When I think about the top project managers I’ve worked with, I reflect back on the role the Project Management Office (PMO) can have on their career development. There are four things the PMO can do to help its project managers get stronger. They are:
- Demonstrate leadership throughout the organization
- Offer them multiple and varied project opportunities
- Provide career advice and guidance
- Develop their problem solving and communications skills.
Let’s discuss how each one applies.
TAKE ME TO MY LEADER
For the PMO to have any impact, it needs to demonstrate strong leadership across the entire organization to ensure that it will be able to drive its agenda. You need to have a strong PMO no matter if the PMO is a division or department in itself, centralized or decentralized. It’s critical that the PMO be positioned strongly within the organization to ensure that its managers will be in a position for success. I’ll explain.
Autonomy is important for the PMO leadership to have an impact. Lack of that limits the PMO’s ability to make decisions and thus its effectiveness. For instance, when the PMO reports to a CIO and the CIO hasn’t given it the authority to make any decisions, the larger organization won’t trust the PMO as they should and its impact will be limited.
The PMO leader has to be at the C-level to have the most impact. The PMO leader needs to be talking and working closely with the CTO and the CIO continuously. If a critical project decision needs to be made or they need sponsorship for an organization-wide project, having a good relationship with peer level executives or high level directors will help ensure they get that backing.
If the PMO is not properly situated within the organization, the individual project managers will not have much clout and their ability to be successful will be limited. How well the PMO fairs in the overall organization is critical for leadership growth of the individual project managers.
GIVE PROJECT MANAGERS A CHANCE TO LEARN NEW THINGS
The PMO needs project managers with diverse backgrounds. You don’t want to have project managers who only have dealt with SAP implementations, for example. You want them to have a variety of projects under their belts and have done projects beyond software implementation. For example, they could also have done network infrastructure projects where they have had to move an entire network. They will know additional cost scenarios and more questions to ask. They will know the issues and risks that come up with these types of projects which will grow their value to the organization.
HELP MY CAREER GROW AND I’LL BE HAPPIER
The PMO should also help the project managers grow their careers. Most project managers are very focused on getting projects done within budget and scope. At the same time, project managers like to be challenged. They get challenged, they overcome the challenge, and they move on to the next project and yet another challenge.
It’s a big plus if the PMO can somehow help them grow their career. This may be by helping them get certified in Six Sigma or Agile project management, or get their PMP. Helping the project managers build up their knowledge and skill sets gets you better PMs at the end of the day, and then the PMO as a whole will just get better.
IS THERE A PROBLEM TO BE SOLVED?
The better project managers get at solving problems, the better the PMO will be as a whole. I’ve seen project managers that are just kind of moving the project along; and when an issue comes up, they do not try to solve it. They just kind of deflect it or put the issue on somebody else.
That shouldn’t be the case. You need project managers who can look at the big picture when problems arise. You want them to be asking the right questions, to show they have thought through the issue. And it’s okay to reach back to the more technical subject matter experts or other people with knowledge to get some ideas or insights. You want to make sure that they’re not deflecting the issue or relying on somebody else for the solution. They have to be good problem solvers. They have to get excited about problem solving. It is a core skill set for a project manager.
GET TO THE POINT, PLEASE!
The PMO needs to teach project managers to be straightforward but comfortable when they deal with people on the team who don’t have a similar background to them. They’re going to be dealing with technical people, with people that like to talk, and with people that don’t like to talk. They will be communicating with people above them and below them on the organization chart. They have to be comfortable talking to team members at all levels.
You have to be able to communicate correctly with each one and they have to want to talk to you. You’ll run into issues where some people who like to talk will probably tell you too much. But that’s just means that they’re comfortable talking to you. It’ll be up to you to determine what is valuable from the interchange.
What do you think? Are there other things that the PMO should be doing to ensure that its project managers are growing? Let me know your thoughts via email