Project Management

PMO Insights – Where Leaders Meet

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The PMO Insights – Where Leaders Meet blog is the opportunity for PMO leaders—including attendees from previous PMO Symposium events—to connect, share experiences and gain actionable insights. We welcome your thoughts, posts, discussions and perspectives regarding PMO leading practices and practical knowledge. The goal of this blog is to enable PMO leaders to elevate the value of their PMO and deliver enduring outcomes and benefits for their organization.

About this Blog


View Posts By:

Amanda Holm
Morten Sorensen

Past Contributors:

Quynh Woodward

Recent Posts

Drive additional value with your PMO

Building an Effective PMO—Building Trust

PMO – What’s in a Name?

PMO Leaders - Presenting at PMO Symposium®

What I Learned From Dick Costolo’s Opening Keynote at the PMO Symposium® 2018

Viewing Posts by Quynh Woodward

Building an Effective PMO—Building Trust

By Quynh Woodward

When establishing a PMO, building trust is seldom on the checklist of things to do. However, for the PMO to be effective, building trust is not an option but an essential element for success. Trust can be the driver for boosting team morale, collaboration and productivity. Trust can bring about more stakeholder engagement, commitment and support. In the PMO world, there are many stakeholders such as senior executives, project managers, business operational leaders and external customers. Building trust with these key stakeholders should not be left on the sidelines.

Paul J. Zak, founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies and professor of Economics, Psychology, and Management at Claremont Graduate University, spent over two decades studying trust in organizations. Dr. Zak found that "compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives and 40% less burnout."

Looking over the presentations from past PMO symposiums, many presenters highlighted trust as a notable success factor.

For the Triglav Group, 2018 PMO of the year finalist, building trust is a key focus in their PMO transformation. The Triglav PMO strives to be the organizational role model for leadership, cooperation and execution. According to the Triglav team, the “PMO can build trust and gain relevance by representing the value of project management based on exact data, outcomes and impact on the business. Trusting and effective working relationships are built by addressing challenges, sharing experiences and acknowledging achievements.

Trust is essential in a team environment because it fosters collaboration, commitment and productivity. John Carter, author of Innovate Product Faster, spoke at the 2018 PMO Symposium and discussed trust as a crucial element to empower teams. For trust to develop, boundary conditions, such as must-have features or expected performance levels, need to be identified upfront to enable effective decision making. If the team is within bounds, executives do not need to intervene unless the team crosses a boundary. According to Mr. Carter, “lean process is enabled by trust. Management now places more trust in product development teams. The greater trust allows the team to have ownership and engagement.” Trust is stronger when there are clear expectations and open communications.

But what if you inherit an established team with trust issues? This situation is challenging. One potential way to tackle the challenge is to analyze the root cause by listening to your team, using surveys or creating a safe place for team members to voice their viewpoints. Once the issues are identified, ask the team to discuss and come up with their own solution. In some cases, a third-party mediator may be needed to facilitate a resolution.

Trust starts with leadership. As a PMO leader, your teams and your stakeholders are going to analyze your communications and discuss your actions. Your role requires thoughtful transparency and alignment of words with action. According to Dr. Ernie Mendes of UC San Diego Rady, Center for Executive Development, and a 2016 PMO Symposium speaker, “leaders’ abilities to listen, communicate clearly and lead, have the strongest effect on employees’ organizational commitment. When communication channels begin to deteriorate, misunderstandings and misrepresentations abound, and a climate of mistrust sets in.”

As PMO leaders, what do you do to promote a culture of trust?      

Posted by Quynh Woodward on: April 08, 2019 04:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

PMO – What’s in a Name?

By Quynh Woodward

In the PMO world, a name can be a topic of great discussion. The “P” in your PMO can provide a lot of information about your purpose. Are you focusing on projects, programs or portfolios? These days, you see many new acronyms for the PMO such as IMO (implementation management office), CDO (client delivery office), PSE (project success enabler), RMO (resource management office), VMO (value management office) and LACE (lean agile center of excellence).

Some PMOs may take on a new name to be more specific about their services and mission. Other PMOs may need to revamp their focus due to changing priorities. According to the 2018 PMI® Thought Leadership Series, The Next Generation PMO, 55 percent of PMO leaders indicate that the charter for their PMO changed in the past five years. Most of these changes are created to enable a closer alignment with strategic initiatives. And perhaps, at the root of these name changes is the desire to enhance perception and ensure that the PMO is more in sync with the organizational strategy.

Some PMOs are going further by focusing on a brand refresh to showcase their value proposition. Some PMOs are training their teams to be brand ambassadors, including how to introduce themselves and how to enable strategic relationships. It is no longer just about having the right name, but also the right brand message.

But how do you make sure that the new name or the brand message is more than just leveraging semantics?

At the recent PMO Symposium®, speakers discussed taking steps to assess and clarify the role and value contribution of the PMO.

These speakers analyze the PMO value contribution not just through benefits realization, but also through different lenses that the business understands such as customer centricity, agility, flexibility, productivity and quality. Is the PMO helping different business units to commit to the organizational strategy? Is the PMO driving transformation efforts to future-proof the business? Is the PMO helping to inform strategic business decisions? Is the PMO facilitating strategic communications to ensure advancement of critical projects?

In addition, it is important to analyze PMO practices to address any misalignment. Is the governance system too challenging to navigate? Is the PMO acting as an additional layer that can hamper the speed of delivery and innovation? Do team members have the skills to deliver strategic initiatives effectively? Can the PMO develop and sustain capabilities to drive stronger business outcomes? It is also necessary to assess stakeholder sentiments to get a good read on the organizational culture. What are the shared values, beliefs and assumptions? Are there ways to build a stronger bridge between the PMO and the business? The PMO needs to understand these aspects to ensure that the value contributions are in alignment with the organization’s goals and priorities.

These analyses enable PMO leaders to develop not only the right name and brand message, but also the right roadmap to align their role and activities, improve their capabilities, rouse their team to action, and extend the PMO brand power.

While each PMO is unique, and a PMO name change and brand refresh may be appropriate in some cases, it should not be just a sematic exercise, but rather a concerted effort to close the performance expectation gap. Have you thought about the name or the brand of your PMO? Did you change the name of your PMO recently? What did you do to enable a positive perception shift? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Posted by Quynh Woodward on: March 29, 2019 08:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

PMO Leaders - Presenting at PMO Symposium®

By Quynh Woodward

PMO leaders are busy people. They focus on their organizational strategic initiatives and goals. They develop robust processes to facilitate value delivery while communicating to stakeholders and engaging their senior executives with critical insights. They nurture the skills and capabilities of their teams to enable success. They have a lot of activities on their plate.

Presenting at the PMO Symposium® may require hours of preparation and may not be on the priority list for many PMO leaders. Fortunately, several skilled PMO leaders are taking on that extra effort to share their real-world knowledge.

I asked speakers from past PMO Symposium events about their presentation experiences and sought their advice. The following individuals responded to my questions.

  • Anna Consor, ITIL, CSM, PMP | Associate vice president, project management at Navy Federal Credit Union
  • Carrie Fletcher, PMP | Vice president, people & experience at The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)
  • Rachel Greenfield Davis, PMP | Associate director of project management at Whole Foods Market

What factors influenced your decision to present at the PMO Symposium?

  • Anna: Having watched my PMO grow over the last nine years, I felt like others could benefit from the lessons learned that we've experienced, both good and bad, to help their organizations thrive. Many times, I learn just as much from the attendees as they do from me! In addition, I love giving back to an organization and a community that has given so much to me over the years.  
  • Carrie: The PMO Symposium is “THE” conference for those working with PMOs. I personally learned an incredible amount at the symposium when I first attended in 2017. I also felt the learnings my team and I had from implementing a successful PMO at CAMH would be beneficial to share with others. Providing practical information to people to help make their PMO a success just made sense to me.
  • Rachel: I felt that I had a perspective to share that was on theme with the overall conference focus last year on change management. It also felt like it was an opportunity to reflect on the past few years of leading a PMO, and that I could learn something from it as well as the audience.

How was your experience as a PMO Symposium presenter?

  • Anna: Being a presenter at PMO Symposium is rich and rewarding, full of networking, collaboration, lasting professional relationships and engaging conversations. The actual experience of presenting itself could not be any easier, and it gets better and better every year! PMI is very organized, so that by the time the symposium comes around, your presentation has been well marketed, logistics are set up, and time to network with other industry leaders has been built into your agenda. It's a win-win for everyone.
  • Carrie: Being a PMO presenter was a wonderful experience. The symposium is very well managed and the presenters are all top notch. The feeling of being in a room presenting to like-minded people who genuinely want to hear what you have to say is very refreshing. Not all conferences give that same vibe.
  • Rachel: I felt totally taken care of by PMI staff at the event, and supported by fellow presenters and attendees throughout the conference. It was a surreal experience being up there for my session, and at times it was hard to tell how my presentation was being received! But the positive feedback that came later was reassuring. I really appreciated getting to see the unfiltered survey results a couple of weeks later.  

What advice would you give to other PMO leaders submitting a proposal to present at the event?

  • Anna: Engage your audience, and show how you plan to do so in your proposal. Ask questions in the middle of your presentations, and get them excited about your topic! What will evoke emotion? What will make people walk away and say, "Wow, that was amazing!"? Bring real-life stories to share. Stories are what resonate with people, and it's what they take back to their companies.  
  • Carrie: Think about presenting on something that you feel would be beneficial to others. Frame things in a way that will allow people to take the information and/or advice you are giving to use it in their environment. Try to keep your presentation a little less structured and be open to questions throughout the presentation. Because you are presenting to like-minded individuals, they may want to ask questions and get more context throughout the presentation. You may also learn something from your audience to take back to your own organization!
  • Rachel: Prioritize story and flow in how you deliver the content, so that it feels interconnected and narrative for audiences to follow along with. Make it easy for the audience to get the key takeaways, so all of your content builds around supporting a few key points. In that vein, I also recommend focusing on practical take-home action items that are your best ideas, rather than several potentially less impactful or less broadly useable ones.

The 2019 PMO Symposium call for presentation proposals is open now until 3 May! Don’t miss your chance to take part in the event where leaders meet. PMO leaders interested in sharing PMO practical knowledge and innovative strategies are encouraged to submit a proposal for consideration.

Showcase your thought leadership at

For more information about the event, visit

Posted by Quynh Woodward on: March 21, 2019 09:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

What I Learned From Dick Costolo’s Opening Keynote at the PMO Symposium® 2018

Categories: Leadership

By Quynh Woodward

The performance expectation for a keynote speaker is always high. Keynote speakers set the underlying tone and convey important messages for events. In November 2018, Dick Costolo delivered a spectacular opening at the PMO Symposium held in Washington, D.C., USA.

Dick Costolo at PMO Symposium 2018

Dick Costolo was most recently the chief executive officer of Twitter, serving from October 2010 to June 2015, where he took the company from US$0 to US$1.5 billion in annual revenue. According to Mr. Costolo, there are many paths to success, but to enhance your chances, focus on the speed of execution and leadership.

Here is a breakdown of his tips for strengthening the “speed of execution” muscle of your PMO:

  1. Examine the speed of learning.

On a regular basis at your team meetings, ask the following question: “What is it taking us too long to learn and how can we learn that faster?” This question enables teams to reflect on solutions. The “Why is it taking us too long to learn?” question often surfaces commonly held dogmas or practices that are not always useful or true.

  1. Adopt a bias to yes.

As an organization grows, increasingly the default answer to every question is “no.” The bias to yes means that there are many paths to get to “yes” within the organization to avoid hindering creativity. As long as the activities are legal, encourage employees to innovate and try new things. Avoid the most nefarious version of “no,” which is “you have to go ask these other 12 people for permission.” Your team will spend their time asking for permission rather than taking critical action.

  1. Protect the future not the past (a reference from Ed Catmull).

The job of leaders is not to prevent mistakes, but to correct mistakes quickly. Protecting the or the desire for everything to run smoothly is a false goal—it leads to measuring people by the mistakes they make rather than by their ability to solve problems.

  1. Resist making too many rules.

Rules are set up to simplify life for managers, but they can hinder business results. Instead, replace the critical rules with principles and guidelines, and enable your team to work using their good judgment.

Costolo’s Tried-and-True Leadership Principles

The principles below are based on what Mr. Costolo learned from Bill Campbell, who was the executive coach to Larry Page, Eric Schmidt and Jeff Bezos, as well as Dick Costolo.

Bill Campbell believed that management excellence is about helping people to flourish in their environment, not telling people what to do. Your title makes you a manager. Your team decides if you are a leader.

Principle 1 – Communicate context for decisions rather than authority.

One of the hardest things for leaders is the communication architecture, especially when you are scaling teams. The way to build trust with your team is to listen, be forthright and communicate context for decisions rather than authority. Explain the why and not just the what.

Principle 2 – Push decisions down the stack.

Ask yourself: “What’s the highest-leverage thing I could be doing right now?” When in doubt, force yourself to delegate. Set a weekly goal of the percentage of meetings you will stop attending and start delegating. Make sure action items are delegated to your team appropriately. Give people ownership by providing authority and accountability. As a leader, it is not your job to make every decision. It’s to ensure that decisions get made and to resolve issues when your team cannot reach consensus. If you make all the decisions, then you may become the conduit for organizational politics.

Principle 3 - Eliminate politics.

Avoid being the sole decision maker. A common challenge for new leaders is that they feel obligated to make all decisions. What you may get are pre-meetings before the actual meeting. These pre-meetings are set up to lobby and influence your decision. To eliminate these pre-meetings and politics, you need to encourage debate openly in the meeting room. It’s okay for people to be contentious about a decision. It shows their passion. While social cohesion feels good, getting to the right answer/solution is better. The goal of a manager is not to get to social cohesion, but to get to the right solution. Don’t punish people for debating with you. However, once the debate is done and the decision made, follow Jeff’s Bezos’ advice: “Disagree and commit.” When people cannot agree, don’t get discouraged because contrarians on the team can have great ideas. Send people who do not agree with one another to work together and develop a proposed joint solution.

Principle 4 – Understand the culture.

Ask your teams: “Tell me something that’s not working well.” Get different perspectives. Take notes and don’t agree or disagree with the person on the spot. Reflect to get an overview of the political culture, and learn about what people believe. Take your insights back to your leadership team and act purposely to eliminate political culture.

Mr. Costolo closed out the keynote session with a few of Jeff Bezos’ words of advice:

  • Optimize for debate. When you optimize for compromise rather than the truth, you don’t get the right answer.
  • Don’t let the communication architecture mirror the organizational architecture. Enable people to talk to whomever they need to get the information to do their job. Don’t force them to depend solely on their manager for information.

In one short hour, Mr. Costolo used analogies and simple stories to convey these viewpoints. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on Dick Costolo's keynote.



Posted by Quynh Woodward on: March 12, 2019 06:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

PMO Priorities 2019

By Quynh Woodward

Across industries and organizations, there is a greater awareness of the PMO, its different structures and capabilities, and the diverse ways that the PMO can contribute to the success of the organization. High-performing PMOs are setting trends and influencing how their teams deliver value to the organizations that they support.  

As a PMO leader, you have your own list of top PMO priorities and are advancing these objectives for 2019. Based on various discussions, surveys and topics discussed at the PMO Symposium this past November, below are three top priorities that we are hearing from PMO leaders across the globe. 

1.      Continuously Evolve and Improve Your PMO.  

The PMO can’t stand still while the pace of innovation and the speed of obsolescence are driving dynamic changes and disrupting the business landscape. According to the 2018 PMI® Thought Leadership Series, – Forging the Future: Evolving With Disruptive Technologies, nearly 80% of organizations have undergone a significant transformation over the past year. These transformation pursuits are requiring a conscious effort to evolve and improve the PMO continuously. At the PMO Symposium® 2018, we heard speakers talk about collecting data about what is working, what is not and what can be improved. Some PMOs are sending regular surveys to their sponsors, stakeholders and customers to inform their need to adapt and foster a culture of continuous improvement. As a PMO leader, have you reexamined your PMO’s operating model, processes and capabilities lately to ensure alignment with the strategy and current needs of your organization? Some PMOs are reconfiguring and rebranding themselves to convey their value and offerings more effectively. And some are changing approaches and plans to enhance the speed of project delivery while others are shifting roles to be closer to the customers to help promote relationship building and a greater understanding of customer expectations and needs.  

2.      Ensure a Robust Change Management Program.

While change management has always been a critical focus of the PMO, it has taken on a renewed importance at the enterprise level as organizations focus on significant transformation efforts. Well-defined change management strategies are needed to enhance stakeholder engagement and build support for the organization’s strategic goals and objectives. The PMO is perfectly positioned to take the lead role in this effort. Does your PMO have sufficient resources allocated for change management activities? Is the change management effort appropriately reflected in your project portfolio? Is there clear accountability and ownership for these change management activities? How do you ensure and sustain adoption of your organizational changes? 

3.      Build a Culture of Continuous Learning. 

Rising uncertainty will be the norm in the future of project work. For many PMOs, there is no longer an emphasis on eliminating uncertainty, but rather to adapt more effectively. This shift implies the need to bring their teams up to speed on the latest technologies, skills and techniques. To prepare for the future and for delivering strategic changes for their organization, PMOs are looking for ways to foster a culture of continuous learning. It is not just about having a structured educational format, but also informal knowledge sharing between team members. What formal, informal and self-directed learning opportunities are available to your teams? Are you encouraging your project teams to share lessons learned and insights on a regular cadence? Are you engaging senior-level leaders to make their experiences known, either informally or through internal organizational channels? In a culture of continuous learning, teams are continually developing in knowledge and enhancing performance. 

While each PMO is unique and has its own vision and mission, what are your top PMO priorities for 2019? Please share your thoughts and perspectives. 

Posted by Quynh Woodward on: March 07, 2019 01:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

"A noble spirit enbiggens the smallest man"

- Jebediah Springfield