Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Top 4 Parameters for Thinking about and Planning Your PMO

Thoughts on building a structure and plan to manage organizational resources and work at the aggregate.
I attended a great talk last night from Puget Sound Project Management Institute (PMI) called the PMO Roundtable and I'd like to share some of the insights with you.  At the talk, people agreed that PMOs are hard to create, many people struggle with the same basic organizational and cultural tensions, and that there are some basic and shared parameters of planning, resources, and work that can help us think about solving these challenges as we apply them to our own business domain or work problem.

There are five main parameters that I've identified that can help our thinking of PMOs:

Parameter #1 - Resources are of discrete types and have statuses
 Although it all boils down to "they're humans" we can simplify the problem by thinking of the people as: utilized, available, expert, etc. to help  us sort out how to fit people into slots.  Availability is another property of the resource that can of course help us with planning.  Of course the time dimension of WHEN people are of a specific type is critical to us as well.  Time is a constant dimension in systems like this that must be considered throughout the planning process.

Parameter #2 - Resources are consumed or utilized in discrete ways, some more effective than others
Resources, like their name applies are value to us if utilized properly.  There's good ways to use resources (putting them on the right tasks, treating them well) and there are poor ways to use resources (being abusive, overusing them, being mean, forceful, coercive, etc.)  We want to respect our resources but they're here for some kind of compensation and we need to get value out of them in exchange.  The matrix of resource type to preferred and dis-preferred utilization types is interesting for our planning purposes.

Parameter #3 - We can think of the work separately from the resources but need to put them together and manage the connections to add value to the system
It's nice to be able to separate the work and project plan from the actual resources.  Some people in the roundtable were talking about finding your "critical resource" (a concept borrowed from Critical Chain and Theory of Constraints) and then planning the project around them.  I feel like this method, however, is problematic and puts too much pressure on "hero individuals" rather than the team or collective.  I prefer approaches that get the team, collectively, to estimate their work and have leaders such as that critical resource work on making the others faster or more confident and build skills.

Parameter #4 - Systems, portfolios, programs, projects, and resources have slack and utilization properties; unplanned or unused slack is waste and cost
Someone in the talk last night said that you WANT slack in your project.  I couldn't understand this.  I can see how it is nice to have people free to apply to the project and critical tasks but at the aggregate slack is waste if not applied to the project.  Managing the slack is a key issue in planning one or more projects.

What do you think about these parameters?  Do they make sense?  Are there others?  Please discuss below!

2 comments:

  1. The last parameter makes sense logically; you want to minimize waste. However, removing slack can prove counter productive from a human perspective. People are not machines and after a sustained period of unrelenting productivity people become jaded, make mistakes, fight, etc. There has to be a balance. Otherwise, people will start to walk around shell shocked. On another note, having set up two successful PMOs, they are in a delicate position, depending on their mission. Clarifying that role makes all the difference.

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  2. Ralph, in agile, they separate the sprint (hard, unrelenting work) from sprint planning and sprint demo and retrospective. I feel like these cycles are sustainable. Tell me more about this, "On another note, having set up two successful PMOs, they are in a delicate position, depending on their mission. Clarifying that role makes all the difference." You are saying that getting clear on the role, purpose, place, and mission of the PMO is important? I agree............I might need some help on this for my PMO.

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