What is striking to me is how rare it is to find PMO leaders that have internalized the alignment imperative. In many ways, aligning the PMO to the organization’s strategies and objectives is like aligning a person’s spine; it takes continuous adjustments in order to adapt to changing influences of motion, external stimuli and more. However, unlike people, organizations can’t go to a chiropractor for periodic adjustments. Instead, what is needed is the development of an organizational structure and culture that dynamically self-adjusts and recalibrates to an ever-changing environment.
In context to the definition of PMO alignment, let’s explore the 4 basic steps that make up a top-down approach to achieving PMO Alignment (PMOA).
1. Understand (really understand) the organization’s strategies and objectives – Fundamental to achieving PMOA is the understanding of what the organization’s strategies and objectives are, what initiatives, programs and projects support them and how successful deployment of these assets will manifest themselves in terms of operational effectiveness, competitive dominance and customer spend, loyalty and retention. Gaining this understanding and staying in the loop regarding changes to those objectives and strategies is where the process begins; the top of the top-down alignment process. The trick is in getting management to commit to meaningful measures that are not vague or esoteric. These measures must be very easy to understand by those who will be expected to achieve them.
2. Create and validate an Alignment Gap baseline – The quantification of the organization’s goals and objectives need to be understood in context to where the organization is today. The delta between the current situation of the organization and what it would look like once the goals and objectives are achieved provides the context for understanding how aggressive those goals and objectives are. This delta also provides the true improvement to be achieved and insights into the amount of change that will need to take place if success is to happen.
All of this directly impacts the alignment challenges facing the PMO. The PMO now needs to assess this challenge in context to its’:
• organization structure;
• available talent;
• external and internal perception of the PMOs past performance and cultural fit with the overall organization;
• relationships with PMO leadership’s peers, line-of-business leaders and other stakeholders;
• the frameworks, tools, and technologies it has deployed;
• project management capabilities;
• project prioritization, justification and management maturity; etc.
It is absolutely critical the PMO take an unvarnished view of itself across all the categories being assessed. The PMO leader might want to consider conducting a formal 360o assessment of the PMO organization to help evaluate how the PMO is seen by those inside and outside of the PMO. This is usually conducted by third party professionals and entails a baseline survey, focus group facilitations to create a baseline score in key performance and relationship areas.
Next, improvement goals are established (acceptable score levels) and a program established for moving the PMO towards those goals. Finally, six to 12 months later a second round of surveys and focus groups is performed and the new scores tallied. The improvements achieved are compared to the goals established. The results are published and further improvement needs reviewed. This process is not inexpensive and can easily run into the mid six to low seven figures to complete depending on the size of the enterprise and the PMO.
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