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Project managers must also be project leaders, at least partially. What happens if you want to lead a PMO?
Peter Taylor’s book Leading Successful PMOs explains. He talks about the Siemens PMO he managed. It was a three-year journey. They started with 5 Ps as their focus.
Project Management Information System (PMIS).
He started with Performance and People, and then added other areas as the PMO matured. It is fascinating to see the year-by-year progress this PMO made. Taylor also shares stories about PMO leaders and their experiences. These are his top tips:
Be a business leader, not a project manager.
With the people who will be using them, develop the new processes and tools.
Customer service is key.
Do not underestimate the amount of work and organizational changes required to set up a PMO.
PMO leadership challenges
Taylor’s survey results are included in the book. They include the fact that 78% had a project manager team before a PMO was invented. PMOs seem to be adopted after the principles and value of project management are recognized by the company.
This could explain why PMOs can be seen as an administrative function. However, it can make it even more difficult for the PMO leader to start from scratch. Their role is to improve the performance of what is already in place.
Chris Walters states in the foreword that, although the PMO’s visible component is often operational, its true value is when it transforms. This is when leadership becomes more important than management.
Taylor summarizes it as shown in this picture.
This is the core principle of the book. Doing the right things in the right order with the right people is the key. But there are more to successful PMOs that just having the right people doing what is right.
He says, “Being part a PMO team means supporting ‘the right stuff’ delivery by best practice.
A successful leader of a PMO
Taylor states, “Be passionate about project management and project management, but act like a business leader.” Taylor also lists other traits that make successful PMO leaders. These are:
Excellent at communicating
Great with people
Ability to comprehend projects
Influence key stakeholders
Ability to comprehend the bigger picture and communicate the end goal
Do not force process for the sake of process.
His research strongly supported this last point. This research revealed that project managers want their PMO to be flexible enough so they can adapt to all projects, and not to adopt a one-size fits all approach. This is crucial to establishing the unit and ensuring its respect and delivering value to customers.
Leaders of PMOs need to have the right experience
Taylor’s research found that understanding projects was a key characteristic. However, project management experience ranks at the bottom of the list when it comes to recruiting PMO leaders. Only 12% of job ads asked for project management experience, and none of the samples he studied requested portfolio or program management experience.
Are the skills really that much different?
Taylor believes that the ads he saw implied that Taylor had project management experience. I would suggest that you specify the need for project management experience if you are asking for communication skills, which is a prerequisite for most jobs.
This book is full of common sense, but it is important because many PMO staffers have not had much experience with PMOs or lack the confidence to do so.