Project Practitioners > Creating the Project Office - a Personal Story

Creating the Project Office - a Personal Story

By Randy Englund

Creating The Project Office Every so often a student posts a course review that thrills and delights me, even more than usual, mainly because it validates and vividly describes, in a most personal manner, my deepest intent.  This review covers, in a way that should be of interest to many, a journey of creating and developing a project office, a journey that enlightens and informs others about pitfalls and best practices.  The review also depicts the benefits of online educational forums—how the lessons learned describe and may be applied on the job.

Here is L's story:

"I was interested in taking this class [UCI Extension, Creating the Program Management Office], because I wanted to learn what I might have missed 10 years ago, when I started the PMO as its first employee. And if I had to do it all over again, what would I do differently?

Well, looking back, and with the course now under my belt, I see that we had some “accidental” events over the last 10 years that were in a way strokes of good luck. First, we had a practically minded Division Manager 10 years ago, who recognized a problem (our competitors were beating us to market with new products), placed the organization on high alert, and put a practical solution in place.

Her Attila-the-Hun style was not popular with everyone, but it so happens that it worked well for us at that time. Some of what we learned early in the class was actually used to get the PMO started. The Division Manager had assessed the environment, painted a vivid picture of urgency…. and then skipped forward to the end of the process, where we implemented the PMO without any sort of vision or planning. We skipped some of the more sophisticated things in the middle. For example, we were essentially a get-it-done PMO, but did not implement a lessons learned process to continually improve ourselves. Nor did we establish a project prioritization process. While we felt the pain of these shortcomings, we thought we were doing great. We simply did not know any better.

Then another accidental event occurred – Attila left and we got a new Division Manager, Mr. Quaker. Under his leadership, we went back and caught up on some of the steps we had skipped (again, we did not know this then, I only recognize it now). He evangelized not by saying “you must do this or else,” but by galvanizing his Senior Management team in a more participative style to improve our processes. For example, he quickly recognized that we were tackling way too many projects, without any prioritization process, and no obvious links to our strategic plan. Like his predecessor, he did paint a picture of urgency, but he engaged his Senior Management team in finding solutions to these problems. We set up our first-time ever project portfolio, implemented a prioritization process, and he routinely speaks at company townhall meetings about how our project portfolio links to our overall business strategy.

So where are we today? Our course book [Creating the Project Office] and readings provided the tools for a structured approach to establishing a PMO. The forums provided me with some of the best insights into the smaller details that we are missing, like lessons learned, Sponsor skills, and a reminder to celebrate successes. Several of the items in my action plan are based on feedback I received through the forums from my fellow students.

Lastly, I am intrigued by the idea of a Project Management Center of Excellence and for me to go for the PgMP certification (thank you, Randy, for suggesting this!). There is a long-term opportunity for us to go to the next level of sophistication with our PMO. And this course experience has helped me realize the opportunity. Thank you everyone!"

And thank you for sharing this story!  Story telling is an invaluable technique to share and learn from each other.  I hope others benefit by repeating the good things and avoiding the pitfalls.

Randy Englund, Englund Project Management Consultancy

Co-author, The Complete Project Manager

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