Improve Knowledge Sharing in the PMO
Your PMO is a hotbed of knowledge. You’ve got experts in scheduling, risk management, training, audits, quality and more. But how good is the team at knowledge sharing in the PMO?
Organizational knowledge capture can be tricky. A lot of what we learn about good project management practices and what works in the PMO is in people’s heads. It becomes part of the culture but not necessarily in any codified or formal way. Instead, the people with long tenure in the organization understand the unwritten codes and new starters struggle to learn how to get things done.
The PMO is the perfect place to start sharing learning. Whether you want to upskill project managers, create a template library with real examples from past projects, document processes or improve the way the lessons learned works, the PMO team has the power to do that, and more.
Here are our top five tips for building a learning organization.
1. Make time for learning
The project environment can be fast paced. Everyone wants to jump to the next level of project maturity and implement what was covered in the PMO Pulse Check. But it’s important to build in enough time to pause and reflect – make time to do the learning.
Let people know that it is OK to take time out to share knowledge or contribute assets to repositories. Add knowledge sharing or lessons learned to your regular team meeting agendas and encourage people to bring one new thing they’ve learned to each discussion.
You don’t necessarily have to schedule time in the calendar to ‘do knowledge sharing’ but you should schedule people’s availability at a pace that enables them to contribute to the wider business goals of becoming a learning organization.
2. Create centralized document storage
Make a template library. Store great examples of project documents that people can use for inspiration, along with notes about why the PMO leadership team thought they were so good. This should be accessible to everyone who needs to create standardized documentation. A shared folder on a network drive or online cloud storage can work: just make sure that the whole team has permission to access the source.
You don’t have to limit this to documents. Store photos of workshop output, videos of training sessions and anything else that new starters would benefit from.
3. Make a place for lessons learned
Project teams carry out lessons learned on projects, but what happens to the output? Typically, the project manager will file the meeting notes with the rest of the project documentation. That’s a start, but it doesn’t help other project teams. That knowledge has been captured, but you can’t honestly say the organization has ‘learned’.
Create a wiki, database or some other kind of tool for making those lessons learned searchable. Build in steps to the project process that ask project teams to review past lessons learned.
And don’t stop at lessons from projects. Capture all the organizational knowledge in the heads of the PMO team: tips on reporting for different stakeholders, what works and what doesn’t for PMO initiatives and anything else that might help the organization continue to grow in years to come.
4. Training and mentoring
The PMO can be responsible for ongoing training and mentoring for project delivery professionals in the business.
This can be on a peer-to-peer informal basis or via formal project management training. Mentoring is another option. You can buddy up new starters or more inexperienced team members with old hands. Talk to the team about what they could share with each other to upskill the group and mitigate against someone leaving or being out of the office for any length of time. Then allow them time to train their colleagues or document what they know.
Think about all your training needs and create a training plan. You’ll want to include a mixture of building skills to create a solid resource pool who can do the job, and future skills based on projects that haven’t yet started. This will help future-proof the team and make sure the organization can quickly mobilize to begin new projects when the time comes.
The influence of the PMO extends beyond the project delivery function, so it’s important to build a network outside of that.
As you meet and mix with colleagues from across your organization, you’ll be able to learn more about their parts of the business. That could give you useful insights into how the PMO could better serve those teams. You never know what you’ll find out: maybe another department has a fantastic resource or data source that would benefit another area. The PMO can provide the links between different areas to ensure the whole business is aligned to working towards strategic goals.
The purpose of creating a learning organization is to build organizational knowledge but that isn’t really the end goal. The end goal is increased productivity and faster onboarding for new starters. It’s helping the business deliver faster with fewer repeated mistakes. It’s stopping the conversations that begin with, “I could have done it faster/better/differently if I’d known…”
A PMO culture that thrives on knowledge sharing is also a culture that values productivity and repeatable success. It aims to make people’s working lives easier by taking away the friction from doing common tasks, leaving them free to invest their time in building relationships, engaging key stakeholders and doing the work of leading their projects.