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Dog and Pony Show

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Categories: Business


I know most of you will loath at the thought of ‘selling’ PMO. Perhaps, a couple of you would even feel disgusted just by hearing the word ‘selling’. “Yuck! It makes me feel like a filthy little pimp,” as some would say.

No doubt on that. No one will blame you if you have such a feeling as the word ‘selling’ itself may have been inappropriately represented. Most of us like to link the word ‘selling’ to the disdainful ‘dog and pony show’ that a typical salesman performs. This is where the problem lies. To me, I see it as having a more effective way of communicating the value of a PMO and not the salesman type of ‘selling’. It is just a word and you may call it anything you like as long as the objective is clear.

Up to this point, a few of you would probably start to argue that PMO should be driven by business needs; therefore, it is absolutely meaningless to try to ‘sell’ the PMO. Well, that again depends on what the word ‘sell’ represents. Now, if we ignore the word ‘sell’ for a moment and just focus on the objectives of creating awareness and helping others to have a better understanding on the services that PMO provides, does this whole thing make a little bit more sense?

One problem that I have observed is some people tend to believe that as long as PMO continues to deliver valued services that align and satisfy business needs then the value of PMO will be implied and apparent to the business. In other words, this is assuming that objective could be justified by outcome. It is as good as saying – “Work hard for the company and you will get rewarded.” How many of you actually believe in this statement? If this is true then the phrase ‘unsung hero’ would never have been created. In fact, this statement is not complete. The full statement should be – “Work hard for the company and ensure that you are recognized, and then you will get rewarded.” Similarly, some project managers like to assume that as long as the project is approved and endorsed by the management, their stakeholders will naturally understand the objective and value of it.  This is definitely an invalid assumption. People are still questioning why we are running the project. We all know that. Yet, we have been repeating this assumption over and over again. This reminds me of the definition of ‘Acquired Taste’ that aptly describes this dilemma. According to Wikipedia,

An acquired taste often refers to an appreciation for a food or beverage that is unlikely to be enjoyed by a person who has not had substantial exposure to it, usually because of some unfamiliar aspect of the food or beverage, including a strong or strange odor, taste, or appearance.

Although the above definition is referring to food or beverage, it fits well in the PMO scenario too. On one hand, we have proponents suggesting the idea that PMO should justify for the value of its existence. If not, it should not even have been sanctioned in the first place. Ergo, it is a waste of time trying to ‘sell’ the value of PMO. On the other hand, we have opponents arguing that, analogous to the concept of ‘Acquired Taste’, we should not assume that everyone readily understands and appreciates the value of PMO. PMO is not like any other traditional departments (e.g. Sales, Finance and Human Resource). This is not because PMO is different, but more due to the reason that the three-letters acronym ‘PMO’ is rather new to many people. How many of you have been repeatedly questioned by colleagues what does that three-letters acronym stand for and what your department or team is doing? This is a real-life problem we are facing.

I do not intend to draw any conclusion here for the discussion. Instead, my aim is to highlight the much overlooked problem on how little knowledge most people have about PMO and its value. This is not about justifying the value of PMO. In fact, the problem lies in the poorly managed communication of PMO value in most cases. To ‘sell’ or not to ‘sell’ is the question. Yet, we ‘know’ or do not ‘know’ (the PMO value) is the actual problem. What do you think?

Posted on: June 04, 2013 03:44 AM | Permalink

Comments (5)

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I agree with what you have said. By continuously having to show and provide business value, you are in a way "selling" the PMO or justifying its existence. There will always be those in the organization who see the value and others who see the PMO as a policeman and wasteful overhead. You will always be trying to convince the later.

Good article.

Unfortunately I think PMO's in most organisations do have to undertake a level of marketing. However, this can be done in a smart way so that the value is obvious without having to point it out.

Simon

Very true. The average lifetime of a PMO is 2 years - and the main reason for this is that in year 1 it gets set up with fanfares and delivers "quick wins". in year 2 it gets embedded and delivers less spectacular things and becomes part of the wallpaper, so in year 3 there is no obvious business reason for it - what it does is transparent and so an easy place to save some cost by eliminating, UNLESS we sell the value it makes continuously.

PMO survival is very tied to how well it keeps up with the overall organization's evolving strategy and how well are projects delivered to meet the related goals and objectives.

I agree as well. We need to ensure the PMO has a high profile and success/value is well recognised.

The challenge is HOW to sell the PMO and ensure that value is recognised.

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