July 2012 newsletter



Welcome to the latest edition of the APM PMO SIG Newsletter.

In this months issue you will find details of our upcoming autumn Conference event as well as an overview of the APMG Best Practice Showcase. There is a round up of what the PMO SIG has been up to and the latest news from around the industry.

If you have any comments on the newsletter or would like to contribute an article to a future edition, please contact us.

Lindsay Scott & Emma Arnaz-Pemberton

Stay connected with the PMO SIG

PMO SIG Autumn conference

The month of July has seen the PMO SIG committee publish details of the next dedicated 2 day conference; PMO Masterclasses - key topic areas to help every project succeed. This autumn event is designed to develop your PMOs perspective on what it can do to contribute to the APM 2020 vision:
“A world in which all projects succeed”.

The groundbreaking structure for the event will include a series of master classes led by practitioners and industry leaders covering topics such as resource management, benefits and risk.

The two day conference takes please in the West Midlands on the 10th and 11th October 2012, delegate prices include overnight accommodation and a copy of the new APM Body of Knowledge.

Details and booking information can be found here.










Book Review

Book Title: Second Order Project Management
Authors Name: Michael Cavanagh
Publisher: Gower
List Price: £26:50
Format & length: Hardcover; 140 pages
Publication Date: January 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4095-1094-2
Reviewer’s Name: Stuart Dixon
Review Date: July 2012

Introduction to the book
Being curious as to what Second Order Project Management is and the fact that this is only 140 pages had me waiting for the book to arrive to see whether I could learn something new to increase my understanding of project management

Overview of book’s structure
The book is split into 2 sections with each of the two sections being split into 4 chapters as well as an appendix containing a case study. The first section of the book explains what second order project management is about and explains some of the theories behind this, with links to the bibliography for further reading. The second section covers the more practical tools and techniques which cover the practical applications of those theories into real world practice. The case study in the appendix covers how one of the techniques was used on a real project, covering its successes and things to watch for to make implementation as smooth as possible.

Highlights: What I liked!
I thought that the section on Experiental Learning, which was included within the tools and techniques section made essential reading for anyone who was interested in how to practically ensure that lessons captured were actually turned into lessons learnt. Although the author admits that to follow this technique will take time and investment, you can see how useful that investment would be within your own company.
Dotted throughout the book, and helpfully included as an appendix are views from other practioners on the world of complex projects so alongside the theories listed in section 1 you get the practical real world implementation viewpoint so you can see how well these theories may play out in your own organisation.
1-2 paragraphs on what you liked most about the book

Shortfalls: What was Missing!
Unfortunately given the title of the book I felt that I was still missing a true understanding of what second order project management was. I had a clear idea in the first half that first order project management was the technical project management skills of earned value, PRINCE 2 etc. But I felt the title needed to change to adequately reflect what the book was trying to offer the reader.
Given a chapter in the first section on leadership and how it applies to complex projects, I would have liked to have seen a chapter in the second section on practical techniques that project managers could use to improve their leadership skills given how vital that is to the successful delivery of complex projects

Who might benefit from the book
The book is aimed at the project manager who has been asked to step up and manage a complex project or programme and would like to differentiate themselves from being a mere competent manager to an exceptional leader.

I felt let down by this book as I didn’t feel it explained its subject matter well enough, and was missing a key part around the tools and techniques that could improve an individual’s leadership potential. However this was in part made up for by an excellent chapter on turning lessons identified into lessons learned, and I am going to recommend this book to some of my fellow project managers on the strength of that chapter alone. If Michael was able to do for leadership skills what he has done for lessons learned then he would have a must read book.

Website information
If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got, and if it's not good enough, you need to do something else. As project complexity increases, so too does the need to do new things.

The existing Project Management tools – examples being Earned Value Management, PRINCE2, Lifecycle Management, PMBOK® – are incredibly useful; but they were designed for linear project development in a stable, understood environment. We term them 'First Order'. Second Order Project Management (PM) goes beyond, addressing the issues of a complex, unstable, uncertain environment with all its associated difficulties.

Second Order PM has to address four major issues: the conspiracy of optimism, inappropriate contracting models, the application of methods and tools capable of dealing with complexity, and the need for creative, inspirational, adhocratic leadership. These problems are compounded by the need to convince executive sponsors from different disciplines to invest in the necessary process improvement – this book is designed to help alleviate the frustration that every member of the profession has experienced when trying to gain such approval.

Illustrated by interviews with an international group of very senior managers responsible for managing highly complex projects, Michael Cavanagh explains why there is nothing magical, or even complicated, about Second Order PM. The techniques discussed include aspects of System Thinking, Experiential Learning and its application, Ethics and Governance, Stakeholder Relationships, Appropriate Contracting Models, Outcome-driven Management and Leadership Behaviour, all recognised as increasingly necessary in direct proportion to the complexity of the project at hand.

Stuart Dixon


About the Reviewer Stuart Dixon
Stuart Dixon has been working in PMOs for the past 20 years, currently working as Programme Office Manager at AXA PPP healthcare, Stuart is also secretary for the APM PMO SIG. Stuart is passionate about PMO and Project Management and is always looking for new ideas to incorporate within the service that his PMO offers.

APMG Best Practice Showcase -London 2012


PMOSIG committee members, Ralf Finchett Jnr, Eileen Roden and Graham Shreeve held interactive sessions entitled “PMO – What’s the Point?” at this years APMG Best Practice Showcase in London. The session provided an opportunity for attendees to discuss the different types of PMOs that exist, the skills required by the people working in this arena as well as the perception of Programme Management Offices in different industries.

The positive and negatives aspects of PMO’s and the industry perceptions were discussed throughout the day – a quick roundup the sessions is detailed below:

• PMO's don't effectively engage with all levels effectively and in the right way (Project Managers / Executives / Programme Leaders)
• Should be more people (soft) skill focused than (hard) technical skills
• The flow of information from Project Managers to PMO’s is a constant ask without visibility of what is done with it
• Information provided to PMO’s is never used to feedback and improve (for an interesting read on Lessons Learnt, see this months book review)
• PMO’s need to be more like change managers - delivering Change on change people (is this too hard?)
• PMO’s are an unnecessary overhead, and necessary evil!

What do you think? Heard many of these types of comments before? We’d love to hear what your responses would have been if you had been sitting in on one of these sessions!

General themes for a successful PMO included the following comments. PMOs MUST:

• Develop a collaborative relationship with its customers (PM, SMT and other key functions)
• Ensure that information (data) the PMO receives is accurate, timely, relevant to process and shared with the wider audience
• Scrutinise and challenge effectively
• Be transparent in its activities and what it produces
• Be receptive to criticism or improvements
• Have staff who are willing to learn who are (ideally) skilled and competent in both soft and hard competences
• Be responsive to the needs of a changing organisation and its customers

The APMG Best Practice Showcase is an annual event and the PMOSIG has taken part for the second year. It’s always an interesting event and for next year we’ll be looking for PMO SIG members to join us in hosting these interactive sessions.

Conversations have started in our PMOSIG Linked In group so let us know what you think about the perceptions and experiences of your PMO.

PMO SIG roundup

This month, the PMOSIG committee members have been involved in local meetings and workshops at the local branch meeting for London and the APMG Best Practice Showcase.

We have also held one of our committee meetings on Saturday 14th July which we use to help plan our activities for the coming months. More details will be available next month from chairman Chris Walters.

Dates for the diary

10th and 11th October 2012
The PMOSIG PMO masterclasses - key topic areas to help every project succeed autumn event is now available for booking. See our short news item at the start of this newsletter or click here to go direct to the APM website for full details and booking information.

• Late October 2012 – Date TBC – likely to be 24th or 25th October
We are putting the finishing touches to a local meeting in the Manchester area for late October. The meeting will be a masterclass focused on project reviews and governance from a PMO perspective. More details will be available in next month’s newsletter

PMO SIG Volunteers

Are you interested in getting involved with the PMO Specific Interest Group?

Contact us to check out the various work streams we have in place for 2012.

You will need to commit some of your spare time when you volunteer to be a committee member, but there are plenty of things to get involved with of all shapes and sizes; from contributing to the newsletter to helping to develop best practice and organising events.

Your contribution will be invaluable so please contact us to see if you can help!

PMO Curator

Each month we like to pick out a selection of PMO related news from other sources and neatly package them so they are easy to locate. Take a look at this month’s selection by clicking here.

Next Generation PMO
• The Project from Hell – free book available
• Fail Quickly – The New PMO Mantra
• Programme Office in the News
• The Perfect PMO Meeting
• PMO Infographic

Comments and feedback

The PMO SIG would appreciate any comments or feedback you have on our newsletter – let us know whether it was useful, and what you’d like to see in future editions. Email the newsletter editor.

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