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Agile Transformation Requires Just Enough PMO Governance

Part 2: Protect team autonomy while ensuring collaboration and strategic coordination

Published By Linda Roach

Agile Transformation Requires Just Enough PMO Governance

This blog is part of a series based on tips for the PMO to support agile transformation. If you haven’t already, we recommend reading part one first, “Driving Agile at Scale: The Agile PMO,” which you can find here.

To facilitate their agile transformation, PMOs need to provide project managers and teams with greater autonomy and decision-making power to promote experimentation and drive innovation. It’s equally important to ensure efficient processes are in place so that work efforts are aligned with business strategy, enable cross-team collaboration, and measure financial value. The PMO must balance between too much and too little governance, making the role of the office critical to increasing business agility.

Part 2: Autonomy and Governance

According to the Harvard Business Review article, Agile at Scale, leaders are often tempted to treat Agile transformation just like any other initiative or project: with top-down plans, processes, and control. One of the greatest tenets of Agile, however, is an independent approach that allows teams to work through issues or roadblocks to deliver value incrementally and quickly. This advantage though tends to foster a belief that perceived bureaucratic management methods would hold them back.

In the whitepaper, The Agile PMO: 5 Steps to Driving Agility at Scale, we explore the notion of transforming your business, using your PMO as a catalyst toward an agile enterprise.

In this six-part blog series, we’ll be drawing from that whitepaper to break down each of the five elements we’ve identified that are prerequisite to the PMO’s agile transformation. Having examined both the benefits and challenges of evolving your PMO in Part 1, in Part 2, we’ll look at the goal of agile governance that the PMO should strive to achieve.

Find the Balance

To make the leap to agile, the first thing a PMO must understand is that Agile renders top-down controls ineffective—at least during execution. For example, Agile product teams often shift course every two or three weeks, based on customer feedback. This outgrowth is highly valuable to your business. Trying to control this advantage with top-down processes could stifle the creativity and fail-fast mentality that characterizes Agile teams.

It’s all about balancing top-down oversight with bottom-up agility—this is where the PMO can make a real and necessary difference. The question is, how?

The Agile PMO 5 Steps to Driving Agility at Scale Whitepaper

Collaboration Is the Way – Support vs Control

In their recent report, , Evolving PMOs in an Enterprise Agile World, Gartner advises PPM leaders to replace top-down controls and practices with collaborative leadership, as that is key to enabling continuous business outcome delivery and rapid response to bottom-up feedback.

Say yes to: collaborative leadership – and support instead of control.

The Agile PMO should become a broker for prioritizing investments at a high level, providing business leaders insight into progress of outcome delivery, and empowering teams with just the right amount of direction for strategic alignment and accountability.

Nurture Adaptation

As the PMO begins to function as a collaborative force, they also become eminently qualified to connect strategy, planning, and delivery for everyone in the organization. In that capacity, they assist teams in adapting to change based on real-time information.

In an environment where continuous feedback is critical, a collaborative mindset on the part of the PMO promotes productive relationships with individuals and teams alike. But this new-found capability is only possible as the PMO comes to understand the work being done on the ground is tracking with strategic objectives.

The Agile PMO must embrace the concept that day-to-day execution is now the job of the product manager, product owner, and work delivery teams. Success requires the PMO to collaborate and coordinate with these delivery experts to gain visibility into the work being done and understand how to guide the effort. This way, it remains in alignment with strategic efforts.

As organizations scale agility, PMOs should look for solutions that bring strategy and delivery together. By extension, PMOs should coordinate team efforts so that they are continually working toward the corporate vision together with a unified, collective understanding.

Breaking It Down

As we’ve suggested, one of the most important elements in Agile PMO governance is to constantly adapt it to make sure it’s just right. To do that, though, you should have explicit benchmarks to aim for, keeping in mind that the goal is collaborative leadership approach to aligning delivery with strategy. Here are the benchmarks we suggest in balancing out governance and collaboration.

Lean Portfolio Management for the PMO Whitepaper

Shift to Portfolio-level Planning and Agile Governance:

  • Translate strategy into measurable goals and actionable roadmaps while adapting and evolving sets of processes, roles, best practices, and responsibilities.
  • Connect strategy to the investments and outcomes that drive transformation and delivery of innovative products and services while empowering product and project teams to define their own plan and priorities in support of the strategic objectives.
  • Plan and manage cross-functional programs while enabling a variety of approaches to work execution.
  • Shift funding and balance capacity across initiatives and programs while providing real-time visibility and reporting into financials, performance, and investments.

Transforming your PMO to achieve this balance is an impactful step toward scaling agility across your enterprise.

Follow along with this six-part series on the role of the PMO as a defining force in today’s agile enterprise to ensure that your organization can drive innovation at speed and be positioned as a digital leader. In our next installment, we’ll focus on how different work methodologies are needed to deliver strategic outcomes, a key element in inspiring your organization and enabling your PMO as the primary agent in realizing agile at scale.

Continue reading the next installments of this series, listed below:

Also, we encourage you to read the full whitepaper The Agile PMO: 5 Steps to Driving Agility at Scale. It provides more detail that you’ll find useful as your plan your PMO’s agile transformation journey.

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Written by Linda Roach Director, Solutions Marketing

Linda Roach champions solutions marketing at Planview, partnering with customers to articulate their business challenges and to quantify the value of implementing change. Linda leads Planview's agile go-to-market team for portfolio and resource management. During her tenure, Linda has helped drive Planview's market advancement and significant growth through marketing leadership roles. Previously, Linda held positions at Pervasive Software, VTEL, and Kodak where she led go-to-market initiatives for new products and product line expansion. Linda holds a BS degree in Chemical Engineering from SUNY Buffalo.