
The PMO – regardless of what kind of PMO – is the one entity that has the opportunity to see across the many projects and programmes and as a result of this has an eclectic mix of knowledge of various kinds. For example; one particular project may be stakeholder heavy and as a direct result of this the project manager has tried different approaches to stakeholder management that have proved effective. The PMO can quickly record and disseminate the new approaches to other project managers and projects within the portfolio where the same situation arises. The big point is that the PMO acts as a broker by adding their own knowledge, so that people don’t need to trawl through a long list of ‘lessons recorded’
Taking the idea further, knowledge management includes the concepts of Communities of Practices (CoP) or the bringing together of people with a common interest. Again the PMO is ideally placed to identify where the common interests are in the project organisation and schedule meetups where practitioners can come together to talk about good practices.
Just taking this area alone – the networked PMO – it stands to reason that the PMO practitioner should be looking again at their roles and responsibilities and the behavioural aspects of their roles. If the PMO is to be truly networked, the people within the PMO should be skilled networkers; able to spot useful knowledge and be able to instigate environments where knowledge can be shared.
Knowledge management gives PMO practitioners the opportunity to focus on the people and behavioural aspects of projects for a change instead of dealing with data and information for which the PMO is becoming increasingly known for. A call to action?
The PMO Knowledge Caf idea always concludes with highlighting three main points that were captured after three sessions. For this menu item, these were;
• A recognition that the PMO is THE network hub in a project organisation
• PMOs should be providing the lead facilitator role between departments in the project organisation.
• PMO should be taking on a more proactive role in instigating process improvements where highlighted in ‘lessons learnt’. One good thing about lessons recorded is that PMOs can analyse them and identify trends and themes – these point to the priorities for making process improvements.