Hooked on Organizing Chaos: PMO Leader Interview with Dana Martin, Director of New Client Implementation Services at Great-West Financial

Posted by Kristi Brin on 2/10/16 11:00 AM
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Continuing our PMO leader interview series, I had the chance to talk with Dana Martin, Director of New Client Implemenetation Services at Great-West Financial. Dana has decades of experience with PMOs and brings invaluable insights and perspective to the table. Read on for a seasoned veteran's take on communicating the value of your PMO and ensuring its success.


What was your professional journey to become a senior-level PMO leader?

I’m in that elusive category of the ‘accidental project manager.’ In my younger days, I transferred to a department that had a great visionary leader that lacked the structural skills needed to organize a development team. I stepped in to provide the structure for the team and got hooked on organizing chaos. I have probably served in every role / function within a PMO in the last 20 years.


What was your biggest challenge you faced as a PMO leader in your career?  How did you overcome that challenge?

The biggest challenge is the look in someone's eyes when you introduce yourself as being from ‘the PMO’. People come with preconceived notions or experiences with PMOs. We are often viewed as bureaucracy. The key is to make PMO services relevant to them. Yes, I need you to do time sheets. Yes, I need you to follow process. Managers quickly realize that businesses cannot scale without reliable and repeatable processes. And I love when my fiercest critics become an ally.


What key competencies and/or skills make a great PMO leader?

  • Adaptability – as organizations evolve, you will have to change with them to keep current with the maturity.
  • Negotiations – PMOs are often in the middle of competing interests. It is important to make sure that all parties are heard and properly evaluated before you institute processes / policies / priorities.
  • Fortitude – PMOs make progress transparent. Not everyone appreciates the accountability. You have to be able to handle the confrontations that will arise.


What organizational and/or cultural characteristics allow PMOs to succeed and thrive?

PMOs have to serve and fill a purpose for all levels of the organization. Do you know what services you provide to all levels of the organization? Has that service been bought into, delivered and communicated? I need to be able to have that answer for every person who steps into the elevator with me.

For example:

  • Here is what the PMO can do with your time sheet data.
  • Here is what resource utilization is projected for your team.
  • Here are the projects currently on our docket.
  • Here are the clients that will be coming on board for the next quarter. There are a lot of different types of PMOs; and yours needs to be a fit to the culture of your organization and provide value to everyone to succeed.


How do you exhibit and measure the value the PMO brings to your organization?

It is pretty simple. Are folks within the organization asking for the PMO to be included? Am I able to provide the service that I am being asked? Am I evolving to meet the needs of my organization and still provide growth opportunities for the members of the PMO?

Thank you Dana for the excellent perspective!

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Topics: PMO, Forward Thinking