The Art of Obtaining PMO Governance – Without the Bureaucracy

While I could fill this blog with a list of things to do and not to do, I’ve found some of life’s lessons are best communicated through stories. Here’s one of mine. Prior to joining Changepoint I worked for another company as a senior director of PMO, and I vividly remember the first time we rolled out a formal PMO department. It came after the company went through divesting half of its business followed by an equally substantial merger, forming a new corporation. We were coming out of rationalizing our business processes which included a migration to a common set of systems to support the new enterprise.

I suppose we were no different than many other companies faced with the challenge to do more with less staff and the added pressure to deliver projects at an accelerated pace. For example, each Business Unit had its own list of critical requirements, and we were challenged with capacity constraints and a fixed budget. To top it off, we didn’t have an impressive track record for delivery performance – It was clear we had to improve. Improve our speed to delivery, the quality of our work, and forecasting capabilities all while trying to minimize volatility and stabilize our throughput.

We believed the root cause of these shortcoming was how we managed the life-cycle of projects from demand intake through project closeout. If we could establish a framework to prioritize the demand, implement a standardized process throughout our System Development life cycle (SDLC), and adopt formal change control procedures we thought we would be on our way to solving performance issues.

We developed a standard SDLC process that included formal prioritization and change control procedures. Everyone in the organization supported the new process with a belief it was the right way to move forward and solve our shortcomings. Once the new processes and procedures were implemented we had a way to rank and prioritize incoming demand, and our change control procedures were now in place. However, time went by and nothing improved.

What we failed to understand was that improvements could not be made simply by putting processes and procedures down on paper and expecting everyone to follow. We did not realize the need for governance to ensure compliance, or that formal controls were needed to ensure everyone followed the new policies and procedures. I’m not sure how we missed this, particularly since we lived through SOX404.

Compensating for this required formalized audits and compliance throughout our newly formed processes. This required formal reviews with all stakeholders who had a vested interest in the deliverables with a requirement to include support material to prove compliance. As an extension of this compliance, checkpoints and formal reviews were put in place. We thought the formal signoff and approvals would ensure conformance and guarantee success in achieving our objectives, but again time went by and nothing improved.

We found the controls actually resulted in an exorbitant amount of time to prepare for and ensure compliance. To quote one of our project managers: “It takes more time to document, set up and prepare for the compliance meetings than it does to deliver the solution.” Our epiphany came when we realized that governance was actually the art of balancing formal control with the flexibility to get the job done as efficiently as possible, and that too much latitude on either end resulted in sub-performance.

Keep this anecdote in mind when you formalize your own PMO governance processes. As you continually monitor the balance of control against efficient execution, recognize that balance is not static and should be adjusted based upon how well team members are adhering to processes. The better the adherence, the less control will be needed which drives efficiencies and overall delivery performance.

Do you have a personal PMO rollout story you’d like to share?  We’d love to hear them. You can reach us on LinkedInFacebook or Twitter.

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