PMO Red Flags: Signs your PMO team is not at peak performance

You’ve worked hard to build the PMO team of your dreams. Everything seems to be running smoothly like a well-oiled engine. What could possible be wrong? Don’t let the hum of everyday routine blind you from dangerous warning signs that your PMO team may not be at their peak performance.

We’ve identified some of the typical red flags you should keep an eye for to make sure your PMO doesn’t get left behind.

PMO Red Flag 1: Lack of tangible data

We all know that one guy who puts out wild ideas and vehemently justifies his claims by saying “Trust me, I’ve done this before”.  Mark de Jonge affectionately calls these people ZEBRAs – Zero Evidence But Really Arrogant. If you notice a ZEBRA in your PMO team or maybe even see a whole herd of ZEBRAs – you’ve got a big red flag waving for attention.

PMO is a dynamic and constantly changing space that requires leaders to adapt to new situations, technology, and opportunities. Depending on how things were done in the past just won’t cut it anymore, especially seeing how 2020 flipped our world upside down in a flash.

When you have potentially millions of dollars running through your team, you want to make sure you have proper tangible evidence to back your claims and get results. People look to PMOs for stability when things get rocky, so you’re going to need to be truly confident or it won’t reflect well on the PMO as a whole.

Now this doesn’t mean we should stop new ideas and experiments just because they don’t have any prior data. Good PMO leaders will make sure their teams are always set up to collect all the necessary data to evaluate their new ideas. It’s all about having the foundations of data collection and properly applying the data you have.

Position your team to be a data-based and evidence-backed PMO.

PMO Red Flag 2: Not being proactive in the strategic direction of the business

Do you see your PMO team running on auto-pilot – getting lost in collecting data and building reports – that they start looking like ‘project police’ rather than a strategic arm of the business. You’ve got another red flag on your hands.

A report by Forrester suggests that PMOs are becoming too busy to be truly strategic as survey results showed 75% of PMOs were doing hands-on project management activities. Putting together reports and keeping projects on track is definitely important, but all these efforts won’t translate to effective long-term change and growth if the PMO isn’t being proactive and simply playing watch guard.

What makes PMOs unique is their ability to coordinate business strategy across the spectrum of business activities, identify opportunities and bring stakeholders on board so the business can start meeting its full potential.

Always remember that a PMO is intrinsically strategic and if it starts dropping the ball strategically, it’s a red flag that can not only put your team at risk but be detrimental to other business activities.

PMO Red Flag 3: Unclear goal, mission and focus

This one links closely to the previous Red Flag. Is your team always rushing into planning and executing new things? It might look like your team is getting busy, but make sure you can spot the difference between being busy and being productive.

Your PMO can be executing new and seemingly exciting things, but if there isn’t an underlying goal, mission or focus that is guiding it, all of it is simply action for action sake and won’t get you closer to genuine results.

Your PMO should be working closely together with the C-Suite leaders to be constantly a part of the overarching strategy that is driving the business forward. A PMO team that can confidently translate, communicate, and execute their strategy to all stakeholders not only boosts the credibility of the PMO and their activities, but also keeps the PMO team constantly aware of their central focus.

Make sure your PMO team is staying focused and always remember to question the ‘why’ behind every action and plan.

PMO Red Flag 4: Your team is not adapting fast enough

Change is always scary and sometimes planting your feet to the ground seems good when the whole world is turning upside down. However, avoiding change is one of the most dangerous red flags you need to address in your team.

A Gartner report suggest that by 2030, 80% of our current project management activities such as data collection, tracking and reporting, will be taken over by artificial intelligence. Now this can strike fear in many and leave them wanting to salvage whatever time they have left in their position. However, advanced PMOs are embracing this change and intentionally putting themselves at the forefront so they can position themselves competitively for the future.

There’s always new innovations, practices and models popping up in the PMO space that can make your team work better and get the results you need. If you start noticing your team is focusing on the inconveniences and dangers of new opportunities rather than its potential, you might need to make some changes to shift your team’s mentality.

PMO Red Flag 5: Breakdown in Communication

We’ve already highlighted that communication is one of the most essential soft skills every PMO should have and we can’t emphasize its importance enough. Though it seems like a no-brainer, not every PMO team communicates effectively.

Some PMOs fall into the trap of believing that weekly reports are sufficient for communicating with stakeholders and believe that all relevant information is passed through them. However, communication for PMOs is not simply about getting data and insights but is also about building trust.

Forrester’s report shows that only 58% of stakeholder believe information from their PMOs is realistic. For the PMO to be effective, there needs to be trust and investment in the PMOs activities and needs. Numbers alone aren’t going to get your strategy and vision to your stakeholders.

If you spot your team members not joining team meetings and not meeting up with other divisions, you might need to address those issues. PMOs should never be too busy to be communicating because in the end the PMO is about managing people, not just numbers. People are your best asset so make sure you’re investing time and effort to bring out the best from them.

With these tips, you now know how to keep your PMO team ahead of the game and constantly growing. If your growing PMO team needs new talent, have a look at our free job network that links PMO talent specifically with your needs.

Bill Allars

Bill Allars

Bill is a PMO Consultant with over 20+ years experience.

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