A different kind of PMO. Lean-Kanban PMO.

When you talk about a PMO to a group of developers or designers or even project managers there are many prejudices about this kind of entity and in many cases a negative perception of its work.

This biased opinions have their foundations in the way PMOs tend to be used by organizations. As David Joyce explains in this presentation at the LKCE12, they focus on:

  • Governance: control. Monitoring and reporting.
  • Compliance: execution. Processes compliance prevail on delivering value to the client.

Another mindset of traditional PMOs is to maximize utilization of the resources: “The more we start, the more we finish”.  This mindset has 2 problems:

  • Increases the WIP (Work In Progress) and causes unnecessary stress to the team.
  • Increases the time to finish, as the TOC (Theory of Constraints) explains in this presentation from Teoce (in Spanish language). Starting many projects leads us to multitasking. And multitasking isn’t usually well managed. We should move from one task in a project, to another one in another project only if the first one is finished. We should jump between tasks only when it is possible to generate flow. Our project portfolio should be managed as a pull process in order to avoid overloading it.

Another kind of PMO is possible

Instead, the PMO mindset should be “The more we finish, the more we finish” as Markus Hammarberg explains in this post. “Stop starting, start finishing”.

Kanban can be a very interesting tool to improve a PMO, as it allows visual management of projects and the portfolio. This allows to keep informed the senior management limiting the overhead caused by traditional reports and meetings.

But there are other benefits that support this different approach for the PMO:

  • Risk management can be performed making work constantly visible and keeping the team together to be able to take quick decisions.
  • Break down big projects into small pieces that can be frequently delivered and allowing the teams to adapt to the changing needs of the business.
  • Producing and mantaining a dashboard of leading strategic metrics (value delivered, overall speed, quality and cost of delivery, lead times,…)

Portfolio and pipeline management deserve a special chapter and lean can be very useful for this purpose. Lean aims to focus in allocating the resources on highest priority projects to make them finish earlier and avoid starting new projects until resources are available.

What is your experience?

I think lean principles, TOC and kanban can be good project management tools in a PMO. They are a powerful way to:

  • increase value delivered
  • reduce lead times
  • improve management reporting through visual boards

and also Kanban can be introduced incrementally, step by step, without the need to implement drastic changes in the organization. What do you think?

A different kind of PMO. Lean-Kanban PMO.


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