You’ve implemented a PMO – great. PMOs can add a lot of value but sometimes they fail to meet the organization’s needs. You want to be able to step in before that situation gets out of hand and you find yourself managing a team with low morale that isn’t adding anything to the strategic vision of the company.
What are the warning signs that you should look out for? Here are 10 signs that your PMO is struggling.
1. Managers Don’t Show Up For Meetings
This is a sign that lack of commitment from the people above. If you need them to attend for whatever reason and you are constantly faced with excuses, it’s a signal that they don’t feel it is worth their time.
2. Your Funding Is Cut
Funding is tight for all teams, and many departments are regularly asked to trim their opex or streamline their plans for capex expenditure. But if the PMO is asked to take more than its fair share of budget cuts, this could be a sign that the work of the department is not considered as important as the work of other teams. It’s an underlying sign that the C-suite feels you can take the hit.
3. You’re Asked To Loan Staff To Other Teams
This might actually be a very good sign, but if you get more requests to ‘borrow’ staff than you do staff coming in for a secondment to see what working in the PMO is all about, then it could be a sign your department is seen as not adding much value.
When management feels that they can pull staff away from the PMO, that tends to reflect the fact that they believe the ‘important’ work is happening elsewhere, and that’s where they want to move the people to.
4. Turnover Is High
The PMO is often a proving ground for people going into other project-related careers. You may find that your turnover is high in a positive way: people join the department for a few years, learn lots, develop their skills and then move on to other project or operational roles within the firm. This is a good thing and certainly not a sign that your PMO is struggling.
However, if your staff turnover is high and the end result is people going back to their original departments or leaving the company after only a short tenure with the PMO, then you should consider why that is. Perhaps because the training plans or career paths or not mapped out? Or because the team sense that it’s not a valued area of the business.
5. No One Asks For Training
One of the signs of a healthy team is that your employees want to develop and grow. If no one is asking you for training then it could be that they are planning on getting it elsewhere…in their next job.
6. Project Managers Don’t Come To You For Support
One of the major functions of a PMO, whatever type it is, is to support the project management function. That means they should consider you a go-to resource for help and support.
If they aren’t coming to you for support it could be that either they don’t know you are there or that they don’t value the services you provide. Either situation is bad.
7. PMO Managers Aren’t Invited To Meetings
A healthy PMO will be led by a management team that is active, visible and well-respected. If you find that your PMO leaders are not being invited to attend meetings that are well within their area of expertise, or where they could feasibly add value, then you should question why that is.
You’ll find out about this after the event with the puzzled question, “Why didn’t the PMO go along to that?” or “We could have got that resolved in the meeting if only we’d known.”
8. You’re Caught Out By Strategy Changes
The PMO should be fully aligned to business strategy. You should never get to the point where you’re talking to someone and they say, “Oh, we aren’t doing that any more. Didn’t you know?”
A lot of what the PMO does can be thrown into turmoil if you don’t have your ear to business strategy and how it is evolving. It can result in projects being approved that no longer meet strategic objectives, the wrong projects being stopped and resource allocation that is less than optimal.
9. Managers Don’t Know What Is Going On
Project reporting is in the remit of most PMOs. Whether that’s being able to provide company-wide portfolio-level dashboards, or project-by-project Microsoft Word documents, one of the fundamental roles of the PMO is to keep a watching brief of the progress of the work.
It’s a sign of concern when senior management do not appear to know what this progress is. They are either not reading the reports or they are not getting the information that they are interested in so they are disregarding what you send. Or the reports are too complex, or not detailed enough. Whatever the cause, the problem is that your decision makers don’t have the information they need to do their jobs.
10. Major Projects Happen Outside The Process
We’ve all come across situations where the CEO gets a personal project off the ground without going through the formal project initiation process, but where this happens more often than not it’s a sign that your PMO is no longer effective.
Your process is there for a reason, and it should apply to all initiatives, not just the ones that are kicked off by people who are diligent enough to research what they should be doing. In fact, no one should need to research how to start a project: ideally it should be baked into the DNA of the company and covered in induction for new employees if it’s appropriate to their roles.
Watch out for these 10 signs. Identifying them is the first step to putting them right.