What makes a successful PMO? A great deal of hard work? Definitely. But there are some other ingredients in that “special sauce” that enables a PMO to succeed. Let’s explore.
A few years ago Jack Welsh of GE fame lead a keynote speech on large programs. He was presenting to the business leaders of some of the largest enterprises in the world. The speech began something like this:
“If you can’t get top management to support your program, don’t even bother. Don’t even waste your time.”
Why did Jack say that? Because to him, adoption is so important that a program is doomed to fail without it – all the way from the top to the bottom. You can spend an extraordinary amount of time, effort and financial resources around setting up a program, developing a methodology and implementing a solution but without the team being ‘on board’ with your program you will have a very difficult time succeeding.
Once we can secure an executive sponsor, and have them attend the kick-off, and elaborate why the initiative is so important, what’s next? The next step is making sure everyone is listening. Does everyone in the program understand what the sponsor just elaborated? Are they clear with what the objectives are? Do they understand their role in helping achieve success? One of the best examples that come to mind comes from the early 1960’s, before man landed on the moon, where President John F. Kennedy was touring the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center. A humble and down to earth leader, JFK encountered a janitor as he was being guided through the facility. He stopped the entourage and approached the janitor and asked him what he does there. The janitor replied: “I’m putting a man on the moon.” Surely he knew he wasn’t directly flying an astronaut to the moon, nor did the director of the space agency tell him to answer that way if the president asks. No. The mission of the center was so clear from the very top to the very bottom that every single person knew what their contributions were working towards.
Next idea has to do with appreciation for the stakeholders and user community. A program is most successful when everyone is able to contribute to its design and change. Capturing end user feedback and letting the PMO evolve and grow is essential. Why is this so essential? Simply because when we set out to design the program, we may not have taken everyone’s perspective into account. We may also not have thought about how each role would interact. But more importantly, you increase the chances of success by casting your feedback “net” as broadly as possible. There’s an old story that helps demonstrate this idea. On some highway, a trucker is driving his semi. He approaches a bridge with a sign that warns of 13’ of clearance. Thinking he can fit, he continues onward only to hear the sound of crushing metal and his truck quickly stopped. He gets out of his rig and finds his trailer wedged under the overpass with no easy way to get out. The state police are called followed by the civil engineer. Bridge plans are reviewed and a crowd starts to gather. A little girl walks up to the engineer and says “mister, why don’t you just take the air out of the truck’s tires?” The truck is lowered and is now able to roll out. Sometimes the best ideas come from the strangest places. But even more important, one of the people in the community was able to share an idea that had a direct impact on solving a problem, enhancing a positive framework across the entire community.
Of course, there are many other aspects to user adoption, but getting the support from the entire organization, from the top to the bottom, is essential to your PMO’s success.
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