An agile project management office might sound to some like an oxymoron, right?
This might be a reasonable assertion as many PMOs were first formed to provide oversight over a portfolio of projects and enforcing standards sounds like the antithesis to agility. But many successful PMOs have evolved beyond governance and control to helping their company reach higher levels of organizational project management maturity, and increasing agility should be complementary and not contradictory to this pursuit.
There are many ways in which PMOs can hamper progress towards greater agility including:
- Enforcing standards over principles
- Continuing to apply traditional funding models and prerequisites to agile investments
- Obsessing over vanity metrics such as velocity or time to market rather than business value delivered or shipped features utilized
- Evangelizing agile from the ivory tower instead of actively engaging with and supporting teams
- Failing to inspect and adapt
So what can a PMO do to actively support an agile transformation?
- Collecting chronic impediments from agile teams, curating and prioritizing them, and championing their elimination by the appropriate senior leaders
- Having the courage to say “NO!” when a given context is not suitable for using an adaptive approach
- Advocating for funding to incent early adopters to try new delivery approaches
- Encouraging staff who possess the right expertise, behaviors and attitude to train and take on Agile Lead/Scrum Master or Product Owner roles with coaching support
- Examining their own operational processes and leaning them out as much as possible
- Shifting portfolio reporting from being a manual, onerous process to the automated consumption of information radiators
- Migrating from an artifact-centric delivery approach to an information-centric model
- Transforming heavy, gate-based governance to a metrics-driven, exception-based process
- Working actively with functional managers, procurement, HR and other key stakeholders to change their project engagement models to be more support of adaptive approaches
- Helping portfolio governance committees to make their investment selection, evaluation and prioritization processes more agile
An agile transformation provides the leadership of a PMO with a good opportunity to review their charter and service catalog – are these still relevant, and if not, what can be changed to ensure that the PMO is not identified as common impediment by agile teams!