Setting Up a PMO

It’s another of our 12 Stand Up for PMO Days Before Christmas and some insights from our first PMO Unconference from Manchester.

With an Unconference the agenda of the day is set by the people who participate. When they arrived at the venue, they were asked to jot down their current challenges around the four areas – setting up a PMO; running a PMO; shutting PMO down and evolving and energising PMO.

We then used some of these for the World Cafes.

During the course of the day we had two World Cafe breakout sessions – conveniently in the bar area so we called it Breakout at the Bar. If you’re not familiar with the World Cafe idea, essentially when we do them at PMO Flashmob events it consists of a table with a cover which can be scribbled on; chairs for people to sit down and a theme chosen for people to talk about. As you talk, you scribble stuff down. You don’t know if these scribbles are useful, it’s just a way of capturing points which you think are interesting or could be useful.

The idea at the end of the discussion is to pick out what were deemed to be useful insights based on what the people around that table think are worth sharing with others.

At the PMO Unconference we captured these on an ah-ha board  (as in, ah-ha that’s interesting!)

In this post we share some insights from the table themes around setting up a PMO

There were a number of tables looking at different topics within the theme: setting up a PMO.

What does the ideal PMO look like?

This question brought together one table which allowed them to brain dump with words like:

On a more practical note – the ideal PMO would be a PMO that had a solid charter, backed by a sponsor in the business which offered services that helped to support the successful delivery of projects, programmes and portfolios. The services would be developed in line with the business needs (for a business that understood what its needs are). The PMO would be run and staffed appropriately – with well skilled staff and well-placed subject matter experts. The ideal PMO would be mature to a point where it could be flexible, adaptable to changing business needs.

Where to start?

On another table they were concerned with where to start on the journey to an ideal PMO.

The insights ranged from the practical and in the detail – like the old favorite of the P3O manual Appendix F (which must be mentioned at least once in any gathering of PMO people) which highlights the types of functions and services which can be offered by the PMO. Another, looking at the P3M3 model to assess maturity and to use it as a starting point for discussions with senior leaders.

Another common theme that pops up is surveying the organisation to understand what the common challenges and problems are in the business – from the viewpoints of various stakeholders and senior executives – in order to understand which services can be offered to mitigate. It is crucial to understand the different perceptions and bias at play.

Alot of the outcomes here relate to the first few steps of the PMO Value Ring – ask what people want and then give it to them – a bit simplified here but that’s the general place to start.


Getting the Sponsor on Board

With this table, the focus was on one particular individual. Perhaps the theme is not worded correctly – after all an ideal sponsor would be one that is already totally on board already however we see time and time again situations where an old sponsor moves on and someone else takes their place who might not love the PMO as much as you do.

With this table it seems to start with does the sponsor know the role of the PMO? Having conversations to gain an understanding of what their current view of the PMO is seems a sensible place to start. Understanding what their assumptions, objections and viewpoints really are will determine what the courses of action on behalf of the PMO will be.

Relationship building activities and resetting of the definition of the objectives of the PMO with a new sponsor could be vital. It’s like a marriage – compromise, trust and honesty are going to be vital on the road to a new relationship.

There was mention of education needed – which gave way to actually coaching is what is probably more suitable here. Coaching skills was a key theme in one lightning talk too – more on that later.

The word value appeared again with the PMO needing to show the sponsor the value the PMO can offer – examples included demonstrating that projects were being started right; that objectives were aligned (the projects to the strategy); that projects had the correct ownership; setting up the communication touch points that the sponsor needs.

[Take a look at the 12 Days for Stand Up Days Before Christmas]



Stand Up for 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.

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