The Arizona PMO Forum is THIS Thursday! Get to know panelist John Kretz.
1. What was your professional journey to becoming a PMO leader?My journey started with me in very “hands on” direct technical positions first, writing code to secure my undergrad degree, becoming certified in LAN/WAN technologies, then building and supporting those networks. During those years, I realized that it wasn’t necessarily a lack of technical abilities (mine or others) that determined whether an assignment would succeed or fail, but the amount of (or lack of) planning generally did forecast end results. That led me to move into project management and I’ve likely been frustrating technical people ever since. Since I’m in PMO leadership, the viewpoint raises up even further. Now, I am responsible for the entire Practice Group so that means process ownership, portfolio management, business analysis and more.
2. What was the biggest challenge you faced as a PMO leader in your career? How did you overcome that challenge?Honestly, getting the first real opportunity to lead other PM’s. We all work in matrix-oriented ecosystems today, so it’s common to work “with” nearly everyone as a PM, but true People Leader positions can be hard to come by, especially your first position. I simply refused to give up. Perseverance, coupled with a pinch of stubbornness, has served me well.
3. What key competencies and/or skills make a great PMO leader?First, you need to know what you are talking about. I’ve encountered “PMO Leaders” that have never actually (or rarely ever) actually managed projects. I know it might sound cliché, but your people need to know that you’ve walked a mile in their boots before they will really follow. That is one of the differences between managing and leading. Leaders have been there before and they take those lessons learned to heart to make their organizations better than what they may have encountered themselves in the past. After that, you need to be able to make hard decisions. You need to absorb large amounts of information, process that information and arrive at conclusions quickly. You must be a solid communicator whether that is written, spoken and yes, even PowerPoint. Your communication skills need to scale both down and up the org chart on a moment’s notice. And yes, unfortunately, you better know PMBOK.
4. What organizational and/or cultural characteristics allow PMOs to succeed and thrive?Executive support, plain and simple. If you don’t have a C-suite executive who TRULY understands and buys into the value a professional PMO can bring to the table, then you’re really just doing the dance for no reason. I’ve seen PMO’s that have great process and great PM’s become scapegoats overnight for horrible project stakeholder or sponsor ownership. You likely won’t know if an organization truly values a PMO until after you’ve joined them and spent six months there, observing. That means professional networking is one of the best tools PM’s or PMO leaders can have.
5. How do you exhibit and measure the value the PMO brings to your organization?
This really is the $64,000 question, isn’t it? PMO’s are driven by portfolio data, variances to baselines, budgets and schedules, but at the end of the day the true value of a PMO is when things “just get done”. When big upgrades happen with no drama, there likely is a good PM running that effort. It’s not the only contributing factor, but it’s a big one. A project can fail with great project management, but I doubt a bad project has ever succeeded without a PM. So, I get my sense of how a PMO is doing by the amount of noise that is generated around it. Do people talk badly about the PMO when they don’t know you’re around or do they just say “hey, that upgrade last night was successful”. I’ve learned to be an avid listener at all times at work, in elevators, at the break room or cafeteria or wherever, because overhearing comments like that will tell you more about how your PMO is respected versus what most people will tell you to your face.
Have you registered for the Arizona PMO Forum? If not, there is still time!