Coordinating PMOs and ExecutivesExecutives depend on the work accomplished by project management officesfor their own succ...
illustrates how effective a strong co-dependent relationship can be. Prior tothe creation of the PMO with a co-dependent e...
of those systems, named Fluent, was described a decade ago in a Reutersarticle titled “CIA Using Data Mining Technology to...
decisions. The project managers prepared for each of the project reviews withthe information needed to support the schedul...
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Coordinating pm os and executives

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Coordinating pm os and executives

  1. 1. Coordinating PMOs and ExecutivesExecutives depend on the work accomplished by project management officesfor their own success, and conversely, project management offices depend onexecutives for their success. In a provocative 1999 article in Fortune magazinethat addresses why executives fail, the authors get directly to the point andstate that the number one reason for executive failure is “bad execution … assimple as that … not getting things done … not delivering on commitments.”The article also states that executives who do not deliver are three times morelikely to get fired than their counterparts who are delivering. Of course, thedominant purpose of a project is getting things done.Projects deliver products and services, and they do so according to a schedule.Projects deliver on commitments. Executives need projects so they can deliveron commitments, thus avoiding the number one reason for executive failure.Projects also require executives. The scope of projects and the judgmentsmade about their success have expanded over recent years to the point whereproject success is almost always beyond the sole control of those running theproject. Project success is highly dependent on the availability of resourcestypically not under the direct control of the project manager. Similarly, theproject manager does not have direct control over the networks and systemsthat their project must fit into. Really, the project manager doesn’t have directcontrol over much of anything upon which the project’s success depends. Thedays of the small, relatively simple, standalone project are mostly over. Thesedependencies, which are essential for the success of the project, are less oftenthe domain of the project manager and more often the domain of theexecutive. The project manager must establish a PMO that is run with a directtwo-way supportive relationship with the executive.A Real-World ExampleTo illustrate how pronounced the dependence between executives and projectmanagement offices is, and needs to be, consider the following story, which
  2. 2. illustrates how effective a strong co-dependent relationship can be. Prior tothe creation of the PMO with a co-dependent executive relationship, troublewas the norm, but the situation improved with the creation of the PMO.The story is associated with responsibilities that Michael O’Brochta (co-authorof this article) had when he worked as an employee of the Central IntelligenceAgency. He spent decades there managing hundreds of projects, managingproject managers and leading efforts to advance project management withinthe organization. The story begins with a strategic need within theorganization and an executive who recognized this need and made acommitment to take action. (Note that this is not a unique story. In the 2009book “The Project Management Office (PMO): A Quest for Understanding,”author Brian Hobbs highlights a global study of project management officesand describes the PMO best practice of tailoring the PMO function to matchthe needs of the executive, just as happens in this CIA story.)“I don’t understand it; I have staffed my new organization with hundreds ofhighly skilled project managers, yet even after our first year in business, wecan’t seem to deliver enough projects on time or to the satisfaction of ourcustomers.”These were the words that O’Brochta first heard when the director of theorganization asked for help. The director went on to describe the gap betweenhis vision for his organization and the current reality: “I’m confident thatrunning this organization as project-based is the way to go, but I neverthought it would be this hard,” said the director. “I periodically review projectschedules, and find them to be ever changing. No one is happy about a movingtarget -- not me, and least of all, not the customer. Quite frankly, I do not seewhy anyone would come to my organization if they had a decent alternative.”The project-based organization described here was formed to advance themission of the CIA. The best engineers, the best IT professionals, and the bestproject managers were combined into a single organization focused ondelivering new and better intelligence analysis systems and capabilities. One
  3. 3. of those systems, named Fluent, was described a decade ago in a Reutersarticle titled “CIA Using Data Mining Technology to Find Nuggets.” This wascutting-edge technology focused on critical CIA mission needs at the time.Finally, the director got to the point of the conversation: “Will you come andhelp?”During the following year, O’Brochta built and ran a strategic-level projectmanagement office. Although the published knowledge associated withsuccessful PMOs was rather limited at the time, enough was known for him toselect a couple of starting points. O’Brochta started with one initiative focusedon the project managers and one initiative focused on the executives. For theproject managers, he led the building of a standardized project lifecyclemethodology complete with milestones and documentation tailoredspecifically for the nature of their work. For the executives, he led the buildingof a standardized governance system complete with reviews, decision-makingcriteria and change management strategies tailored specifically for their work.Previously, the roles and actions of the executives and the project managerswere out of sync. Project managers were doing their best to draw upon theirextensive backgrounds to create and follow project plans, but no two were thesame. Likewise, executives were doing their best to support the projectmanagers with resources and decisions, but inconsistency andunpredictability were common.O’Brochta routinely met with executives and others in the management chainto ensure that decisions about the PMO’s focus matched its needs; he did thesame with project managers and the various PMOs. Both the executives andproject managers learned that each group performed equally important, butdifferent, roles. The executive’s role included supplying a standardized projectlifecycle methodology for the project managers to use and holding themaccountable for using it. The project managers’ role included tailoring theprovided lifecycle methodology and putting it into practice. The executivesestablished and followed a routine for project reviews and associated
  4. 4. decisions. The project managers prepared for each of the project reviews withthe information needed to support the scheduled decision-making.Predictability and consistency became the norm. Effort that had been directedtoward “figuring out what to do” was now directed toward more productiveactivities associated with running the projects and meeting mission needs.Reference Link: http://www.information-management.com/infodirect/2011_239/PMO-CIA-project-BI-business-relationship-10022314-1.html

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