You run a great PMO. Your team are engaged and everything is going according to your three-year strategic plan. That’s wonderful – but it doesn’t mean you should get complacent.
As with any business team (especially the ones not directly linked to revenue generation) it’s a manager’s job to stay on the alert for the team’s performance. Within a PMO environment that goes even wider: you’ll be watching out for the performance of individuals within the team but also for the reputation and performance of the PMO team overall.
But what does that really mean? What are you watching out for? Here are 5 red flags that every PMO Manager should be conscious of. These are the things to keep on your radar and keep listening for, because when you spot them you can act quickly to bring the PMO back to the role it should have.
1. The Attendance At Meetings Changes Significantly
This could take one of two directions (or both, if you are particularly unlucky):
- Your stakeholders are ‘too busy’ to attend your meetings
- Your team members are excluded from meetings they normally go to.
‘Busy’ stakeholders points to a lack of engagement. You might hear other excuses too, like the meeting isn’t relevant, or they have nothing to contribute this month. Whatever you are hearing, the end result is the same: the stakeholders don’t feel that there is value in attending. They don’t want to give you any time or agree to meeting you because it isn’t worth their while.
This is important to investigate, especially as the underlying reason could be that they don’t get any value out of attending your meetings. If you aren’t offering value, you aren’t doing your job, so that’s a huge red flag.
If your team members are used to attending meetings and are asked not to attend, or are dropped off the invite list for the next session with a comment that it isn’t necessary for them to be there, then that’s another red flag. While many people would appreciate getting an hour of their life back through not being in a meeting, it’s a sign that meeting organizers don’t value the contribution those individuals are making to the meetings. Or that they feel the PMO has nothing to offer them at this point, so there isn’t any point in extending the tea and biscuits to another head.
2. Your Reports Aren’t Being Read
For many PMOs, the bread and butter reason for existing is to consolidate portfolio reporting into something helpful for senior management. If those reports aren’t being looked at, then what’s the purpose of preparing them?
To be fair, you might not know that reports aren’t being read as soon as it starts to happen. The red flag you are more likely to see first is that people stop asking for ad hoc reports.
This might be caused by different factors for each person. In one case it could be a personality clash, in another a personal issue that’s causing a customer to strip back their responsibilities. Lack of engagement, and the slow falling away of involvement could be caused by so many reasons, so take the time to investigate and resolve each one individually.
3. You’re Not Getting the Input for Reports
Project managers, project team members, project sponsors, business owners tracking benefits: when your customers stop giving your information, the PMO ceases up. Information is like the oil that keeps the PMO’s cogs turning.
As well as it being a struggle to get the basic inputs for your reports, a further red flag is that no one has time to review the output before it’s issued. This creates a bottleneck. Your reviewers, or quality checkers, need to consider this a valuable job for the project management community overall. Without their commentary, reports don’t get issued and people can’t read them (even if they wanted to).
4. Senior Management Question the Make Up of the Team
As a PMO Manager you don’t need to be told that this is a large red flag, waving right at you. When the execs start asking questions about how many people are in the team, and what they all do, you can bet that there are conversations going on around the business about streamlining processes and resources. And by streamlining, they will mean job losses.
Of course, your management is allowed to question whether the team is right-sized for the job. Being a PMO Manager doesn’t instantly make you a genius at hitting budget every year, or at hiring the right resources time after time. As with any other manager in a functional line job, you are under scrutiny for ensuring you stay on target and are managing the performance of the resources in your area.
If these kind of questions are being asked, you want to be able to say that your team members are genuinely pulling their weight and that their contributions are valued by the wider business. If you need help supporting individuals who are under performing, reach out to HR before it becomes a problem for the whole team.
5. There’s Something You Can’t Quite Identify
Finally, astute PMO Managers will be alert to the feelings that they can’t quite put their fingers on. It might be a throw-away remark, or a glance, or how someone makes them feel in a meeting. But they’ll know that something isn’t quite right.
The first culprit to look at here is perception. Sometimes your PMO can be performing really well and still someone has the misguided idea that it isn’t doing the right thing. Perception can be more powerful than reality in creating feelings and guiding the actions of senior managers, so it’s important to address this issue as soon as you think it might be happening.
Ask around. Find out what other people are thinking and saying about PMO performance. Then act on what you hear.
PMO Managers aren’t at more risk of other functional teams for this kind of challenge, but every department has red flags to look out for. Every team is a critical part of the business or else it wouldn’t exist. By being alert to team performance, you’ll be able to quickly spot when your department is veering off course and act appropriately to make it the highly performing and valuable division you know it can be.