Sometimes it is hard to stablish a system of continuous improvement in a project management office (PMO). A kind of discipline is needed to find out new ways of doing things better in a systematic way.
There are 4 bases that may help us in this challenging process: the use of foundational principles, a systematic approach, to become a learning organization and to be aware and overcome the obstacles.
- Let’s think about how can we make something happen instead of why it cannot be done
- Develop a continuous change mindset
- Use the 5-whys or other similar tools to find the root causes of the problems
- Measure what you do to be able to notice if you improve
We must take the time to understand why things went wrong, measure successes and failures, and document them along the way. The wisdom must be accessible to others as well.
The Kaizen approach is to start the change, or the improvement, and build on it over time, rather than to expect perfection from the start. Project managers must focus on doing the job a little better each day.
Systematic approach to continuous improvement
It is not just about a mindset. To obtain results we must make changes, create new habits and do it in a systematic way. These six steps may be of help:
- Select opportunities. In your projects, set improvement milestones. Chose the areas where less effort might have the greatest impact. Involve all the team in this point, in the second one and in the fourth one too.
- Find and analyze the root causes of the problems.
- Determine the required level of performance.
- Define solutions and plan tasks. Every task must have a person responsible of it and a deadline.
- Deploy the action plan and evaluate the results against the desired performance.
- Improve or change the solutions if the results do not provide the expected level.
- Find new opportunities.
Learning organizations are organizations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together. (Peter Senge)
Continuous improvement is strongly connected to learning organizations. To become a truly learning organization you need to continuously improve.
Obstacles to grow as a PMO
What kind of obstacles may limit our ability to grow as a learning PMO?
- Isolation. Every project manager works in her/his projects disconnected from the rest of project managers. The improvement efforts are not coordinated.
- Lack of reflection. The rush to move to the next project or to the next project phase or task.
- Attitude. In this point we might include the lack of interest in improving the organization and also the systematic denial of problems existence.
- Lack of support from the leaders. The leaders of the organization and the PMO Manager must not just support but encourage their teams to continuously learn and improve.
In order to support the improvement in project management it should be a duty of the PMO to provide a systematic framework to help the project teams to learn and improve.
What is your opinion? Do you have this kind of continuous improvement framework in your organizations?