Lean Agile PMO: An Oxymoron?

Michael has over 20 years experience across organizations of all sizes, local and global, spanning most industries, having established himself as a thought leader in Portfolio Management & Program Management Offices. He has successfully implemented PMOs across many business and technology enterprises. Michael's focus has been on using portfolio management to drive business transformation, which he has achieved using emerging techniques such as enterprise PMOs across multiple lines of business, lean portfolio management, agile project management and PMOs in a dot.com environment. Michael is a Principal Consultant with Transpire; michael.spiteri@transpire.com.au.

A recent report by David Braue (“The Fall of the Project Management Office” from IT News) on the trials and tribulations of various PMOs shared at Agile Australia 2012 really put’s this into the spotlight:

“According to Agile coach Renee Troughton, New Zealand’s Ministry of Social Development cut project approval times by 75 percent after a large-scale project governance restructure.The ministry recruited Troughton from Suncorp in October 2005 and disbanded its 60-person PMO, whose governance processes kept many projects in limbo for six to 12 months.”

Disbanding PMOs is not the only option on the table--we can look to apply principles of lean/agile thinking to how an existing PMO governs a portfolio of work and cut through some of the key issues that have been plaguing PMOs over the last decade. The same report also talks about how Suncorp “reduced waste, boosted transparency and simplified reporting” by adopting a lean approach to its portfolio governance.

First, let’s understand some of the key issues PMOs have faced in recent times:

  • It takes too long to approve and launch new initiatives from idea stage to project inception, by which time the idea itself has moved on, leading to the “50K Project Syndrome”. Complex levels of approvals and detailed business justification can lead to the …

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