Your Project Management Office needs to adapt to better meet the needs of the organization, and one of the best ways to do that is through improving the capability of the staff so that they can respond more effectively.
That goes for the project management community as a whole within your business. There are plenty of benefits to improving capability in the team including:
- More confident staff
- Lower turnover
- Greater efficiencies
- Better knowledge sharing
- Improved morale
And the great feeling that comes with seeing an experienced (and perfectly suited) member of the team move on to a fantastic role elsewhere in the business!
The PMO is well placed to lead on building capability within the wider team. Here are 4 ways that they can do so.
1. Own The Capability Improvement Plan
The first step in improving capability across the project organization is to prepare a capability improvement plan. This is a way of identifying the current capability within the team and the gap between that and where you want to be.
When you know where you aspire to be in terms of capability, you can put together a plan to get there. This should be owned by the PMO, even if they don’t end up carrying out all of the tasks.
Don’t ignore the needs of PMO staff in the capability plan. Your PMO has development needs as well and the plan should also include a focus on making sure that the PMO team has what they need. Competency assessments can help you identify where the team is currently. Think about the upcoming business priorities or transformative changes coming in the future and establish what the team would need to do in order to be prepared to serve the business at that point. This is a clear way to future-proof your PMO and the individuals within it and it shows how the department adds real value to the organization.
2. Build Skills Development
With a capability improvement plan in place, it’s time to think practically about how to build those skills across the project management community and the PMO. If, for example, your analysis of the current situation shows a weakness in the team for scheduling, you can create a skills development plan to address this.
Skills development can take a number of directions including:
- Formal training (such as attending a scheduling classroom-based training course)
- Informal training (sitting with an expert in scheduling and having them help the individual understand the basic principles)
- Self-paced online learning (offering employees time in the working day to take an online scheduling course)
- Qualification-based courses (supporting employees through a scheduling qualification-based course like PMI Scheduling Professional (PMI-SP)®).
The PMO can take the lead on identifying individual learning paths for the project management professionals in the company, in conjunction with their line managers.
This could also include implementing job families and a structured career path if you do not have these in place already. The PMI Project Management Salary Survey – Ninth Edition reports that only 41% of organizations in the United States have a clearly defined set of performance skills for project managers: this is something that could be addressed as well.
3. Deliver Coaching and Mentoring
The PMO team are in a fantastic position to offer their project management community coaching and mentoring. Where they don’t have the skills themselves to do these roles, they have access to experienced professionals: the PMO team can facilitate coaching and mentoring programs across the teams.
This is typically different to skills development because coaching and mentoring often focus on the interpersonal and relationship-building of working successfully on projects. For example, a coach might help a project manager establish how best to respond to a difficult stakeholder. A mentor might chat through ideas of how she has dealt with similar conflict situations in the past, and then offer suggestions to a project manager of how they could resolve a problem in the team.
Skills development tends to be less individually targeted and is often more technical, covering skills like scheduling, risk management, reporting and so on. The benefit of adding coaching and mentoring alongside skills development is that you can encourage more rounded learning, personalized to the individuals concerned.
4. Develop Methods, Standards and Tools
Finally, the PMO can boost capability by developing the methods, standards and tools in use across the business. This should include the continued development of the PMO strategy or roadmap so that it aligns to the business strategy.
On top of that high level view, the PMO can take the lead on maintaining and developing the tools in use. This could be through producing more templates or standard documentation, updating the project management scheduling software and running informal training to boost the confidence of those using it, or introducing new tools to underpin the continued success of projects.
With a PMO dedicated to improving project management capability, you can see incremental improvements on a continuous basis. Building capability doesn’t happen overnight and that’s why the capability improvement plan is so important. Sometimes it feels as if you have simply grown in maturity and capability in such a subtle and organic way that it’s difficult to remember where you were starting from.
A clear improvement plan will help you remember those earlier days and show the real value the PMO has delivered in terms of improving the capability of the project management organization.