Multiple surveys have supported the assertion that PMOs whose primary purpose is to support project delivery by providing competent project managers are usually staffed at or below demand levels.
This can be challenging for PMO leaders who are also tasked with raising the overall project management maturity of the organization as they will find themselves torn between portfolio oversight and supporting their staff or focusing on capability improvement change initiatives. Delegation to their staff is certainly one option, but a common symptom of lower organizational project management maturity is that project managers are required to do a lot more heavy lifting to keep their projects on track leaving them insufficient time to also work on valuable, but less critical improvement initiatives.
Without committing efforts towards improving the organization’s PM maturity, the longer the PMO will remain in the survival mode of having its staff struggling to keep projects on track.
Here are some options to break this vicious cycle.
- Strategic outsourcing: We tend to think of bringing in consultants external staff to lead or facilitate process improvement initiatives, but this may be backwards thinking. Why not get approval for outside assistance to manage one or more active projects such that a full-time PMO team member can be freed up to focus on one or two high value improvement projects?
- Seek assistance from the leaders of tomorrow: University and colleges are a great source of motivated, creative talent that is willing to work for short durations at low or no cost. Sure, you may not wish to have them directly manage a high risk strategic project, but coop students or volunteers are a good way to support (i.e. free up capacity) project managers by taking over project administration tasks and some may even be able to to run with the planning or development activities for simpler process improvement initiatives.
- Lead by example: Assuming you have exhausted possibilities with the preceding options, develop a prioritized improvements roadmap based on a realistic estimation of your personal resource capacity and commit to investing at least a few hours each week to this work.
If managing a PMO feels like running on a hamster wheel that is taking you nowhere, the simplest solution may be to give yourself some perspective by stepping off.