PMO Soft Skills for 2020
We’re nearly at the end of 2019 and business leaders in all industries are asking themselves, “Where did the year go?” The final quarter is a crucial time for many organizations, as they manage the holiday season with employees off work, and the increased expectations from customers and the leadership team that initiatives will be completed by the end of the year.
We are turning our thoughts to next year, and have been looking at what skills PMO leaders are going to need to excel in 2020. The right mix of skills helps you develop a culture of success, and meet those customer expectations.
So what is going to be important for us and our teams next year? Here’s our view of the top five skills you should be looking to develop in the next 12 months.
This probably goes without saying! Your Project Management Office needs a leader who has the respect of the organization.
As a team, the PMO community also needs to take a leadership role in the company. You are collectively setting the direction for how change is going to be managed, and what standards your colleagues have to reach in order to get their business projects approved and delivered. There’s a huge responsibility that comes with this level of impact, and it starts with leadership.
Leadership is relevant for every role in the PMO, not just the ones at the top. As the whole team is likely interacting with business colleagues at all levels, they should be able to do so in a way that builds credibility in the PMO.
The servant leadership model is a good one to research, because the point of the PMO is to serve the rest of the business by providing project and change management services – whatever that list of services looks like for your individual PMO.
Work by the PMO Flashmob identifies storytelling as one of the top soft skills for PMO leaders.
While it might not appear on many lists of soft skills yet, storytelling is fast becoming a key differentiator for successful leaders, and the PMO is no different.
PMOs deal with huge quantities of data, some of it objective and numerical, some of it subjective. We have to pick the stories from within the data to effectively communicate what’s really happening in the business.
Taking a story-led approach can help make your point. You’re sharing information in a way that makes it relatable and interesting, and so people can quickly grasp what you are talking about.
Don’t feel you have to become a master storyteller around the campfire: storytelling in the business setting is more about sharing information in an engaging and relatable way. It helps people remember what you are saying and guides them to take action.
Test it out by taking one data point from a large set and telling the story of that event, customer or project, to help put your larger point in context and make it relatable.
3. Stakeholder engagement
Another soft skill that probably won’t be a surprise to you! PMOs have a lot of stakeholders, from the people working in the team to the business leaders who sponsored the PMO in the first place.
Stakeholder management is now seen as an outdated term. You can’t ‘manage’ another person’s feelings and behaviors. However, you can engage them in the project, helping them see the benefit and take the required action to support the project.
Stakeholder engagement can include:
- Establishing a culture
- Team building
And other activities. This list might not look much different to ‘traditional’ stakeholder management advice, but the difference is in the attitude that goes along with it. Rather than trying to manage the people you need to interact with, you’re trying to build a partnership that will help projects succeed in the long term.
More and more PMOs are working with and supporting Agile teams. You need to be flexible in your approach as a PMO team.
That means adequately supporting both Agile and predictive project teams, where both exist in your business. And it also means being able to change direction when required to support business strategy.
Today’s world of work is fast-paced. You need to be able to keep up. We’re facing developments like the impact of robotic process automation, integrating predictive analytics and supporting the business with new initiatives like machine learning. All of these could and will have an impact on how PMOs are run in the very near future. By staying flexible, you can ensure that your PMO sees new developments as an opportunity and not a threat.
PMO leaders need to follow through, and do what they say they are going to do. Integrity is about being honest, accurate and consistent.
PMO leaders often have difficult conversations with senior leaders, and your role is to provide courteous challenge when appropriate. Being seen as someone who acts with integrity, and with the interests of the business at heart, will help you gain a voice as a respected internal consultant, with a valuable opinion to share.
Being consistent with your actions is essential to set up the PMO as a reliable source of data and information, and a team that gets things done.
Any list of ‘top’ skills is a curated snapshot of what feels like the most appropriate items at the time. The things that have made your PMO team successful over the past years are not going away – the ability to listen, being a trusted advisor to senior management, strategic thinking, business acumen, negotiating and conflict resolution skills… the required list of skills for a successful PMO Director is a long one.
However, as we move into the ‘20s it’s worth reflecting on whether what you focused on over the last years is still as relevant as we move into the new decade.