CQU Project Management education

Cooking projects in a PMO

Michelle LaBrosse
July 22, 2011

You are in the kitchen, surrounded by ingredients, and are asked to prepare a meal. As you look around, you notice that you have the usual: flour, sugar, eggs, milk, butter, meat, veggies, and fruit. You think, “No problem, I can whip something up in no time.” Then you take a second look around and see that there is no stove. There are no pots, pans, or utensils. No cookbook can be found.

It takes more than ingredients to create a meal, and it takes more than resources to manage a project. You need to have standards (cooking temperature), documentation (recipes), guidance (cooking shows), economies of repetition (making meals every day), and metrics (your taste testers). Your kitchen is the project management office (PMO) of your meals, ensuring that ingredients are put together in a way that consistently and efficiently produces edible (if not delicious) results.

Now that I’ve gotten you hungry, let’s think about how this applies to a matter near and dear to your heart—managing successful projects! History shows us that companies that have PMOs perform consistently better than those without PMOs. A study done by CIO and the Project Management Institute (PMI) revealed that the longer a company has a PMO in place, the better its project success rates become.

In the study, CIO and PMI discovered that 37% of companies with a PMO for less than one year reported increases in project success rate, while companies with a PMO for four or more years had a 65% increase in project success. Like a good piece of steak, the longer your PMO marinates the better your projects turn out.

So what are the first steps that you need to take when you decide to establish a PMO?

Pick your flavour. PMOs can come in all shapes and forms. Whether you are revamping your current PMO or starting from scratch, it important that you set up a PMO that reflects the need of your organisation. Whether you need a place that project managers can go to for training, best practices, and guidance, or you require a central unit of project managers who are loaned out to business units to work on  projects, ask yourself and your coworkers these questions before organising your PMO.

Don’t forget to measure! In order to quantify your project management success rates with a PMO, you need to know where you are now. This is also true if you already have a PMO and wish to revise it for greater project success. What percent of projects in your organisation are completed on time and within budget? What percent are not, and how much are they over budget or behind schedule? Keep careful records of your project success rates, as this gives you a transparent view into how changes in your PMO can affect your organisation’s project success rates.

Develop a recipe book and share it. We all have that friend that can make the most delicious (insert mouthwatering and delectable item here) in the world, but he refuses to share the recipe claiming it’s a ‘family secret’. While this might fly in the food world, it cannot lead to project success in project management. In the project management world, if someone has a secret recipe for success, it’s your job to get that recipe. Make your PMO the central hub for best practices—templates, procedures, project plans, lessons learned, etc—so that your company can save time on its projects.

Taste test and improve as you go. It’s important to check on your PMO throughout its creation, as well as when it is done, in order to ensure that it’s the kind of PMO that your organisation can use effectively. If you find that your PMO is implementing too much red tape and slowing projects down, revisit the processes you put in place and adapt to your organisation’s tastes and preferences.

Dig in! Once your PMO is set up—use it! Pretty cakes aren’t baked to look at, and PMOs aren’t constructed for show. Make sure your PMO is not just a symbol of organisation in the company, but a functioning part of everyday business and a true enhancement to the way that projects are done. The best PMOs are the ones that are actionable, and not just administrative.

Co-authored by Kristen LaBrosse.

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Michelle LaBrosse
Michelle LaBrosse (PMP) is one of the Project Management Institute's (PMI) 25 Most Influential Women in Project Management in the World and the founder of Cheetah Learning, a former PMI Professional Development Provider of the Year. She boasts a background in engineering and is a graduate of the Harvard Business School’s Owner President Managers (OPM) program, as well as a prolific writer and educator, having authored Cheetah Negotiations, Cheetah Project Management, Cheetah Know How and Cheetah Exam Prep as well as numerous articles in publications worldwide.
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