Posts Tagged ‘pmo’

A View from the Top

June 7, 2017

The following is an extract from my new book ‘How to get Fired at the C-Level: Why mismanaging change is the biggest risk of all’ in association with my friends at Tailwind Project Solutions – the extracts follow a series of 5 Challenges that I think every organisation should consider, and consider very carefully:

‘Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future’ John F. Kennedy

Challenge 1 – invest in the right Portfolio Management

Knowing the value of your investment in change, and the consequential cost of failure to deliver this change, is critical.

So how can you get across the message that executives need to stop failing their projects without looking like a project manager with a chip on their shoulder?

Fear is one way, so why not try this simple exercise when you get the opportunity. Putting a price on something works well, I find.

Start with your company project portfolio value (this should be a reasonable reflection of the strategic investment). For the sake of this example I am going to use pounds’ sterling but of course it works with any currency. I am also going to use a small portfolio value of say £20m; again, please insert your own figure here.

The next step will depend on the type of industry you are in but if we choose a typical regulated commercial model for a business it can be said that out of that total portfolio some projects are compliance driven and some business driven. In this example, we will use 40% as compliance and 60% as business growth projects. Therefore, in this example we have £8m invested in compliance projects and £12m in business development projects, again insert the appropriate figures for your organisation. A regulatory light organisation may devote only 20% of portfolio to compliance, with 80% devoted to growth.

You know your business so I will leave it up to you to decide.

But we don’t stop there. For each project to be sanctioned there must be a ‘value added’ benefit. For compliance projects this might be expressed better as cost impact. So, failure to deliver ‘X’ will result in a potential fine of ‘Y’, and/or a potential loss in self-certification of ‘Z’ and so on. All such failures have cost impacts. This may be a 2:1 ratio calculated as the potential penalties for non-compliance plus the actual project-investment costs. In our example this would be £8m multiplied by 2 plus the original £8m, which equals £24m.

Now for the rest of the portfolio, the business growth or development projects. There would be no point in investing £1 to gain £1, there must be a return on investment. In terms of a ratio that typically might be at around 4:1 (apply your own business factor here you should be able to find relevant figures in your business case approval process). Therefore, investing £1 would gain a return in investment of £4. Using the same maths as the compliance projects we now have in our example a total of £12m multiplied by 4 plus the original £12m, which equals £60m.

We now have a ‘true’ project portfolio value of £24m plus £60m which gets us to a chunky £84m.

And guess what? We haven’t even considered disruption of business costs during the projects. What shall we say here, maybe another 20% of the total portfolio investment, so about £16m or so? But the two types of project don’t behave in the same way. I suspect that the 40% we allocated as compliance project investment has a greater success ratio than the other projects. It is not that these projects are any more ‘healthy’ but the fear of non-compliance ensures that the company throws resources at these projects in a way that it doesn’t with the 60% that are business development projects, ensuring ‘success’ the hard (and costly) way.

Now if the compliance projects are ‘successful’ (he says smiling knowingly), then the other 60%, the growth projects, must carry even higher levels of potential failure.

Work out these figures now. In our example, we will use 10% across the whole portfolio for simplicity.

Can you work them out?

Do you have the data (the accurate and real data) to do this? If not, does that worry you? (It should.)

Looking back at our portfolio we said 40% was compliance activity and 60% was business growth but think about it, on balance how many of these growth projects represent real clear blue strategic change?

I bet that most are just to keep pace with your market and perhaps only 10% of projects represent real change. So again, if failure is the ‘norm’ and the focus on success tends towards the compliance end of the project scale, how successful is this 10% – the true change projects you have underway in the organisation?

I realise that these figures are open to interpretation and maybe my maths is a bit rough but you can see the general idea. It is a little like fantasy finances but the underlying points are that a) your portfolio is bigger than you think it is and b) unless you are in the special minority you probably don’t have a good insight into how this portfolio investment is being managed and how the organisation’s money (and future) is being protected.

In our example this takes a £20m base portfolio right the way up to £105.6m.

Extensive investment in strategy through projects needs to be backed up by real commitment to successful delivery and, whilst the development of good project managers backed up with appropriate processes and methods is critical, it is the clear responsibility of the executive leaders to connect such strategy to project activity and to sponsor these projects in a competent way.

Hopefully putting a value on the portfolio will have woken up the executives (or even you).


Tailwind Project Solutions was formed in 2014 to provide a bespoke approach to project leadership development. Owned by Director & CEO Alex Marson, the organisation works with large FTSE 250 clients including some of the biggest companies in the world in the Asset Management, Professional Services, Software, Automotive, Finance and Pharmaceutical industry.  The company has a team of world-class experts who provide a bespoke approach to the challenges that our clients have, and the company was formed because of a gap in the market for expertise which truly gets to the heart of the issues clients are facing – providing a robust, expert solution to change the way that companies run their projects.

At the time, the market was becoming flooded with training companies, providing a ‘sheep dip’ approach to project management, and the consensus was that This didn’t solve the real challenges that businesses and individuals are experiencing in this ever-increasing complex world of project management. The vision was to hand-pick and work with the very best consultants, trainers and coaches worldwide so that Tailwind could make a difference to their clients, to sit down with them, understand their pain points, what makes them tick, and what is driving their need for support.

These challenges being raised time and time again are in the project leadership space, from communication issues, not understanding stakeholder requirements or having the confidence to “push back”, lack of sponsorship support, working across different cultures, languages, levels of capability and complexity. We expect more from our project managers – we expect them to inspire, lead teams and be more confident.

Tailwind’s experience is vast, from providing interim resources in the project and programme management space, supporting the recruitment process, experiential workshops, coaching – from project managers through to executives, providing keynote speakers, implementing PPM Academies, PM Healthchecks and Leadership development. The approach is created often uniquely – to solve the real challenges of each of their individual clients.

Challenging the C-Level Executives

April 12, 2017

How to get Fired at the C-level goes beyond the constraints of a book.

To that end the author offers some focused workshops, keynote presentations and insightful supporting education to help organisations achieve the success in strategic change that they desire, and to help C-level executives understand the challenge and benefit from the opportunity.

This is all about bringing a reality check to your executive team, and help can be found right here.

If your organisation or team needs a short sharp executive ‘scare’ session (or reality check) then Peter Taylor can deliver this, customised for your organisation, your executive team and the time available.

If you need to take it to the next level of detail, then the author offers two specific workshops based on his book.

Both can be customised to suit your audience’s needs and indeed, a fully customised engagement can be proposed if you feel your organisation requires something very specific in order to help you look at what you should be considering and doing to make sure your change, your projects, your organisation and you are still around for the foreseeable future.

Workshop 1: Executives – stop failing your projects!

Yes! You read that right – not ‘Executives – stop your failing projects’ but ‘Executives – stop failing your projects’.

The report Why good strategies fail: Lessons for the C-suite published by The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited in 2013 stated in its conclusion that there was a need for increased C-suite attention to implementation (and therefore projects). It said, ‘Leadership support is the most important factor in successful strategy execution, yet a substantial number of survey respondents indicate that the C-suite is insufficiently involved’.

This is why I make the loud and bold challenge that executives are failing their projects and why I strongly believe the situation needs to stop – now!

The workshop will explore the true value of your strategic change portfolio (projects) – which will probably be bigger than you think – and will explain why it, you and your organisation are at real risk of failure (and wasting a lot of that financial investment).

What you should do about this critical situation is, of course, explained simply. The two key actions you need to take to avoid strategic change failure will be introduced, making this undertaking far less onerous than it would have been had you attempted it solo.


Workshop time                                           1 to 3 hours[1]

Participants                                                 C-level executives and senior project leaders


Workshop 2: Two key actions you need to take to avoid strategic change failure

If you are concerned about strategic change failure, and by association your portfolio of projects, then there are two key actions that can dramatically de-risk this potential situation.

Step 1: Strategies for project sponsorship

It is stated in the Standish Chaos Report, amongst many others, including PMI’s ‘Pulse of the Profession’, that the sponsor is the person who is ultimately responsible for the success (or failure) of the project, who represents the business and the business change. And yet, there is a chasm in many organisations between this statement and the reality of the professionalism and associated investment in development of those active sponsors.

We will explore the current challenges of project sponsorship maturity and offer some techniques for creating an effective sponsorship community as one of the two foundations of project success.

Step 2: Building the best PMO

Here will explore the true value of a good PMO in guiding project success and supporting the sponsor community in the management of the portfolio of project change.

We explore what is meant by a balanced PMO, a design developed by Peter, as well as presenting a new working model for project management excellence with the project academy concept.

This all adds up to a critical second foundation for project success.

The workshop will be an interactive experience with first-hand case study insights and the opportunity to spend some time with one of the world’s most experienced PMO leaders.

Workshop time                                           2 to 3 hours[2]

Participants                                                 C-level executives, senior project leaders, sponsors and PMO leaders

The workshops are standalone but related and follow the journey from strategy investment through to the key foundations of change/project success.

Also available are keynote presentations based on this book, on project sponsorship and PMO leadership.

Peter Taylor

Known as The Lazy Project Manager, Peter Taylor is a project management office (PMO) expert.

He is currently leading a global team of more than 200 project managers acting as custodians for more than 5,000 projects around the world from Kronos Inc., a billion-dollar software organisation delivering workforce management solutions.

Peter is also the author of eighteen books, including the number 1 bestselling project management book, The Lazy Project Manager. In the last four years he has delivered more than 200 lectures around the world on his mission to show people how to work smarter, not harder in their quest for career success. and

[1] Workshop timing can be customised to the availability of the audience – the shorter workshop focuses only on the high-level issues with minimal interaction time permitted, the longer workshop allows for a ‘deeper dive’ and with audience interaction and discussion

[2] Again, here the workshop timing can be customised to the availability of the audience – with the longer workshop allowing for some audience interaction and discussion

Warning Signs Your Sponsor Doesn’t Care About the Project—and How to Change That

July 8, 2016

Critical to any projects success is having a good project manager we all know but after that then it is pretty important to have a good project sponsor, in fact it can be argued that the project sponsor is the more critical role; but, like the saying goes, ‘you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your relatives’ and the same is true of project sponsors.

There are many ‘types’ of project sponsor and some are really good at what they do but most can, at best, be described as the ‘accidental project sponsor’ – never having been trained, supported, or advised as to what is expected of them.

In ‘Strategies for Project Sponsorship’ the authors offer advice on many types of sponsor with suggestions for ways to work with them, or compensate for their ‘skills’ or ‘interest’ gaps. They also speak of the concept of a ‘balanced sponsor’ – being involved in the project, being objective about the project, being supportive of the project, and being reactive to project needs.

If your sponsor offers none of these key attributes and remains distant from the project, disengaged and/or disinterested, then first you need to find out the root cause:

  • Do they not know how to act as a project sponsor?
  • Or do they not believe in the project and don’t want to be associated with it in any way?

Test the reality with a one-on-one with the sponsor. If they are willing to give you time for such a meeting then it may be more a case of the former in which case:

  • Speak honestly about the issues that you are facing and the challenges your project is dealing with as a consequence of their lack of involvement.
  • Discuss what is expected of project sponsors and what the business also expects.

If it is the second reason then go back to the business case and explore the original thinking:

  • Did they have concerns at the start about the business case – and if so what were they?
  • Or do they see the role of the sponsor as a nuisance that is an added burden to an already busy schedule?

Based on this understanding you can plan a means to re-engage the sponsor if possible, and if not you need to plan to ‘fill the gap’ through your own efforts and any additional executive support you can obtain.

It has been said that ‘A project is one small step for the project sponsor, one giant leap for the project manager’ – but wouldn’t we all be that much happier if that ‘giant leap’ was supported by a really focused and competent project sponsor?




Peter Taylor is a PMO expert currently leading a Global PMO, with 200 project managers acting as custodians for nearly 5,000 projects around the world, for Kronos Inc. – a billion dollar software organisation delivering Workforce Management Solutions.

Peter Taylor is also the author of the number 1 bestselling project management book ‘The Lazy Project Manager’, along with many other books on project leadership, PMO development, project marketing, project challenges and executive sponsorship.

In the last 4 years he has delivered over 200 lectures around the world in over 25 countries and has been described as ‘perhaps the most entertaining and inspiring speaker in the project management world today’.

His mission is to teach as many people as possible that it is achievable to ‘work smarter and not harder’ and to still gain success in the battle of the work/life balance.

More information can be found at – and through his free podcasts in iTunes.

Are your Project Managers working too hard to be effective?

June 10, 2016


‘Progress isn’t made by early risers. It’s made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something.’ Robert Heinlein

During my time leading a number of PMOs across different organisations one thing was common across all of the project managers that worked under the PMO, and that was they generally could be placed in to two groups.

The first group was reasonably successful in leading projects to the point of delivery and sign off by the steering board and sponsor. But so too were the second group, they also led reasonably successful projects. The difference was in the time that they invested in doing this work. One group averaged a ‘normal’ working week (of course projects aren’t flat in their demand of project managers’ time investment but I am talking averages here) and the second group didn’t. They average many more hours.

The output was similar but the input was very different.

In my first book ‘The Lazy Project Manager’ I advocated being a ‘lazy’ project manager but by that I meant a ‘productively lazy’ project manager. I didn’t intend that we should all do absolutely nothing and I wasn’t saying we should all sit around drinking coffee, reading a good book and engaging in idle gossip whilst watching the project hours go by and the non-delivered project milestones disappear over the horizon.  That would obviously be plain stupid and would result in an extremely short career in project management, in fact probably a very short career full stop!

No I really mean that we should all adopt a more focused approach to project management and to exercise our efforts where it really matters, rather than rushing around like busy, busy bees involving ourselves in unimportant, non-critical activities that others can better address, or indeed that do not need addressing at all in some cases.

The behavioural differences in those two groups of project managers was that the latter had not matured their project management style and failed often to delegate in the appropriate way, involved themselves in too much communication (often becoming a bottleneck slowing the communication process down) and placed themselves in the path of the majority of the decisions that needed to be taken (often becoming a bottleneck slowing the decision-making process down).

They were working very, very hard but they weren’t being really, really effective.

If you truly want to be a smart project manager, and to work in a more effective and efficient manner, then you need to start by asking yourself some fundamental questions when the next project comes along.

In ‘The Lazy Winner’, my second book on ‘productive laziness’ I talk about the 5 key tips or questions that everyone should ask themselves.

Tip #1: Do I want to do this piece of work, job or task etc? Even if I do want to do it, do I need to do it?

Don’t do something just because everyone else does it or because it is the ‘usual thing to do’. Just running with the pack is never going to allow you to take control of your own time and will only lead you in to over-commitments.

If you really want to change things for the better then begin by asking yourself two questions: ‘Is this really necessary?’ and ‘Is this really worth doing?’

If the answer is ‘no’ to either of these questions then simply don’t do it! Of course there will be times when you ignore this advice because you are compelled to get involved because ‘it is the right thing to do’ but really you need to make these exceptions just that, exceptional.

Challenge yourself the very next time you consider taking on some new work – ask those two critical questions ‘Do I need to get involved and do I want to get involved’. By addressing objectively the decision making process, rather than being swept up in enthusiasm, acceptance of delegation, or assumption that you do have to do something then you will be better prepared to a) do what is important and b) do a good job on what you accept is important.

Tip #2: Is the result or outcome worth my effort?

Only do the things with the most impact. It is all about applying the good old 80/20 rule. What are the most critical things that you need to get involved in? What is the 20% that will deliver the 80% of value (and not the other way around that most people do – often the easier actions that deliver a false sense of progress). Get the priorities right and you will achieve far more, and by prioritising this way and assessing if the outcome or output is worthwhile then you can help do what is most important.

Your time is limited (some people seem to believe that time is flexible and infinite but they also tend to over-promise and under-deliver) so invest it only in things that give you the most return on your personal investment. As with all of these guiding rules there will be exceptions but at least by starting with the all-important questions as and when you do ‘break the rules’ you will have done so with the right level of consideration and planning.

Tip #3: Do I have to do this myself?

Ask yourself if you really are the best possible person to do whatever it is that needs to be done or is there someone else in your network who is better qualified than you to do this thing? If there is then be generous and let them help you out.

The principle here is that allocating work to the best-suited person benefits everyone in the long run. Of course this cannot be done just to avoid work. You have to pick up some actions yourself.

The strength of saying ‘No’ should not be underestimated and saying ‘No’ can be a very positive thing, if you don’t say ‘No’, ever, then you will never achieve anything. There is the ‘what goes around comes around’ idea as well. Sometimes you shouldn’t say ‘no’ because despite the fact that you may not want to do something, need to do something and there is someone who could do it better, you do want to help out and be that team player or Good Samaritan.

Or, it is in your interests to take on a project so you can learn some new skills, in which case you may well not be the most obvious person for the job.

It is all about balance and priority. Overall you want to deal with the important stuff plus a reasonable amount of other stuff.

If you keep saying ‘yes’ then your backlog will never go down and you will spend far too much time working on the unimportant.

Tip #4: If you have to do it, then what is the shortest path to the point of success?

Don’t waste your time on the unnecessary. If it works in black and white don’t waste effort in creating a technicolour dream version of the same thing. What is the point after all if you are ‘just getting the job done’ (to the right quality level of course)?

Can you simplify it? Can you shorten it? If there’s something that you do that is complicated and difficult, find ways to make it easier and simpler. List the steps, and see which can be eliminated or streamlined. Which steps can be done by someone else or automated or dropped completely? What is absolutely the easiest way to do this?

Can it wait? Is it really needed when it is supposed to be needed? Will it impact on others if it waits? Sometimes, not always you understand, but just sometimes, not rushing into something can turn out to be a productively good thing as it turns out it didn’t matter anyway, or at least the need has gone away. We live in a complex world of interaction so at any given time just about everything is changing.

Do only the things that are necessary to get the job done. Cut everything else out!

Tip #5: What exactly is that point of success and at what stage will you just be wasting your time?

Having said take the shortest path to success there is a counter-argument that says can you make this of greater value in the long run. Can this be reused again and again? Can it have more value than just a ‘one-off’ piece of work? If it can, then scale it for a better return on investment.

To achieve project success in the most efficient way you always need to think ‘smarter and not harder’ and find that ‘productively lazy’ approach that will give you just as successful project together with a better work/life balance.



Peter Taylor is a PMO expert currently leading a Global PMO, with 200 project managers acting as custodians for nearly 5,000 projects around the world, for Kronos Inc. – a billion dollar software organisation delivering Workforce Management Solutions.

Peter Taylor is also the author of the number 1 bestselling project management book ‘The Lazy Project Manager’, along with many other books on project leadership, PMO development, project marketing, project challenges and executive sponsorship.

In the last 4 years he has delivered over 200 lectures around the world in over 25 countries and has been described as ‘perhaps the most entertaining and inspiring speaker in the project management world today’.

His mission is to teach as many people as possible that it is achievable to ‘work smarter and not harder’ and to still gain success in the battle of the work/life balance.

More information can be found at  – and through his free podcasts in iTunes.

Leading and Delivering the Best PMO for your Business

March 31, 2016

As a part of the PMI Australia Conference (Adelaide 30th and 31st May) where I will be delivering a keynote on ‘The Social Project Manager’ – I will also be leading a one day master class on 1st June on ‘Leading and Delivering the Best PMO for your Business’ at Flinders University in the CBD, Adelaide.

By adding this post-conference Masterclass to your registration, you get the chance to spend a whole day learning from one of the most experienced PMO leaders in the world.

Numbers are strictly limited for the Masterclass, so please make sure you book early to guarantee your spot.

  • For Conference delegates:  $400 (full-day).
  • For non-delegates:  $600 (full-day).

As a registered delegate, it is an easy 4 steps to add a Masterclass to your registration.  Go to the online form at

  1. tick the box “I am already registered”
  2. add your name
  3. select the Masterclass and
  4. make payment.

For further information about each Masterclass go to

I look forward to meeting you in May.


Plevin and Associates Pty Ltd

PO Box 54


South Australia


Tel. Nat. (08) 8379 8222

Tel. Int. +61 8 8379 8222

Fax. Nat. (08) 8379 8177

Fax. Int. +61 8 8379 8177


Give me ‘C’

March 11, 2016

I have seen in the companies that I have worked for, and I am sure that you have all seen it as well, the special ones amongst us that are on a fast track up through the organisation destined for the hallowed ground of ‘C’ level appointment. We all watch in awe and wonder at the skill and ability in acquiring new skills and mastering new responsibilities and generally doing a whole better than us.


And there is nothing wrong with that at all. They experience the company as broadly as possible with experiences in finance and in sales and in marketing and in manufacturing and even sometimes in services perhaps. They get first-hand experience of the component parts of the businesses that they will one day lead and this is a really valuable preparation. These are the ones identified as having future leadership potential and any company will invest in such people for their joint futures.

Sadly I have yet to see a future ‘C’ work their way through the project arena, the PMO, the project management practise. It seems as if, when it comes down to it, that the project side of the business (as opposed to the operational side of the business) is maybe a little less important, a little less attractive?

There is a danger of cause in putting a non-project person in charge of projects.

A comment from my recent PMO Survey summed it up with ‘the management in charge of the PMO are highly experienced operational managers, each with a significant and solid track record. Unfortunately that expertise does not translate into projects where the deadlines, delivery management and interaction between different role-players are significantly more acute than in operational management’.

So perhaps the ‘C’ is not immediately destined for the PMO leadership role but surely there is a critical need for such future leaders to understand the nature of their ever increasingly project based activities.

Take an action all of you PMO leaders – talk to the ‘powers that be’ and to the fast track talent development agencies in your companies and open up your PMO with an invitation to ‘come on in and enjoy the experience’.

In the long run it will only benefit the PMO, your projects, you yourself and, of course, the organization. Projects are here to stay and with the increase in project activity inside organisations then really the next generation ‘C’ level should understand as much as they can about our world.

The Need for Speed

February 12, 2016

Now an immediate disclaimer from me, this article really isn’t about anything to do with speed but it is a neat title I thought.

Tachometer and arrow on 7 (done in 3d)

Well when I say nothing to do with speed it does in an indirect way.

Let me explain.

This week I found myself in a cold draughty church hall with 19 other fellow humans on what is known in the UK as a ‘Speed Awareness Course’ – yes I had been caught fair and square by a speed camera sometime late last year. The National Speed Awareness Course (NSAC) scheme is designed, in the official words ‘to allow the Police to divert low-end speeding motorists to a re-education course’. The idea is that the course is designed to change the driver’s behaviour with ultimate goal of preventing the driver from reoffending in the same way.

So there you have it – guilty as charged and paying the price. I should have no complaints, and I don’t – other than why couldn’t the course have been somewhere nicer, why was I only allowed one coffee in 4 hours, why was the course 4 hours anyway when it could have been delivered in 2 hours, and why did we have to have two trainers?

All that aside and getting back to the point of this article, one of the two trainers did make a statement that started me thinking. He first asked the group ‘When did you get your driving licence and pass your driving test’ and most of us said around the age of 17 to 19, and then he asked when would we next have to be assessed for our driving skills and the common answer was ‘aged 70’ which is correct. Now even at age 70 all you have to do is apply and complete a form and you get another 3 years of driving in the middle lane on the motorways of Great Britain at 44 miles an hour (OK so that was a little stereotyping but hey you know what I mean) so no real test as such.

And here is the key – the trainer asked a final question, ‘what other activity that you have to take an exam for (practical and theory these days) can you keep doing for 53 or more years and never have to take any additional training to keep doing?’.

Now there’s a thought I indeed did think!

Consider the growth in traffic volumes in the last 50 years – consider lights, seat belts, air bags, navigational technology, brakes – consider road layouts and length of journeys undertaken – consider what that Audi A5 Sportsback I now own can do compared to my first car, a wreck of a Ford Anglia – readers can check what this actually is at their leisure but the point is it all adds up to a very different world from the point of passing a driving exam.

This is one reason I kind of like the various project management certifications out there because it is not just a matter of passing but also at renewing with evidence of practice engagement, education and contribution – I am looking at my PMP certificate as I write this (and I freely acknowledge other certifications are out there and are just as good); passed on 2nd November 2006 and renewed 3 times so far.

There must be project managers out that have taken and passed (or just stayed until the final day in some cases – you know it is true) project management courses and have never been back on any form of re-education since.

For sure practice is really, really important but I would argue that is not enough. You end up in a bubble of self-justification and personal measurement if you don’t set yourself against your peers and against the world-wide community of project managers.

Your value in the marketplace cannot be objectively measured.

And you cannot identify ways to get even better than you are, and yet there are so many ways through reading, blogs, podcasts, conferences and congresses, shared team experiences, and much, much more.

Did I at the end of the ‘Speed Awareness Course’ learn anything, yes I did and did it also remind me of some things I have forgotten, again yes it did. So was it worth it? Well yes, I just wish I taken my coat with me.

These days I am built for comfort and not for speed.


Sustain Your PMO: Nine Easy Lessons

January 27, 2016

The good news is that there is now plenty of great research emerging on the context and conditions for successful PMOs; some of the lessons learned are simple and intuitive, others less so, as evidenced in this extract from Peter Taylor and Ray Mead’s Delivering Successful PMOs.


Lesson One: Get Help

As has been already discussed the reality out there in ‘PMO land’ is that there is not a plethora of wise and experienced PMO managers, directors, leaders, heads, etc., and so it is sensible for anyone who is engaged to help an organisation set up a new PMO or advise on improvements to an existing PMO to reach out for some help.

The risk to not doing so is to, at the very least, slow the return on investment of the new PMO down. With a practical framework for guidance, such as this book, and a supporting experience coach then the organisation benefits that have led to the PMO investment will be secured in an optimum time frame and with reduced risk of failure.

This book is aimed as one source of aid, inspiration and guidance, so ‘well done’ for starting the process with the right attitude.

In addition this is what the authors, and others, do for a living so professional consultancy is another way to improve your chances of success with that PMO project.

And there are communities you can connect to – on LinkedIn, through the project management bodies such as PMI and APM, etc. Do your research before jumping on too deeply.

Lesson Two: Get the Right Leader

Having the right ‘head’ of the PMO is also critical, in Leading Successful PMOs the top five attributes for a great PMO leader were explored:

The good PMO leaders must champion project management and project managers across their organisation as well as believing in the business strategy. They must communicate with conviction and negotiate fairly but strongly for the PMO and the projects. They must be enthusiastic about leading change and critically must have the strength of belief in their own uniqueness and that of the PMO they lead.

It addition it is noted in the PM-Partners: PMO Trends 2012 report:

When a PMO is expected to work across the organisation at all levels, oversee significant investments and facilitate senior decisions – it is surprising that a high number of organisations either put the wrong person in the job or don’t support them when they are in place.

Getting the right leader of the PMO is linked to lesson number one – you, and your organisation, will want to minimise the risk to PMO failure and maximise the time to ROI. As such having the right person leading that PMO is critical to its success – it is unlike any other managerial role in many ways.

Lesson Three: Measure the PMO Value

A ‘balanced’ approach to a PMO was advocated in Leading Successful PMOs with one way to achieve such a balance was to consider structuring your efforts under the ‘5 Ps’:

  • P = People.
  • P = Process.
  • P = Promotion.
  • P = Performance.
  • P = Project Management Information System.

The point here being that it may be tempting just to think of the PMO as all about the process, the means to ensure that good project management is achieved through methodology and quality assurance etc. but that ignores the people side.

And it may be that your consideration is towards the project management community and your focus is drawn towards the people (projects are all about people after all) and so you direct your efforts as a PMO leader towards training and team building, etc., but this ignores the project mechanics.

You may also accept the need to build a good tracking and reporting system, supported by an investment in a project management information system, to deliver the visibility of project health and progress towards business goals.

But without the inclusion of a promotional programme it could well be the case that all of the good work you, and your team, achieve in the areas of process and people will go unnoticed and unappreciated by both your peers and the executive.

It is our belief that the best PMOs balance all of this to achieve the most effective development of capability, representation of capability and sharing of capability and achievement.

In the PWC Insights and Trends: Current Portfolio, Programme, and Project Management Practices report there are a series of Key Findings and one relates to measuring value:

Key Finding: A majority of organisations do not conduct regular evaluations of their PMO and also do not consistently measure benefits or returns from the PMO.

… using a PMO contributes to improved project performance; however, organisations currently do not consistently evaluate and measure the success or returns on investment (ROI) of the PMO … 29% of organisations never evaluate their PMO and 30% conduct evaluations on an annual basis. However, the 14% of organisations which evaluate their PMO on a monthly basis also measure their PMO for ROI (65% of the time). Those organisations that never evaluate their PMO measure their ROI only 9% of the time. Organisations can benefit from finding similar positive correlations between using a PMO and project performance, through conducting more regular evaluations of their PMO, as well as, business ROI.

Measuring the PMO value will ensure that you are ready to articulate the true value of your PMO to the business as needed, it will also allow you to continuously improve the PMO’s performance.

Lesson Four: Lock the Value In

The ESI report from 2015, The Global State of the PMO, identified that some 72 per cent of respondents reported that the value of their PMO was questioned by key stakeholders – usually senior management – over the last 12 months.

Despite one in three PMOs being managed at the level of the C-suite, it looked like PMOs were still struggling to prove that they add (or can add) value. Even after being in place for years, PMOs are still subject to scrutiny; one in three of the PMOs which were reported in the ESI survey to have closed this year were 5 years old, or older.

So maturity is not a safety net for PMOs.

The top reason cited in the survey for disbanding a PMO was that of corporate restructuring. On the positive side this restructuring could mean consolidating PMOs into a single enterprise model. On the negative side, though, an executive decision or change in management was cited as the reason why one in four PMOs were closed down, with an associated argument that PMOs did not deliver value.

The key here is that the value of the PMO should be ‘locked-in during the delivery period and should be regularly re-assessed and continually measured by a good PMO leader.

It is critical for a PMO to achieve a level of maturity, as the PM-Partners: PMO Trends 2012 report states:

There’s a direct link between the maturity of the PMO and the value it provides. Mature PMOs are far more likely to offer real competitive advantage to a business by increasing the speed and quality of business returns.

Lesson Five: Move with the Business

The PM-Partners: PMO Trends 2012 report summarises this well:

It is generally accepted that the Project Management Office (PMO) typically defines and maintains the metrics, standards and repeatable practice for project management within an organisation and is the first step towards:

  • Increasing project, programme and portfolio success
  • Strategy execution and business transformation
  • Increasing the speed of time-to-market
  • Visibility and cost control of execution on time and on budget

Our survey results suggest that merely implementing a PMO in itself is not enough. The PMO must evolve over time with a continuous plan to mature the practices that are of the greatest value to executives. As a PMO matures and implements high value services such as portfolio management and resource management, the organisational success metrics improve, and the value of the PMO increases.

Regularly ‘take the pulse’ of your PMO and the view of that PMO by the business. If something has changed you may need to return to the business case and re-validated and/or update accordingly.

As detailed in Leading Successful PMOs you need to ask yourself and the PMO:

  • Has anything significantly changed in the business that requires an adjustment by the PMO?
  • What is the view, within the business, of the value of the PMO?
  • Are there any key opponents to the PMO operation?
  • Are the methods you have established well adopted and adhered to, and have recommended improvements been acted upon?
  • Has the level of project maturity risen?
  • Are project managers reporting the same issues as before?
  • Has there been a change in the PMO sponsorship role(s); personnel or approach?
  • Has project ‘health’ improved or stagnated?
  • Is the PMO approach the right one?
  • Is the PMO model the right one?

You may need to survey the PMO stakeholders to understand in more detail what it is that needs extra effort and focus. Alternatively, it may be that you just need to get together with your PMO team and revisit the PMO purpose.

Whatever the situation you must ensure that the PMO is in step with the current business needs.

Lesson Six: Connect to Strategy

For a PMO to successful in the long term it needs to be connected to the strategic activity of the organisation that it supports.

In the 2012 KPMG report Business Unusual: Managing Projects as Usual the importance of strategic connection for a project was explored:

Strategic Alignment: The success of a project ultimately depends on whether the initiative aligns with the strategic and financial goals of the organisation. It is, therefore, as important to do the right projects, as doing the projects right. 94 per cent of our respondents indicated that they have some sort of strategic IT roadmap that acts as a major input to their selection of projects. This possibly explains why organisations scored the maximum for this dimension; still a significant gap is seen between identifying the right projects, setting clear expectations and tracking benefits of the project.

Pete Swan, Director PM-Partners group, declares:

A PMO is really adding value when it can adapt to the needs of the business and is viewed as a strategic asset during executive decision making.

A PMO can operate at three levels of ‘Strategic’ maturity within an organisation, the first being the custodian of strategic intentions through the ownership of the projects themselves, each of which should in some way relate directly or indirectly to a strategic intention of the organisation.

This can be considered as ‘Strategy Management’ whereby the PMO acts as the governing and advisory body to the executive by:

  • Validating that all projects that are initiated fit one or more strategic initiative;
  • Tracking the current and valid alignment between projects and strategies;
  • Making recommendations for ‘stalls’ and ‘kills’ for projects that no longer align with current business strategic thinking.

The second is ‘Strategy Delivery’ where the PMO translates the key strategic objectives into new projects to add to the existing portfolio (and perhaps to remove some from the portfolio if such objectives have changed). This ‘Strategy Delivery’ is supported by the ‘Strategy Management’ capability.

It may be that the PMO also takes some direct ownership for the execution of large and complex programmes (or projects) that are specifically critical to a key strategic initiative, such a relocation activity for example.

The final is ‘Strategy Creation’, this refers to having a role in helping organisations decide on which strategic options to pursue (and then to translate them in to projects – Strategy Delivery- and to manage their success – Strategy Management).

This is a rare situation that a PMO has reached this position of trust and influence inside an organisation but it is the potential future for the enterprise PMO that is successfully delivered and embedded with the right sponsorship within such an organisation.

In fact as observed in the PM-Partners: PMO Trends 2012 report most PMOs don’t even really ‘get off the ground’ when it comes to any of the three levels of strategic interaction or involvement:

The PMO trend is unmistakable, with over 90% of organisations surveyed having an active PMO. Over 96% have standard project management practices or methodologies, whilst only 47% have project portfolio management practices and methodologies. This is further reinforced by the fact that only 34% of PMOs are providing supply and demand planning, highlighting that there is significantly more focus on doing projects right than doing the right projects against a tough economic climate where the right investment decisions become more important than ever.

Lesson Seven: Size Matters

It was interesting attending a PMO symposium and lecturing at a local university that the same question was raised in the space of a week – and that question was ‘Is there a minimum size for a PMO?’

Thinking across the range of small-to-medium-sized companies then the answer has to be a resounding ‘yes’, partly because if you ‘do’ projects then a PMO is generally a good idea (what we mean by a PMO can mean many things to many organisations of course and we have to take that in to account). But also because if you only ‘do’ a few projects then when one comes along that demands significant investment from an organisation then the cost of failure is greater accordingly. A much larger organisation with a large project portfolio and equally large project community will be able to absorb and manage such a demanding project far more easily (and with reduced impact of failure).

So how small are we talking?

How about ‘one’?

Can the sole project manager also be the whole PMO? Well, not really in truth – a sole project manager can’t act like PMOs of many people since they can’t act objectively with regards to their own project performance, they can’t spend time investing in self-development and in method improvements and so on.

So not ‘one’ then.

Can a PMO be implemented in a small company that has limited resources, a small team of project managers only – perhaps two or three?

Well, perhaps not a ‘PMO’ as such but certainly a virtual equivalent with shared responsibility of some of the basic PMO functions that could be allocated to the remaining project resources – perhaps one person could focus on the training of project managers, another on method enhancements, and another on community aspects, etc. In this way a lot of PMO duties could be delivered to a reasonably high level.

Yes, I think a PMO can be applicable to all scales of project business but it might not be a permanent, dedicated unit of course, but more of a ‘part time PMO’.

The biggest risk to such a PMO is the ability to offer the objective insight and support to all project managers, and the business. The smaller the team then the harder it may be to do this in a constructive, non-emotional, positive way – not everyone has the skill to do this and with a close team of peers it isn’t always easy to do (or easy to receive at times).

Lesson Eight: You Do Not Have Infinite Capacity

The PMO is, if not here to stay, at least here for the foreseeable future, and more and more executives are supporting PMOs within their organisations.

The PM Solutions State of the PMO 2012 reported that:

Most companies have a PMO (87%). Of the few that don’t, 40% are looking to implement one within a year’ which is great news for all of us champions of the PMO.

The ESI Global State of the PMO 2012 report stated:

The Project or Programme Management Office (PMO) has moved up the ranks in most organisations as more than just a warehouse of methodology, tools, and process. In an effort to impact business performance through training, methodology and project guidance, many PMOs seek to support project, programme and portfolio management in a more focused, strategic manner. Regardless of its particular position in a given organisation, the PMO is prevalent in virtually every industry and many governmental organisations.

So this is all good news. The PM Solutions report also stated ‘The greater the capability of the PMO, the greater the value the PMO contributes to the firm’, which can also be considered good news.

Good news with a ‘but’. There is a strong argument for a ‘green’ PMO to try and get as involved as possible inside the organisation but there are dangers in taking on too much. The PMO is well respected these days for the most part but there is also the risk that it is seen as a solution for everything that is not ‘operational’ and that it can deal with anything even loosely associated to project work.

For example, there are other pressure points inside the same organisations that now advocate PMOs such as the weakness that many experience in the area of executive sponsorship. The PMO can have a role here to act as a temporary sponsor, as well as a role of developing sponsorship capability internally. But that is extra work.

As another example many projects and programmes suffer from a lack of focus and resource in the area of Organisational Change Management. One large PMO ran a number of Health Checks in the most significant projects and a common issue found was in the area of OCM, with recognition of the importance and value of good OCM but with an equal lack of investment in this key area. The question then was is this a potential role for the PMO, associated as it is with projects and project success, or was this just a distraction too far?

In some businesses there is a renewed focus on good ‘technical’ capability to support project-based activity and the bringing together of these technical consultants in to one community. Some even refer to this community as a Technical Project Office (TMO), so should this TMO be linked with the PMO or should it come under the management of the PMO and be another skillset resource? Should the PMO remain ‘pure’ project management or spread itself across a wider community?

These are big and potentially distracting challenges within organisations, ones that a good PMO leader will be aware of and will have a voice to contribute to, but who will also have a mind to concentrate on the key PMO work that still needs to be done.

When your PMO is well established then consider these other matters but for now be wary of making your PMO a bottomless resource for anything and everything that the business pushes in your direction.

Lesson Nine: Make Things Better

Marissa Mayer, the new CEO of Yahoo, tasked with rescuing this once mighty company, has done many things in her first few months in charge including the creation of ‘PB&J’.

A play on the ‘peanut butter and jelly’, much loved in the US, she’s cut away ribbons of red tape and instituted an internal online service called ‘PB&J’ which actually stands for ‘Process, Bureaucracy, and Jams’. This service allows employees to complain about organisational blockages and excessive overheads that slow action and decision-making.

It is critical that a successful PMO should be a ‘balanced’ PMO and this includes getting the balance right between people and process. Both are critical to project success and both come under the remit of the PMO.

But it is the responsibility of the PMO to ‘make life better’ for the people -the project managers, so that they can effectively and efficiently do their jobs – and for the business, so that the projects are seen to be under control and delivering benefits.

As you will have seen one of the critical tasks in setting up, or improving, a PMO is to review the method or framework that the organisation uses to guide their project managers. And in many cases it is often a need to add in quality reviews and some control points or stages to improve this control. But it is always a concern that anything added should add proportional value – quality assurance should deliver quality (and not be a burdensome universally hated overhead that delivers no real benefit to anyone).

One way to do this is to think carefully when you design such a process. The other is to make sure that you have a ‘PB&J’ in place for the PMO team to let you know when you have got it wrong.

Extracted from Delivering Successful PMOs, Peter Taylor and Ray Mead, 2015, Gower Publishing, Farnham. Visit for the complete text of this book, the companion volume Leading Successful PMOs and to leave your advice on or questions about PMOs and their management.

Peanut Butter, Jelly and Project Management

December 4, 2015

One of the first things Marissa Mayer did on becoming Yahoo’s CEO and being tasked with rescuing the once mighty company was to launch an assault on unnecessary bureaucracy with the creation of ‘PB&J’.


A play on the ‘peanut butter and jelly’ much loved in the U.S; she has cut away layers of red tape and instituted an internal online service called ‘PB&J’ which actually stands for ‘Process, Bureaucracy, and Jams’. This initiative allows employees to complain about organisational blockages and excessive overheads that slow action and decision-making.

“Jammed by problems and see a solution? We are looking at how to streamline process, reduce bureaucracy, and remove jams — PB&J!,” Mayer wrote in an internal memo.

“Share your ideas on what would make your job easier, boost your productivity and help solve problems.”

“….Do you see a problem and know how to solve it? Want to brainstorm with colleagues about what to fix and how to fix it? Give us your ideas. Or be heard loud and clear by simply voting.”

I have spoken many times on the fact that a successful project management office (PMO) should be a ‘balanced’ PMO, and this includes striking the right balance right between people and process. Both are critical to project success and both come under the remit of the PMO.

But it is the responsibility of the PMO to ‘make life better’ for the people – the project managers, so that they can effectively and efficiently do their jobs – and for the business, so that the projects are seen to be under control and delivering benefits.

Often one of the first tasks I get involved in when helping a company develop a PMO and associated project management practice is to review the methods or frameworks that they use to guide their project managers. And in many cases, I’ve found quality reviews and some control points or stages need to be put in place to improve the control.

But it is always a concern that anything added should add proportional value. For example, quality assurance should deliver quality (and not be a burdensome universally hated overhead that delivers no real benefit to anyone).

One way to do this is to think carefully when you design such a process.

The other is to follow Yahoo’s example and make sure that you have a ‘PB&J’ in place for the PMO team to let you know when you have got it wrong.


Fit for Purpose

September 10, 2015


There is a great presentation by Tom Peters where he talks about some organisations that get so big that they forget about some of the basic, simple, everyday stuff.

He produces a tiny shampoo bottle that he has taken from a hotel bathroom and he asks, rhetorically, ‘who was the average user of this bottle?’ The answer being that most likely this was going to be used by a middle-aged business traveler who more than likely wore reading glasses. He then asked, still rhetorically, ‘where was this likely to be used?’ And the answer this time was of course it would be used when the middle aged business traveler, who most likely wore reading glasses, was taking a shower. He paused for effect and summed up; this product was most likely to be used by this guy in a shower without his reading glasses in in steamy environment with water running and when he wanted to decipher between the two almost identical bottles of shower gel and shampoo. Result: frustration and improper use of products.

A definition of ‘fit for purpose’ is ‘something that is fit for purpose is good enough to do the job it was designed to do’, but you could argue that the shampoo bottle, standing next to the shower gel bottle, and sometimes also next to a ‘body lotion’ bottle, is fit for purpose. The trouble is you need to distinguish the shampoo bottle first to then use it and for it to truly become ‘fit for purpose’.

In a project all of the resources need to be fit for purpose if you, and your business, wish for the most successful and least costly outcome. People need to be the right people and skilled/trained in the right way, facilities need to be suitable to the purpose that they will be put to, equipment must be appropriate in design and availability, and the actual project deliverables need to also be deemed ‘fit for purpose’ – this is the responsibility of the project manager.

There can be shortcuts, and there can be cut backs but the end result always needs to be considered in the context of the impact of utilising something or someone that is not ‘fit for purpose’. And always be aware that such an approach can, in the end, make the deliverables so constrained that they fail the ‘fit for purpose’ evaluation.

Just don’t take the whole ‘fit for purpose’ too far:

In a circus, the Bearded Lady and the World’s Strongest Man fell in love, and decided to start a family. Soon the Bearded Lady fell pregnant.

A few weeks before she was due to give birth the Bearded Lady and the Circus Ring-Master were talking.

‘How’s it going?’ the Ring-Master asked, ‘Are you well?’

‘Yes thanks, we are very excited’ said the Bearded Lady ‘We have so many plans for the baby and we want to be supportive parents’.

‘That’s great’ said the Ring-Master ‘Do you want a boy or a girl?’

‘Oh, we really don’t mind as long as it’s healthy’ said the Bearded Lady ‘Oh and it fits into the cannon…’