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 Contributers:

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

Drive additional value with your PMO

I'd like to briefly review a few areas that might be worth looking at if you would like to enhance the value your PMO provides to your internal or external customers or to your organization overall. We all know we need to constantly evolve, grow, adapt and look for areas to add new value for all our stakeholders. The below suggestions are meant to provide a few ideas for you to consider.

Client specific Program Management Offices - in commercial relationships, overseeing one large client contract and Program - often have lifespan of multiple years and undergo significant change in scope and related processes as client scope, services, cost pressure, technology advances or other factors over time enable or require their PMOs to change too.

  • I see a big opportunity for many PMOs in gradually adopting a stronger focus on Benefit Realization Management and the associated life-cycle, process tools and governance practices.
  • Start by utilizing Benefit Breakdown Structures, Benefit Registers and Benefit Realization Road-maps for your initiatives and gradually add enhanced reporting, related governance, improved benefit analysis and other elements as you go along. Improve your Business Case practices as needed to get better insight to the underlying dependencies and assumptions of the Program and Project Benefits.
  • The Client relationship value can be very significant when for example service provider PMOs are able to drive and demonstrate the planned benefits being realized within their Client's existing cost base as service upgrades or technology transformation successfully take place. That can be a significant advantage for both parties.
  • Other opportunities might be to formalize or strengthen joint, professional Risk Management processes shared by the Client and the service provider run Program. If contractual terms are vague or lack direction in this area, it will often be a very worthwhile effort to formalize roles, responsibilities and the related governance of program risks. Benefit Realization Management and Risk Management practices also complement each other extremely well.

Regional Client Program Management Offices - overseeing multiple different Client Programs/Contracts with a vertical or regional focus - often have lifespan of multiple years. Over longer periods, the supplier organization typically must adjust to business changes and likely enhances the range of delivery methods, tool-sets, perhaps performs business process re-engineering and outsourcing, and they add new commercial services requiring different project delivery skills and approaches. There is a lot to facilitate and keep straight in such an environment.

  • For these Regional PMOs I often see opportunities in the area of improving Scope Management practices, change control governance and resulting integration management.
  • All too often I find that needed scope and change management controls are not appropriately defined or they may be ineffective. These are among the most critical program processes and a strong shared or regional PMO can assist its own projects and programs with best practice frameworks, processes, needed templates and training. Often individual programs struggle to do this satisfactorily or with needed authority on their own. Assist with implementation of effective, yet simple workflows where possible.
  • Other opportunities might be to implement common client satisfaction surveys at relationship level and perhaps transactional level. It will give you invaluable input for your continual process improvement plans. Perhaps you start with twice yearly relationship surveys and add transaction level surveys later for contract milestones and other key operational events later.

Corporate/Enterprise PMOs - supporting the governance of Project, Program and even Portfolio Management processes for an entire corporate organization or division. EPMOs are typically focused on developing, implementing and governing enterprise level methods, standards and processes for project and program management and likely are also overseeing a handful of the largest, most critical initiatives of the organization.

  • For EPMOs, I see great opportunities in the area of driving improvements in the Portfolio Management practices, improving business case formats and benefits analysis - and thereby enabling improved alignment with strategy and corporate goals and ultimately improved portfolio performance and value.
  • Depending on the size of your organization's project portfolio and organization, you may start by simply focusing on common planning practices across all Business Units and corporate functions (goal setting, common project inventory, resource planning, financial planning etc.).
  • Another valuable opportunity might be to develop, facilitate and drive best practices of Organizational Change Management (OCM) practices for larger and transformational initiatives across the organization. The criticality of OCM cannot be overestimated and too often related program and project plans are inadequate when it comes to change adoption and OCM.

Other types of PMOs - include PMOs overseeing large initiatives internal to an organization - perhaps those assigned to large optimization initiatives, those overseeing M&A transactions or large product development and infrastructure deployment efforts. They might have similarities or represent a mix of the above and based on specific needs benefit from several of the recommended elements.

Enhance your PMO: Regardless which type of PMO you are working with today or in the future, I hope you'll find areas of potential inspiration and improvements in this blog, and I encourage you to look for additional ideas in the PMO Quick Tip Guides published by PMI. These small summaries were compiled by a handful of PMO enthusiasts to help you with ideas of this type. They are available here:

Thanks a lot, until next time,

Morten Sorensen, PMP, PgMP, PfMP, ITIL

Vice President PMO, Peraton

Morten Sorensen has been in global IT and Telecommunications his entire career and has lived in Denmark, Germany and now US. He is Vice President of the Project Management Office at Peraton. Morten is certified in Portfolio Management (PfMP), Program Management (PgMP) and Project Management (PMP) and a frequent speaker on topics of:  Strategic Initiative Management, Benefits Realization Management, Portfolio Management and roles of PMOs (Project Management Offices).

Posted by Morten Sorensen on: April 16, 2019 09:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

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 (5)

"I am not young enough to know everything."

- Oscar Wilde