PMOs, Portfolios and the expectations game

Having implemented a “few” PMOs, I can share a phenomenon that many of you can relate to – the notion that “Portfolio Management” or “the PMO” is going to make an IT department’s situation different because of their existence. I can sadly say that I’ve heard too many seat pocket ideas (like those found holding executive magazines in airplanes) blurted out with conviction, such as, “Well, we have Portfolio Management/a PMO/fancy software – why is this happening?” when problems persist.

Unlike Dorothy’s ruby slippers, you can’t just “get” a new methodology and change the fate of your IT organization. Yep – you’ve got to have a plan to shift your culture’s behavior over to a point where new techniques and methods can be leveraged, like a PMO, or Portfolio Management – even software that can lift a huge burden off the working population and change the conversation is useless if the culture refuses to budge.

If you monitor this blog, you know that I’m a Six Sigma fanboy – one of the little tricks that is embedded in the steps to improve a process is soliciting the customer’s feedback about what’s wrong and what can be done. This has another name in Change Management circles – it’s called “buy-in”. If someone tells you they know what’s wrong and how to fix it, when you return saying, “You’re right – get after your solution”, they’re 1000 times more likely to act than if you gave them a solution they didn’t think of.

Long story short – misplaced expectations are rampant with PMOs, Portfolio Management and other methods. If you have the task to bring success to a PMO or Portfolio Management process, do yourself a favor and get the folks who have the most powerful expectations (those that could do the most damage) involved in crafting the cultural change and put the ball in their court. The glory isn’t in deciding what will be done – it’s getting it done that drives most of us PM junkies.

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