1. Solve Business Problems
When starting a PMO, most of what you read or learn in courses suggests that you start by building a charter and creating your vision and mission. Or, even worse, they tell you to figure out your PMO model or type. Then, it’s off to building and creating process, methodology, and templates. Sadly, this is missing the most important step and assumes that you already know what’s best for the organization. But in much of the literature and courses, there’s no defined process to ask that most important, yet very simple question. Successful PMO leaders understand that they don’t have all the answers. We have no business creating anything until we’ve determined what business problem we are solving. The most important step when starting or refreshing your PMO is ensuring you have answered the question, “Why is the PMO here and what business problem must be solved?” First things first. We must assess the organization for IMPACT opportunities to understand your PMO purpose. Before you create the list of services you will provide or start building templates and process, you need a mission, a greater purpose that you are fulfilling through the PMO construct. Your mission is not to manage projects. Your mission is not to create templates and tools. Your mission is to get to outcomes that positively IMPACT the organization you serve by driving overall greater throughput and higher return on investment (ROI). To do that, you need to be very clear on the business pain points, challenges, or new opportunities that your PMO will help solve. Get crystal clear on that before you do anything else.
Even if you think you know what’s best for them, you are probably wrong. Don’t guess. You must not assume you know what’s best for the organization. Whether you’ve been there 1 month or 20 years, you still aren’t inside the heads of the business leaders that are creating the opportunity for the PMO. Ask them. Talk to them a lot! They will eventually tell you what you need to know, but you must be listening for it because sometimes it’s not obvious or on the surface. Sometimes, the real reasons the PMO has been started isn’t even for the reasons they’ve been telling everyone. So, we have got to be listening intently for the truth. That means you must stop telling, talking, selling, and convincing and just listen, observe, and pay attention to the subtleties. The REAL WIIFM (what’s in it for me) for them will come out if you are looking for it. But what if I do know what’s best for them? Who cares? Not them. Sometimes people won’t take the medicine they really need until they trust that it’s really going to make them feel better. So, make them feel better first. Solve some easier to reach pain points for them to build trust. Then you can get their engagement to consider the medicine that they really need. But even when you do start giving them the medicine, you must do so in a way that is still very focused on the outcomes more than the process. More on this in the coming steps.