Thursday, December 14, 2006

PMO Staffing (short)

Many PMOs today are made up of teams of professional, dedicated Project Managers who are assigned to projects throughout their organizations. One job of the PMO is to put the right PM with the right project at the right time. Because of the nature of projects, this can be VERY tricky. Even the best resource management can be inadequate when a project gets into trouble, or when several projects get behind schedule.

Staffing is also prime target of politics. Without a project prioritization system, the assignment of project managers can (and often will) be viewed as arbitrary, unfair, or biased. One way to counter this perception is to be scrupulously independent in everything you do. It will not help all the time, but being know as fair and unbiased in the little things will serve you well when it comes time for the big decisions.

Another staffing political pitfall is more subtle. In these situations, one group starts requesting a specific PM. If Joe did well for Accounting in the last project, then they will probably be asking for Joe again. They will hit you with pleas like “he already knows everyone here”, or “he’s familiar with the way we work”, and more. It sounds immanently logical and that’s the trap. Going down this path will turn Joe into “the Accounting PM.” And if Accounting has their very own PM why can’t everyone else? And why isn’t Accounting paying for him? And finally, why doesn’t he just report to accounting and we’ll get rid of the PMO?

So be careful how you staff your projects and keep the long view in mind – someone has to.


Anonymous said...

"And if Accounting has their very own PM why can’t everyone else? And why isn’t Accounting paying for him? And finally, why doesn’t he just report to accounting and we’ll get rid of the PMO?"

Indeed why not? Is there anything wrong with having accounting project managers who are familiar with the domain and understand the risks and issues present in that domain? Is there anything wrong with having a PM who has built strong relationships and built the trust necessary for communication and respect? What is wrong with a PM who shares the goals and objectives with the group he/she works in?

Sounds like your objection to this is that it may erode the PMO. Well, that may not be such a bad thing if the PMO plays musical chairs with PM's. In fact this situation argues for a "weak" rather than "strong" PMO. One which functions as a forum rather than a powerbase. The PMO in this case should be a resource for PM's rather than a functional organization. Thinking about structuring the PMO to maximize PM value to the shareholders should be the first concern. Shouldn't it?

Sorry if this seems a bit harsh, but the attitude that the PMO should somehow deliver less value in order to perpetuate itself is a disturbing thing. Perhaps that is not what you meant, but that is how I read it.

Anonymous said...

Jack - great points. Maybe I am being "PMO centric" I was thinking that this was a way to loose good PMs and experience. I have been in too many situations where PM or other good organizational experience has died by being smothered in this way.

Maybe, an answer is that "loosing" a PM is great when you have a high level of organizational maturity or experience, but not so great if you are trying to build that maturity. In fact I am a fan of the musical chairs idea with more PMs "in the field" as it were with a weaker PMO that is more of a glue than a strong organization. I think that works well, but it needs a strong organization.

Maybe one of the goals of a good PMO should be to try to work itself out of business by creating a culture of Project Management throughout the company.

Thanks for the feedback and perspective.