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Project Management

Building a learning project community

Our Project Management Capabilities

One of my clients has an active Project Management community where regular reviews and sharing of learning are commonplace. The reason is that their Project Management Office (PMO) is very clear that its role is much more than ‘project assurance’ or ‘reporting’. They have built their PMO around four key roles:

  • managing the organisation’s portfolio of critical programmes and projects (currently around 12)
  • supporting project delivery (including assurance)
  • building capability (developing in-house skills for sponsors, project managers and team members)
  • building a PM community

This week I had the opportunity to participate in one of their regular PM community events where about 30 project people from across the business came together. They included people involved in technology projects, organisational redesign projects as well as a range of smaller and more operational projects.

The main focus of the session was to look at the APM’s recently published research report on “12 project conditions for success“. We worked in small groups to review a couple of the success factors in each group and see how they related to our experience in the organisation. If you’ve not seen the APM 12 factors, it’s well worth a look on their website as it’s a useful counterpoint to the usual “x reasons why projects fail”.

It seemed to me from our discussion that, while most of the attendees agreed that having an approach and tools was essential, it was typically the “people stuff” that made the vital difference to a project’s success in their business. So, for example, they have put a huge amount of effort into running workshops for Project Sponsors to help the understand their role. I’ve also been running introductory Project Management workshops for them where there’s as much emphasis on the people side of PM as on the tools. In fact, we emphasise the need to adapt tools and the language of PM to ensure they fit with the culture and project maturity of the organisation. “Let’s think about what might go wrong and what we can do to prevent it” goes down far better than “We need to fill in a Risk Register”!

One of the APM’s conditions for success is the need to have a “Supportive Organisation” which includes creating a project-friendly environment and support for projects. The whole focus of the event I attended seemed to me to be a great example of how my client is attempting to be a “Supportive Organisation”.

You can read my views on the ‘4 roles for a PMO’, here.

Four roles for an effective Project or Programme Office: Beware the “project police”

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