Delivering value is a key goal for Project Management Offices. Yet, this is especially difficult in a world that becomes ever more complex.

Agile Project Management Offices however succeed better than others to face this complexity challenge.

Why? What makes Agile PMOs different? Here are a few insights. First, Agile PMOs anticipate the trends and the needs of the organization they support. They adjust in advance their structure, their service offers (hard and soft), and their capabilities. By doing so, they enable the future.

Secondly, how do they deliver better value? Here again are a few thoughts. Agile PMOs explore, learn and promote 9 key characteristics (among many others) that contribute to delivering value in a complex environment:

  • Ceaselessly understand and practice the agile mindset (a mental state involving beliefs, feelings, values, and dispositions to act in ways that favor agility). At the same time, understand that an optimum exists between total agility and total “control”.
    • Example: The PMO mesures its impact with a Balanced Scorecard that positions the “people dimension” (the project stakeholders and customers, project team, community) on top as a result of processes and resources.
  • Explore, test, and learn the characteristics of complexity, for example: self-organization, emergence, sensitivity to initial conditions, nonlinearities, acceleration of time, fractals, and scaling proprieties to cite a few.
    • Example: the PMO invests upstream time and energy to understand the project objectives, constraints, and context and gets knowledge from similar past projects in order to limit the risks of later gaps in (budget, time…) forecasts.
  • Prefer a community of decentralized PMOs / change agents acting as proxies to a heavy centralized PMO when supporting major transformation programs.
    • Example: the (central) PMO applies the principle of subsidiarity and does nothing that can be decided, done or controlled locally. At the same time, this PMO animate a community of decentralized PMOs that are well embedded in their terrain.
  • Learn and practice network analysis, social dynamics, cognitive biases detection, and generally speaking everything related to human dynamics like why tipping points emerge in social transformations.
  • Learn cultural traits, develop multicultural understanding (functional, geographical, generational…) and adjust postures accordingly.
    • Example: the agile PMO adjust the meetings’ agenda to the cultural preferences of the participants. Among these preferences are the participants action orientation or relationship orientation, their attitude regarding status, risk-adversity, or time (long-term versus short-term)…
  • Rely on proven methodologies but adjust these methodologies to the specific needs of the projects, programs, and portfolios.
    • Example: agile PMOs master the PMBOK body of knowledge and adapt its processes to the requirements of the organization, its environment, and of the project. They do not manage an information system project like an Olympics infrastructure project.
  • Break the silos between the different schools of thought in project management and master a variety of methods and tools.
    • Example: agile PMOs have onboarded experts of SCRUM or Design Thinking as well as experts of Waterfall. They know how to mix the approaches in a major program requiring go-to-market processes, manufacturing plants, and people hiring and training projects.
  • Implement nimble management systems that are nimbler than the organization’s management system (Ashby’s law).
    • Example: agile PMOs implement different steering systems at each level of their governance process, each adapted to its audience (senior executives, …, operational levels), that are forward-looking, and faster than the legacy system.
  • Replace the cost-scope-time orientation by a value orientation (impact on customers, community, team, organizational sustainability…). Everything else is an unsolvable “three-body problem”.
    • Example: agile PMOs push their project leadership to use a single goal, that is clearly defined, with a handful of accompanying principles. This the best (if not only) way to drive to success a complex system. Everything beyond this is surplus.

And, why not read also why Agile PMOs are similar to hummingbirds.

To your continued success

Philippe

Note: You can read more on agile PMOs in the 5th version of my book The High-Impact PMO – How Agile Project Management Offices Deliver Value in a Complex World.