A Thinking Tool for the PMO

We talk a lot about PMO practitioners being curious – wanting to try different approaches and think differently about the work they do. It’s never easy to find the time to take a step back to think – even more so to find the time for the PMO team to come together with the sole aim of thinking about what we do and how we might change that.

PMO leaders and managers are still finding ways to engage with their teams through the pandemic – hosting “away” days virtually – using that time for micro-learning, exercises and sharing insights and lessons.

In this post, we look at a thinking tool approach that could be used either by yourself – or even better – with the whole PMO team. Perhaps it would make a good exercise for the next PMO team get together.

The thinking tool comes from a brilliant book called The Idea Generator – which features a number of different tools you can use to come up with new ideas. It’s a business book but it’s easily applied to PMO.

It’s a boundary thinking tool – and it’s a simple equation we’ll be using.

Read on to understand the tool and gain access to the templates:

Ideas GeneratorWhat is a Boundary Thinking Tool?

In the book, it is described as:

focused on the organic growth of your business. It looks at opportunities that exist for you at the edges of your current realm of business in a number of different dimensions.

If you substitute that word business to PMO, you can quickly see that’s intriguing and hopefully, you’re a little curious.

The tool we will be looking at is about making changes in the short to a medium timeframe so this isn’t about radical change – it’s more small changes that have a big impact in some way. It’s also about being able to do something with the current capability of your PMO team and the resources already at hand.

There’s a killer question to be answered:

How might we grow / change the PMO to achieve a significant increase in value over the next two to six months for our business?


Here’s the thinking tool equation we will be using to help us find the answers to that question:

Amazing difference + Business value + Customer desire + Dead certainty = Excellence in results

It’s as simple as that – A+B+C+D=E

Here’s what each of those mean:

Amazing Difference

What will make this amazingly different from whatever the current situation is?

Business Value

What things will help this to deliver exceptional ‘business value’ to your organisation?

Customer Desire

What will make this desirable to customers?

Dead Certainty

What will help to make this an absolute certainty of success when it is executed?

Excellence in Results

What will be a stunning result look like and how could it be delivered in a sensational manner?


How to Use A+B+C+D=E

You start by stating what area it is you’ll be focusing on – how about executive-level reporting as an example to get us started.

The next is advantageous assets.  These are the things that your PMO already has in place – the assets, for example, might include – already have licences to Office 365 and PowerBI – have a Data Analyst already in the team – already have a good relationship with senior executives.

What is it that you already have available or in place that you’ll be able to draw on?

The PMO Thinking Tool

Next, you’ll be working through each of the ABCD parts of the equation.

You need to produce three answers for each of these.

Let’s take a look at each of them in relation to our executive-level reporting improvements or changes we want to make:

What will produce an amazing difference?

1. Being able to simply press a button to receive the latest report

2. To produce reports specific to that senior executive

3. To be able to produce the top three recommendations or insights based on the data

What could produce significant business value?

4. Reduce the time from problem escalation to problem resolution

5. Reduce the number of errors in project data and information being reported

6. Quickly readjust the project priorities in the project portfolio.

What could produce massive customer desire?

7. Reduce the amount of time senior executives need to spend on project meetings

8. Provide options for new data collection or information required

9. Have a dedicated person in the PMO as a point of contact for further help or investigation

What could make this a dead certainty for success?

10. The information is right the first time and trusted

11. Information can be configured, formatted and analysed to answer specific questions

12. Help reduce the risk of uninformed decisions being made


The final part of the tool is to answer the question:

How do we combine these elements to produce and deliver Excellence in results?

This is where the thinking goes further by combining the different elements.

If we combined #1 and #8 we could look at an option that allows the senior executive to have access to some simple changes they could make themselves – perhaps by a simple process flow that asks questions about what they want to know more about – or offer suggestions.

If we combined #2 #3 and #6 the senior executive would be able to pinpoint their own projects within the portfolio and the comparisons against others – and how recommendations or insights offered would affect the portfolio if the scenarios were allowed to play out.

Combining #7 and #10 means there will need to be a good deal of influencing and mindset changes that will enable the executive to feel comfortable that the information is not only right but enough – without the need to sit in on a myriad of meetings.

Here’s another completed example:

Project Sponsors

You should get the picture by now.

The thinking tool enables you to think differently – or extend your thinking and using it brings a different type of discussion to the table.

When we’re looking to extend, refresh, improve, mature – whatever we want to call it – the PMO has the collective thinking power of all its members – each coming at it from a different position, level of responsibility, subject matter expertise and individual passion and drive.

We have it available to us – and this is just one tool of many that can be used to help us extract all those great ideas.

If you liked this one, why not check out the last time we made use of the Idea Generator book with DARPEC. A tool which can be used to help us resolve an issue or situation.


Darpec and PMO

About Lindsay Scott

Lindsay is the founder of PMO Flashmob and a Director at PMO Learning - the sister company to PMO Flashmob and the best training company for PMO people in the world! She's also the creator of London's first dedicated PMO Conference; Director of Arras People and PMO enthusiast. Loves dogs and gin.

One comment

  1. Lindsay et al,

    Am sorry to miss this evenings Intelligence event but have a Zoom conference which overlaps and will be Zoomedout by then.

    Have 22nd in the diary, so hope to meet you all soon.

    Have a successful evening.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *