At the PMO Conference in London (June 2018), Jack Duggal spoke from the stage about the challenges facing PMOs today…the paradox of the PMO. In a world where so many businesses are facing disruption in their markets, PMOs are not equipped to deal with the complexities and unpredictability of projects.
Duggal, author of The DNA of Strategy Execution: Next Generation Project Management and PMO, talked about the paradox of the PMO.
Executives want structure, but also Agile. They want complex portfolios, but simple reporting. They want innovation, and yet they micro-manage teams. Today, PMO managers find themselves faced with this paradox of the PMO. How can they deliver what’s required in a way that does all of that?
Your Job is to Make Things Simple
Duggal spoke about “building a department of simplicity.” The goal, he said, was to get rid of unnecessary complexity in the process.
“Don’t add anything until you subtract,” he said. When you are looking at new processes or introducing different reporting – or basically doing anything new – also look at what can go.
This could be steps in a process that are now redundant. Or it could be something more fundamental, like removing a document because you have an alternative way, through software, to capture the same information.
Duggal urged PMO teams to “do less, but better.”
Another way to address the paradox, Duggal said, is to bring being human back into the PMO. This is an interesting concept. It hinges on the fact that so much of the ‘traditional’ world of the PMO is centered in reporting, data, analytics and process.
Instead, think about what you can do to embrace experiments. Focus on behaviour instead of process, and creating the right kind of environments for good ideas and sensible best practice to flourish.
Your vision should be – if you subscribe to Duggal’s way of thinking – to create a lab-like environment; a studio where you can try new ways of working in a safe space. The culture of the PMO should be fun. Don’t be afraid to enjoy what you do. Don’t be afraid to try something new and fail.
The PMO should be the curator of stories about success in delivery, and able to spread the word about how that was achieved. To have impact, it’s important to be connected, so that the results of your experiments are heard far and wide.
Balance is important because it marks the difference between adding value to the organization and being seen as a team which adds bureaucracy. With only 25% of people attending the conference saying that their PMO was perceived as successful, being able to balance governance and delivery can set your team apart.
Find the sweet spot. This is the area where you hit “rigor without rigidity.” In other words, develop your approach so you are still rigorous, but without being inflexible. Set your boundaries, so that you know the sphere of operation across various processes and the flexibility tolerance that you are prepared to accept.
You will find that in some areas of the PMO process you can allow more flexibility than in others. As long as you are clear in your own mind about how to develop this flexibility, and you share that vision with your team, you can create a balance.
You should be aiming for an environment where people feel supported, and that there is adequate governance, without it being stifling. This balance gives you the wiggle room required to flex when something needs to happen that is a little outside the normal boundaries ofr your processes.
How to Make This Happen
Many people in the audience were wondering how to put these ideas into practice in their business. Someone asked that question, and Duggal replied that the way to make change happen is to be the change you want to see.
“Think of one thing you can do,” he said. “What idea can you try in your team?”
This is the way to make a difference and to start shifting towards a more flexible, experimental PMO, capable of coping with the requirements of modern business. Pick something that you can do that is achievable, and do it. We all acknowledge that it’s hard – if not impossible – to shift the culture of an organization, so find a small thing that you know you could make work and start there.
Over time, build in more and more change, aligned to the pace of change in the organization, and you’ll develop opportunities to do things more proactively and with more lab-like behaviour.