Under review

an effective evaluation of a PMO's performance must include C-suite feedback



By Abid Mustafa

Project managers compile lessons learned after every project to understand what went right and what went wrong. We should do the same thing to assess PMOs’ performance. I often find PMOs are eager to help evaluate projects they monitor but neglect to have their own performance reviewed.

Some executives are quite blunt about the performance of PMOs, but many are guarded in their views.

That's why PMO directors also should maintain logs of lessons learned that include executive decisions regarding projects. This requires dedication from the director and a commitment by top executives to ensure documented lessons play a role in an annual review of the PMO's performance.

But what should such an exercise entail? Lessons should be evaluated based on the performance of the project or portfolio methodology, feedback from clients, internal staff, PMO members and peers.

Executive feedback is the most important element of a PMO performance review. For instance, in a particular project the CEO lost interest because it took too long to prepare updates with accurate information from relevant stakeholders.

The amount of attention that a PMO receives from the executive suite can differ across organizations, but it is a critical aspect of the PMO's performance.

In projects, lessons learned typically revolve around events that either cause delays or create solutions. This approach is fine for projects but is grossly inadequate in the evaluation of executive behavior, as executive motives for project success or failure are not captured. This can make logging the behavior of C-suite engagement with a PMO a daunting task.


Creating and keeping such logs requires a distinct approach. Start by developing a profile for each executive. This should include his or her expectations for the PMO, the executive's past experience with PMOs and what the executive would like the PMO to accomplish in a given year. In each case, assumptions should be kept to a minimum.

In my experience, some executives are quite blunt about the performance of PMOs, but many are guarded in their views. For instance, executives will publicly chastise the PMO but praise their work elsewhere in the organization.

Once executive profiles are established, a statement log is produced to record two things: statements made by executives about the PMO and the action (indirect or direct) of executives toward the PMO. The aim of the log is to gauge the motives behind executives’ attitudes toward PMOs and devise strategies to address this. The success or failure of such strategies becomes the basis of the lessons learned, and should be used by the PMO director to improve engagement with the executive suite and incorporate such lessons as part of the project methodology. PM

img Abid Mustafa has worked with project management offices for eight years. His book In the Age of Turbulence: How to Make Executive PMOs Successful is available in paperback and on Kindle.




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