Project Management

Why PMOs Need to Invest in Project Manager Skill and Experience

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Take this simple test – it will only take a few seconds but will tell you a lot.

Do you believe that all projects are equal?

Do you believe that all project managers are equal?

The answer should be obvious but often isn’t within organisations.

How Are You Approaching Project Management?

Not all projects are equal and any project management office (PMO) that assumes so will quickly get into trouble. Not all project managers are equal either, and assuming so will also get PMOs, along with the business portfolio that they represent, in real trouble fast.

Think of it this way. If you need to get from point A to point B, where A is your home and B is the local pub, then grabbing a lift from your friend will be fine, assuming sensible drinking or the friend acts as the designated drive that he or she is.

Now think of getting from one side of a city, say London, to the other. Would you still want your friend to drive you or would getting a taxi be a better option? The journey can be quite stressful and having someone up front and at the wheel who has that knowledge to get you there makes the whole experience safer and potentially faster.

Now think of going around a Formula One racetrack in a very, very fast car. Who are you choosing to drive you now? Your friend? A taxi driver? Maybe, but probably not.

All three experiences are different. All three have varying levels of risk. And all three have more suitable people to guide you to your journey’s end. And, of course, no one gets a Formula One racing driver to give you a lift to the pub.

The Crucial Role of a PMO

Part of a PMO’s role is to look after the “people” involved in a project, including project managers, program managers, and others. It is all about recruiting the best, using competency frameworks, creating good definitions of skill levels, and utilizing a mature interviewing/assessment process. It is overseeing a solid on-boarding program, together with a buddy/mentoring support infrastructure in place. It is about education in standards and methodologies, reporting governance, and project tools. And it is about assessment of delivery competence and individual performance tracking along with a flexible means for in-project and ongoing skills enhancement. It is all about the people.

But let’s go back to the two questions asked:

Do you believe that all projects are equal?

Do you believe that all project managers are equal?

If a PMO puts in place a “one-size-fits-all” solution to address all of these requirements, then it really isn’t going to work.

Hiring an inexperienced project manager who has limited practical knowledge in anything but relatively low risk and “simple” project delivery requires on-boarding, mentoring, and education in how your company runs projects. Hiring a very experienced manager requires something very different.

Deliver junior project manager level onboarding to the seasoned program manager and you will bore them to death, insult their experience, and achieve little value. Deliver high-end program level onboarding to the junior person and it will fly right over their head and, again, achieve little, if anything at all.

So, we must recognise that not all project managers are equal as the basis for the PMOs role with regards to “people.”

Which Project Manager is Right for You?

Now on to question two. Do we believe that all project managers are equal?

Clearly not in the sense that a business will recruit different levels of experience in project and program managers. Projects vary in their risk to an organisation through many aspects: scale, cost, time, locations, resources, impact, and more. By profiling the risk of each project, then a sensible PMO will align the right level of experience to the right risk level of the project.

A fairly straightforward business process change can be assigned to a more junior project manager, while a high risk, high impact, high value project can be given to a seasoned professional who has “been there and done that” before.

Assigning the right project to the right project manager is what truly counts.

PMOs need to invest in project managers – both skills and experience – in order to develop and retain a strong community of change leadership.

By profiling projects and project managers beyond the matching of capability to need, PMOs can help push project management development in a controlled way. The result is that less experienced project managers will be ready to take on more complex projects and the business will be supported by a consistently improving workforce.

Not all projects are equal.

Not all project managers are equal.

And not all PMOs are equal either, especially if they do not understand these crucial questions.

Equip Your Project Managers With Insights

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