Project Management Offices might be the guardian of processes and best practice, but that doesn’t mean they always work smoothly themselves. Here’s a look at how to assess PMO performance with a view to troubleshooting the problems you find.
What Does Good Performance Look Like?
Before you can assess how well your PMO is performing and whether there are problems, you need to have measures in place that will let you know that performance has dropped below par.
Therefore it’s important to start with your measures and metrics. These are your PMO’s key success indicators and include things like:
- Improved time to delivery for project
- Methodology compliance
- Percent of projects delivered successfully
And other measures specific to your business.
Once you know what good performance looks like and what your targets are, you can start to monitor performance of the PMO team against those targets.
Start With An Open Mind
The first step for actively addressing issues within the PMO is to acknowledge that there might be some. Managers who believe their PMO is functioning perfectly are often misguided. It’s not being negative to be aware of the fact that there may be areas that would benefit from improvement. That’s realistic. And being conscious of the need for continuous process improvement, as there is in any area of the business.
Going into troubleshooting with an open mind is a good starting point because you won’t feel defensive about issues that are then highlighted.
Monitoring Performance To Aid Troubleshooting
The easiest way to monitor your PMO performance measures is on a dashboard. Set it up once and then populate it regularly (monthly is good although if you can use your portfolio management software tools to do it in real time that’s even better and saves you a manual job).
With your dashboard in place you’ll be able to monitor trends across the metrics that are important.
You’ll be able to quickly see if any particular area is in trouble and dive into that process for more detail.
Other Places to Look for Trouble
A dashboard can only tell you so much. Without the accompanying narrative you are basically looking at numbers and charts that are hugely open to interpretation. While they give you a starting point for your investigations, they shouldn’t be your only source of data if you want to unpick what looks like it is going wrong.
Talk to the team managers involved in the processes across the PMO: the ones that your dashboard is flagging as problematic and the ones that are working well. Ask them what could be improved or where they think the weaknesses are.
You’ll get information that will help you plan an approach to improving various areas, even if those areas aren’t currently ones that you are worrying about. By implementing improvements in these areas you are future-proofing your processes against potential issues down the line. You’ll want to plan these activities in a timely way: if your PMO is undergoing troubleshooting for poor performance then the tasks to get it back on track will be your top priority right now. Document any feedback and add it to a list of future improvements so you don’t forget what the team has told you.
Deal With Poor Performance
It won’t only be processes that are causing issues for your PMO. One of the other areas to consider seriously is team performance and the individuals involved.
Managers and team leaders can have a significant impact on the success or otherwise of your PMO. For example, a manager who is engaging and open, transparent and helpful is likely to be more successful leading a PMO than a manager who is hostile to assisting project managers when they approach for guidance. It sounds obvious, but not everyone is a good fit to lead a PMO. If your PMO is in trouble, reviewing the skills and behavior of who is working there is always a good idea.
You can do this through anonymous 360 degree feedback, staff interviews or other methods approved by your HR team. You’ll also be able to assess individual’s performance through their annual performance review cycle.
Ultimately you might be facing letting someone go if they are the root cause of some of the performance issues the PMO is suffering from. Take advice from your HR team and manage this in a professional way. You may be able to move them into a role more suited to their skills and that is always preferable to losing a knowledgeable member of the team.
Deal With Lack of Skills
Another people-related problem is lack of skill. Some of the issues faced by the PMO could simply be due to lack of training. Finding this out is a good thing! It’s easy to fix lack of skill. You can send people on formal training, deliver informal or formal training in-house, provide a mentor or coach, let them workshadow someone more experienced… the list goes on.
Training isn’t going to be the answer for every problem with your PMO but it’s a good place to start because many PMO team members have found themselves working in the team by accident. PMO management is an excellent career choice but not everyone grew up wanting to work Primavera for a living. A quick online course or an extended period of training could be exactly what is required to tackle some of the substantive gaps in the performance of the PMO overall.
Prepare a Performance Improvement Plan
If a project was struggling, the PMO would work with them to produce a Performance Improvement Plan. They would sit with the project manager after an informal review and work together to find out how best to improve the performance of the project. This would all be documented and followed up in the weeks to come.
Do the same for your performance management initiatives relating to the troubleshooting work. You’ve spotted issues in the dashboard and from talking to staff, and you have plans to address these through process changes and reviewing staff competencies (and probably other actions too). Document your plan, monitor progress against it and repeat your investigation and troubleshooting in a couple of months.
Hopefully you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the jump in performance which will be evidenced by your dashboard figures.