Saturday, March 18, 2006

Building your PMO - People, Process Tools - Part I - People

I want to suggest that there is an order to how you develop a PMO, and probably any organization, and the first step is getting the right people. Then you develop the processes and then tools. Of course this is an iterative process – not waterfall, but if you do not have the right people, forget it.

I won’t go into the logistics, as a manager you’ve probably already done this a million times. The right skill set is important, but that is very dependent on your situation and what you need. I firmly believe that you can teach people almost anything in terms of skills, as long as they are the right people. I think the right people for a PMO need to have a few important characteristics.

A Passion for Project Management: This is hard to find, but easy to detect. If you are doing multiple interviews, you will find this. One way to see it is to get them talking, if they can’t stop talking about PM, they love it. You will need people who are excited about what PM can do for a company. Passionate people are infective and you want everyone on your team to spread the virus of PM and PMOs. Each team member is the PMO every time they say or do anything. You’ve met these people. For a great example, just watch a Discover Channel documentary on some archaeological dig an listen to those archaeologists talk about a piece of rock or a skull. Or watch Antiques Road show when they have a really great find. They shake and can barely hold still enough to talk, and everyone else is thinking – “It’s just a rock for Pete’s sake” – but to them it is something so much more! And somehow to you that rock becomes so much more. That is exactly the type of person you want on your team.

Independence: Your team will often be out on their own, they need to be able to stand up to a lot of resistance and sometimes abuse. Personal independence and strength of character are vital. The last thing you need is a team member going to the customer location and caving in or saying things like “OK, we don’t really need a charter if you don’t want one.” One technique I’ve used to help PMs in the field to help them in situations like this is to have them tell the customer “I have to do a charter, my boss requires it, so if you would help me through this, that would be great.” That’s a less confrontational approach. How to determine if they are independent? I’ll talk about one in the “interview” section later.

An Open and Flexible Mind: Sounds like a yoga thing, but I hope you understand. I have had great PMs who could work independently, but could not get out of a rut. One of the worst situations is where the PM insists on following the letter of the law and not the spirit. Insisting that the customer must have this or that field filled out exactly this way is annoying at best, and it can torpedo your PMO quicker than anything. No one wants to be forced to do trivial work, and believe me, there are tons of customers out there who thing PM is trivial. That is what you are up against, so if your team can not focus on the vision and the goal and find creative alternative routes there, you are in trouble. Using the charter as an example, it is important that the document exist and that it serves it’s purpose, not that the cost benefit section contain an ROI over 5 years calculated using the corporate cost of funds at 6% and future value projections at 7% and so on. NOT TO say that your project should not have some kind of cost/benefit analysis!

A Sense of Humor / Perspective: This is something I always look for in employees. If they can not smile and laugh, frankly I’d rather not work with them. Additionally, I have found that people who do not have a sense of humor take things too seriously and tend to be closed minded. They also have a hard time at self examination, if someone can’t look at themselves and laugh, then they probably have a hard time changing. I hate to say this, but hey – it’s only work and most of us are not involved in life-threatening projects. The person who will pour themselves into their work heart and soul, but still understands that it is just that- work is the kind of person I love to work with. When you find these people keep them!

Four is enough for today - next I’ll talk a little about the interview process which is absolutely vital to finding these right people.

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