As a PMO leader, have you ever looked at a list of projects in your company? I mean, really looked at them? The projects typically describe what is to be done, not necessarily the value of doing them. Corresponding project charters and business cases often dive into a lot more detail regarding execution and may articulate the benefits from a financial perspective, but often lack strategic outcomes.
Don’t let the projects become a non-strategic to-do list for the PMO. Instead, make sure you are managing investments that drive strategy and add value to the business.
Let’s walk through a real-world scenario that may feel familiar. Projects often jump to the solution before clearly identifying the outcomes they want to achieve, regardless of the solution.
Project example: Company A wants to “Improve PMO Processes.”
Is that really the project? It’s not. This project example starts with the solution rather than the problem.
Ask yourself: Why would the business want to have the PMO improve their processes? Perhaps they feel that they invested their time and money on the wrong projects last year and that they weren’t delivered on time or return for the investment made. Understanding what they are trying to resolve will help to define the desired outcomes. The business wants the PMO to help them make better decisions about where to invest their money, manage those decisions against capacity, and ultimately create business value faster via projects.
Yes, “improving PMO processes” may enable those outcomes, but I recommend the project begin and remain grounded in the outcomes that add value to the business.
Gartner calls this “inferring strategy” and suggests framing a strategy statement in the following format:
“If we are going to improve the PMO processes to ensure that the right projects are being delivered fast, then we are supporting our corporate strategy of … (fill in the blank).”
This is a fantastic exercise you can leverage when your organization struggles with top-down strategic planning or even just understanding what really needs to be done.
You may now rename your project from “Improve PMO Processes” to “Invest in the RIGHT Projects and Deliver Them Faster.” Then, you can confirm with the business that your project for the PMO is to:
- Drive out portfolio management practices that will help the business make better decisions on what projects to invest in and that will realize strategy
- Ensure all potential projects have actionable strategy statements
- Select and approve projects that will deliver strategic goals
- Consider capacity before approving projects to avoid taking on too much work for available resources, ultimately improving throughput (moving faster)
- Monitor and measure the project against the strategy statements in addition to any other KPI’s to identify projects that should be canceled or delayed earlier
- Enable a continuous process to evaluate in-flight and new projects to continuously improve the decisions made around projects
So, next time you are looking at a list of projects being proposed or are already being worked on in your organization, ask yourself… do these have strategy statements? Was the why defined before the what? Will anyone in the business care about them after they have delivered something? Is the project team mired in requirements and lost sight of what they are trying to do? Will they lead to desired outcomes?
If not, then…time to go back to what you are trying to accomplish as the PMO. Re-write the movie. Make sure the PMO is still the star.
For a look at Gartner’s explanation of inferring strategy, download a free copy of “How To Avoid the ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ of a Level 2 PMO,” and read the Sixth Deadly Sin: Failure to Speak the Language of the Business.