The PMO and Project Culture
I would like thank the Chapter Meeting of PMI Southwest Virginia for allowing me to present, the event was fun, the interaction and engagement (and the meal) were well worth the 5 hour drive.
I have been thinking on the interactions from the presentation and I feel compelled to writing something that I think will help sum it up and perhaps be helpful. While the event was from the trench perspective, it was clear that many of the concerns we discussed went far beyond the front lines or the project manager. Though the topic was more on individual project tactics, ground work for the project manager; the audience pointed out many aspects that are greatly influenced by the PMO, since this entity establishes the operating environment. For example, one question posed was on early estimates in a stage gate project organization. Early estimates are uncertain, often the scope is uncertain – and therefore the cost of the project is uncertain, for example. One of the reasons for a stage gate is to review back and project forward based upon what we have learned in the last phase. This learning will impact our original estimates and typically each of the subsequent gates provides a further refinement of the cost estimates. At some point (gate) we should expect a final estimate to be generated defining the amount for the entire project. This type of asymptotically approach to the cost of the project is the sort of defined expectation and operating methods set by the PMO and upper level management.
If these structures, rules or guidelines are incomplete or poorly done (or does not exist), the subsequent or detailed work, not matter how hard and smart the project manager and team work, will be subjected to the risks associated with this undefined or poorly defined operating method. That seemed to be a recurring theme in the discourse, not only for estimates, but the schedule as well, and my guess is more than that which was articulated by the group. These rules or guidelines are part of establishing the corporate culture and the PMO must set the tone for the management of projects. This includes tool uses, attitudes about trade-offs (for example cost and quality).