Use Facilitation Techniques in Your PMO
Whether it’s leading a risk workshop, a scheduling session or a discussion about how to train the next generation of home-grown program managers, there’s a lot of facilitating to do as a PMO leader.
The role, by its nature, is collaborative, and involves collecting input from a wide range of stakeholders. The better your facilitation techniques and skills, the more confidence you will have to lead these discussions and position your PMO as a valued strategic partner in the organization.
There are a number of different ways that facilitation plays out, and recently we’ve seen rapid change in the adoption of new collaboration tools that allow for greater participation in online meetings. However, there’s more to being a good facilitator than knowing how to mute participants and throwing the odd poll up on to the screen.
PMO professionals have had to learn new ways of facilitating virtual meetings. Whether your team gets together on web conferencing, or you all collaborate on a virtual whiteboard, there are so many solutions available to meet the needs of a dispersed team. Spend some time getting familiar with what your tech does so you can use the features efficiently and for the right purpose.
Remember that many people in the organization will not have had the opportunity to dig into the tools in the same way as you, meaning that a lot of your colleagues will be dealing with having to learn new tech for the first time – possibly your meeting being the first time they’ve had to check out a new tool.
The PMO team can lead on this digital transition and on supporting colleagues across the business with adopting new ways of working. For example, you could set up short pre-workshop meetings to help attendees familiarize themselves with the tool before they join the real session. That will help boost their confidence and may make them more likely to contribute to the discussion.
An in-person workshop would have people in the role of chair, scribe and timekeeper. Those roles still hold true for a virtual session but you may also need people who can ‘drive’ the technology you are using and be on hand to support colleagues as they log in and get used to the features of the collaboration software.
At the time of writing, many parts of the world are still under restrictions of movement as a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Hopefully, there will be a time when more people are able to get back to an office environment. However, it looks like a flexible approach to how much time you’ll spend in your office is here to stay.
PMO teams need to make sure they are good at facilitating so they can squeeze the maximum amount of benefit out of any face-to-face time. That’s not to say you’ll cut the icebreakers and social chat during long workshops, but you do want to be a smart facilitator to make the most of in-person sessions.
Some sessions, especially those on sticky topics like organizational change management, may be better suited to hold in-person. Think about the timing of your meetings so you can maximize the participants and get the best possible environment for the topic of your discussion.
Frequently, some people are co-located in the office and others are remote. That may be because they are situated in a different office location or even a different country, or that they would normally be in the office but can’t be right now because of their working pattern.
PMO teams need to be able to flex their facilitation styles to deal with a hybrid situation, where some of the attendees are on the screen and others are in the room. The more you practice, the easier it is to facilitate across different environments, or you can bring in experienced project staff to support your efforts.
Plan to facilitate
We run a lot of workshops and group sessions for our clients, so we’ve picked up a lot of facilitation tips over the years. Without a doubt, the thing that makes a session effective, whether that is a virtual meeting or an in-person meet up, is the planning.
- What are you asking people to participate in?
- What roles do you need in the meeting?
- How will you get people to contribute, regardless of where they are and how they are participating in the meeting?
- How will you manage breaks?
- How will you consolidate notes, actions, decisions and output from the meeting? What tools will you use so that everyone can see the output as it is co-created?
Make the time to plan how to run the session, what you expect the outcomes to be, what you will do if things go wrong, and the exercises you’ll be using. Plan with the attendees too, doing your homework on issues that they might raise, topics you won’t be able to avoid and how they will respond to the planned activities during the session.
Whether you’re planning a small meeting or a full-day workshop, it’s important to plan out how to spend the time so you achieve your goals and get the outcomes you hoped for.
Facilitation is a key skill for anyone in a project, program or portfolio role, and the PMO leadership team is no exception. As you put together development plans and increase the maturity of your PMO, make sure facilitation techniques and skills are part of your journey.
Related article: 3 Steps to Perfect Facilitation