PMO value and challenges, plus qualities to look for in your PMO Leader – a PMO Panel discussion

How do you define and articulate the value of your PMO? What is the top challenge faced by PMOs today and what qualities do you look for in your PMO leader. Learn this and much more from our PMO Panel.

Like audio, listen to the PMO Panel here:
[audio|titles=PMO Panel  |artists=Future of PM |bg=0x0000ff|righticon=0xff0000]


Samir ( Facilitator): So welcome to the Future of Project Management, this is Samir Penkar and today we have with us four great people from the PMO world. These are four great folks, the panel, the PMO Panel that we have today. They have the depth and breath of experience in PMOs that you want to learn a lot from. So these four panelist are Harlan Bridges, Steven Romero, Terry Doerscher and Mel Bost. Welcome all of you to this conference and to Future of Project Management. 

And to start with maybe Harlan we can start with you is, giving us an introduction about yourself, maybe telling us how you got started in project management and what kind of work you are doing today.

Harlan: Sure, I’d love to. I am currently working as a Set up Practice Lead for BOT International. I have been in project management for about, well longer than I would like to say, but going on 30 years right now. I got started years ago when I owned a company that did work for primarily the military, working on military weapons systems, trainings and simulators, things like that. During that time I became a project and proposal manager to many of those projects. So my background is really strong in really traditional project management at that time. And I moved on to several other firms where I got heavily involved with the internet and development and learned to do the development and also to manage the teams in that environment. Which gave me a new way into project management because we had to use processes and activities that were less than traditional then.

And now, most of my time now has been helping PMOs get started or going in and doing what’s typically a reduce of a PMO to getting to back on line and on track and delivering value to the business.

Samir ( Facilitator): Great, great. thank you Harlan. Thank you. 

Mel: I started my career more than 30 years ago working for Ford Motor Company. I was product planner, a project manager working the Detroit area but working on European projects which was very interesting. We had design engineers in the US who would design our product for the European market. So that was my first initiation into real project management. And then the past 30 years I worked for a number of major petroleum companies in various project management capacities, IT project office, developing a PMO for Conoco Phillips after their merger in 2002. And currently my specialty is project close out and lessons learned, I actually help companies close projects, capture documents and share lessons learned. So that’s my specialty now.

Samir ( Facilitator): Great, we will probably talk  about that. Steven do you want to go next? 

Steven: Ya, good morning. So my project management experience started a long time ago more than 30 years ago. Early in my IT career I was a telecommunications analyst. I got connected with a very senior analyst who was chartered to create a breakthrough product where he was converting a burrows mini system into a telecommunications front end and that was going to be the first time that was ever being done. He had written all at the code and now it was time to actually implement everything and we basically used project management conventions to get it done. And it was interesting in that at the time project management was not a requirement, no methodology in place, there were no standards in place, there was no one even asking for the discipline to be applied. it was just the way this person thought and it was fortunate of me I was connected with him. Basically I just loved it, it spoke to me. I have been working in project management ever since. More than half of the project management that has been applied in my career has not been because someone has mandated it, but it is because it is the only way I can think of to actually accomplish the work. Which is interesting, as most organizations have to force project management, rather than people using it because it make sense. What I am doing right now I am evangelizing IT Governance in any number of ways which includes consulting, which includes workshops and a lot of it is focused on project and portfolio management.

Samir ( Facilitator): Great, great. Governance is always an interesting topic to talk about. Thank you. Terri, you are next. 

Terry: Yes Samir. My name is Terry Doerscher. Like the rest of the panelist I have been at this for a while. I started my project management career back in 1981. I got my roots with classic project management doing power plant construction and engineering. Ran an engineering PMO for several years and then spend a dozen years with a leading software provider as a consultant. That’s a little bit of background, in terms of what I am doing today, I am leading the PMO Advisory services practice for BOT International so working with Lisa and conducting workshops and doing consulting.

Samir ( Facilitator):  Great, great, thank you Terri. So now that we know a little bit about our panel, let’s ask them our first question starting off with the value of the PMO. There has been a lot of discussion around what the value of the PMO is. I have seen PMOs been disbanded, being federated, consolidated, and so many things. let’s start off with defining some of the value that a PMO can bring to an organization. Feel free to start anyone, we can go round. 

Harlan: Well, this is Harlan. I have put together a little list about things that I have noticed over the years that adds value to the PMO or the PMO adds value to the organization. And those things are like – probably more of a strategic nature than tactical. Like project alignment with the strategic objectives, making sure that those projects are the right projects to to do. Also includes a project selection process, enhanced project visibility is really another thing that adds value. Knowing what your projects are, do we have the right portfolio mix, more efficient use of resources, the whole side of project portfolio management that PMOs can offer, those are potential services and ways that PMOs can add value.  I think that these things can add much more value than enforcing processes or use of templates and things that seem to be traditionally advocated by PMOs. I think that in my opinion I think there is such a high failure rate of PMOs. Because may PMOs are so focused on the processes and the tools that they forget why they exists.

Mel Bost: This is Mel Bost: I have a little bit different answer to Harlan’s, though I think it meshes well with his. When I consult with project groups that want to implement a framework for closing out projects and capturing lessons learned, inevitably our discussion goes back to organizational development and how PMOs are formed and each of these organizations seem to flounder a little bit in trying to take the next step knowing exactly where it is going in the organization. Does it add value when it is being asked to do certain things. Each of them should ask three questions. First of all ask yourself the question what do we do projects? And I think going back to the basics, projects convert strategy into action. And I think that’s what a PMO really does, it helps organization convert strategy to action. And the next question I ask them is why do you need a PMO? I think the answer they always seem to come down to is because of consistency and repeatability of outcomes for what they are trying to do. And the third thing that’s real interesting is what skills. competencies and capabilities do we need to put in place to satisfy what the organization wants the PMO doing.

So all things are related to what Harlan was saying in terms of resources, that would be my answer.

Samir ( Facilitator): Ya, and you know consistency and repeatability is often cited as one of the drivers for the need for a PMO. 

Steve: So this is Steve. I agree with everything that Harlan and Mel have mentioned so far. Some of Harlan’s comments were interesting in that he talked about some things that are specific to product and portfolio management. And that is one of the things that I would want to understand about leading a PMO and whether or not product and portfolio management was one of the functions of the PMO.  So without diving into product and portfolio management rabbit hole if you will, all PMOs are really there to provide that project success and convert strategy into operations that Mel mentioned.

So let’s get a little bit more specific. At a very very high level four things that I would like to see that I value is to facilitate and enable that project portfolio management. So they may not be necessarily be responsible for it, but there are a lot of things that a PMO can do to ensure that is done properly in the enterprise so that it puts down a foundation for portfolio management. Absolutely ensuring project success. in many of the ways that Mel has just mentioned and again it goes beyond just pushing paper and policing process. With that said a lot of what is going to be ensuring project successes is going to be founded in the PMO’s ability to do those things. But hopefully a PMO will do more than that. Establishing a partnership with project managers is I think absolutely critical. Many project managers look at PMOs being forced upon them as opposed to something that is there to help them succeed. Making sure that there is a sound connection and partnership is absolutely essential. And then back to the methodology, I don’t want to beat that too much, but as much as many PMOs hurt themselves by becoming process police, a good PMO will establish those processes, will design them well, will implement them well.

Terry: Maybe I can summarize a lot of great points that everyone’s made so far. I think it’s important to first step back and really think about what a PMO is. And by definition, a PMO is a service provider. Really it’s rolling the organization and its objective is to enable the other elements of the line organization to be more efficient and effective. Typically the PMO is not directly in the valued delivery process but rather there to enable others.

If we stop and think about what are the prerequisite conditions for why would you ever want to set up a PMO to begin with? First off, there’s got to be some kind of significant and chronic opportunity or need to make improvements. That has to be present in multiple areas of the organization, usually across multiple departments. It could, in the case of EPMO, go across divisions.

There is an admission, that the current organizational structure is probably unlikely or unable to address those needs to make the improvements. You’ve got to recognize, that the expected benefits of setting up a PMO is comfortably going to outweigh its cost. With that in mind, there’s really three primary ways that a PMO can add value.

The first is to drive consistency and alignment. We’ve heard that from Harlan and Mel and Steve already in many different forms. The second is to create economies of scale. Oftentimes while it’s somewhat administrative, a PMO is able to unburden line managers from some of the things that are necessarily have to happen in an organization.

The third and probably most important element is that a PMO can provide a mechanism to provide new services or capabilities that quite frankly just aren’t cost effective or practical within isolated departments or something like that. Really that’s what a PMO can do in order to add value to the organization and really help everyone else do a better job and do it in a more consistent manner.

Samir ( Facilitator): Right.  Putting strategy to action, consistency, governance, all these are really valuable points from a PMO value standpoint. Mel you mentioned consistency repeatability and I just want to maybe ask you a follow up. How important is consistency and the repeatability from a PMO standpoint? And in the context in which I want to ask this is people don’t, human beings don’t operate outside of machines, their productivity goes up and down, the organization projects are not all the same all the time. On one end, there is this need for consistency and repeatability. What I’m wondering how important that is from a PMO standpoint?

Mel:  I think it’s more important to the organization that the PMO is serving. As Terry said, the PMO is a service organization and the repeatability and consistency at delivery projects should give assurance to that organization that when they ask the PMO for a particular project to create an outcome, they’re going to be 99% sure that they’re going to be able to deliver. I think that’s the big issue about repeatability and consistency.

The other thing I want to bring up about that is how outcomes actually can be traced back to behaviors and actions as part of projects. One of the things that I have learned, especially in this lessons learned and capturing lessons learned is that they quality of the outputs and what’s created by projects is directly proportional to the quality of the tasks and activities that go into those projects.

That’s where a lot of the repeatability and consistency is important. We throw those terms, repeatability and consistency out a lot but they have a lot of connotations in the organization. I think one of the biggest is what can the organization expect from its PMO when it goes to it and says hey, we need you to deliver something that’s really of high value to the organization. They don’t go to a PMO unless they can expect that repeatability and consistency.

Samir ( Facilitator):  Yes, that’s true, that’s true. From the value, let’s go on to challenges. All four of you have the deep experience in PMOs and have experience with organizations setting up, dealing with, or collecting PMOs. What is the number one challenge that you think the PMOs face today? And follow up on that is, what would you suggest PMO leaders do about it?

Steve:      This is Steve. It’s interesting you said, “OK, let’s go, move from value to the number one challenge.” I actually think that’s the challenge. I think the challenge that PMOs have is their long time viability, is sustaining the PMO and ultimately making the PMO part of the DNA of the enterprise. To get back, right back to value, I think that’s done by proving the value that the PMO delivers to the organization.

My advice to a PMO leader would be to first and foremost understand how their organization defines value. It gets, to a lot of the comments that Terry just provided, where it’s associated with an acute understanding of the business opportunity that you’re exploiting or the business problem that you’re solving. You’re understanding the business value of what the PMO does. Being able to express the benefits of the PMO in those terms, that the enterprise uses to define values is absolutely essential.

Once a director is able to do that, it’s a matter then of establishing the metrics that will be used to systematically measure and monitor the PMOs value delivery, and then marketing. Marketing that value delivery. Marketing the PMO. PMOs are great at communication but PMOs don’t inherently market the value that they’re delivering to the organization. This is essential. It’s a mistake to rest on their laurels.

I think it’s absolutely necessary that they continually communicate the value that they deliver to the enterprise, or it’s just a matter of time before who knows, what new leader might come in or what new downturn in the economy might take place where someone looks at the PMO and the cost of the PMO and without understanding that value delivery, decides that they’re going to go ahead and get rid of it.

Harlan:     This is Harlan. I like Steve’s comments a lot. That’s exactly the same kind of things that I was positing here or thinking about. Many of the PMOs I’ve dealt with in the past, they’re not really aligned with the business. Not only are they not aligned with the business, quite often those members, the leaders of the PMO really lack an understanding of the business needs but also lack an understanding of really what the business is in the business of doing.

The whole point of a PMO, as Terry mentioned earlier, is to serve the business. But in order to serve the business, they need to understand the business. I have been in many organizations where I hear on one side the project manager saying, “Well the business doesn’t understand us and doesn’t understand what we do.” If you walk across the hall, talk to the business, the business has the same comment.

The PMO and the project managers don’t understand what we need and what our business is. I think that that’s very true, very often, is that the PMO misses the point. Going back to something Steve said, a PMO to be successful needs to define its mission, its vision, and its objectives around the needs of the business and the strategy of the business or the strategy that the business is trying to implement in order to achieve the business goals.

Mel:  Yes. Your question was about, this is Mel Bost again, your question was about challenges facing PMOs. One of the principles that I use when I consult with PMOs is that there was never a PMO established that had all the skills, competencies, and capabilities that it really needed to carry out its entire mission with regard to the organization. That’s because it doesn’t initially have all the feedback it needs from the organization about how well it’s performing.

It’s only after an amount of time that it contributes something that it begins to get that feedback and understands where it lacks certain skills, capabilities, and competencies. Two of the biggest competency areas that I see PMOs add over time are vendor and supplier capability, and risk management. Very few PMOs start out with a really fully developed risk management planner strategy.

Yet after awhile, they recognize that that can contribute so much value to the way they look at delivering projects. I think the real challenge that a lot of PMOs have is, what are those competencies and capabilities I need to satisfy that mission? How do I get them?

Terry:      I’d like to add something to this if I could. This is Terry. When you stop and think about and then go back to your original question  what’s the challenge that the PMO is facing in terms of understanding its value. It was mentioned earlier, I think by Harlan that a lot of PMOs historically have been somewhat transient elements within the organization. Certainly that is getting better.

In my research over the pre- and post recession period, we saw the survivability rate of PMOs go up compared to what we had seen in last previous economic downturns. I think really there’s a growing recognition now. The evolution of the PMO has to be up to the point where organizations quit treating the PMO as a temporary solution to a permanent problem.

The permanent problem that most organizations face these days is twofold. First is, change is constant and if you stop and think about it, the PMO is nothing more than an office of change.

The second is, and it goes back to your points about how important alignment is and consistency across the organization, is that most organizations are becoming increasingly more specialized to the point that various groups and departments can hardly collaborate together anymore. They have different taxonomy in terms of the language they speak of business, a lack of clarity around what they’re trying to achieve on a strategic level, and a lack of appreciation for how interdependent each group and part of the organization is on each other for executing that cycle of change.

I think we will see in the near future here, the corporate PMO becoming as solid of a fixture as a shared service provider, as much as we see IT and HR today. Once we recognize the change as a condition that’s not going to go away and the PMO is your mechanism for executing that cycle of change long before the project is every started, and long after the project is done to manage the product and service life cycles.

Harlan:          This is Harlan. I’d like to follow up a little bit on what Terry said there. Especially the implication that PMOs have been a sort of a transient or temporary, not implication but the fact that he’s right, they have been thought of that way, when in fact they need to be, just as Terry said, an integral part of the business of the organization.

They shouldn’t be thought of any differently than marketing or IT or finance or HR. These are all organizations that are crucial to the success of a business. And that’s one of the things that has never been seen or expected of PMOs in that same manner that IT and finance and others are part of the business. I think that needs to change. I agree 100% with Terry when he says that we need to think that, or understand that PMOs are a permanent fixture of business.

Samir ( Facilitator): Yes. All these points are great food for thought for a PMO leader who is listening to us and wondering how to set up values, how to articulate the value of his PMO or how to deal with the challenges of his PMO. For that person, for that PMO leader who is listening, or maybe even the project managers who are listening, or program managers who are listening to us now, and they want to take that next leap in their career and be the PMO leader, what sort of qualities would you look for in this PMO leader?

We spoke about a lot of challenges. This is a big list of challenges that a PMO leader faces that he or she has to overcome. If the four of you were on a panel interviewing a PMO leader, what would you look for in this person?

Terry:      This is Terry. I think first and foremost, I would look for that perspective PMO manager to really look at their self and look at their PMO from the perspective of being a servant leader. Not being someone that’s going to be brought in to unilaterally determine how the organization is going to execute some of its business functions. Once the PMO, and this is really set by the attitude of the leader, adopts that position that we’re here to serve others, then they’ll ask the organization what it is that they need.

If they’re effective at delivering that, they don’t have to sell anything. All right? Because the organization recognizes inherently what the PMOs doing for them and they will value that. Too often we see PMOs get set up and started by managers that come in with preconceptions about what a PMO is and what it needs to be done. They don’t spend nearly enough time talking to their peers, other managers and directors in the organization about what they want.

Harlan:     This is Harlan. To follow-up, first on my list of qualifications that I saw was servant leadership. I’m 100% agreement with Terry there. Some other things that I would suggest or I would be looking for in a PMO leader. I’d want someone who is a strong communicator, to be able to communicate many of the messages, especially some of the things that Terry just mentioned.

This person needs to be able to think and act strategically. Needs to get above the tactical side of project management and that all of that entails. Adaptable; this is a person that needs to be able to, in order to be a good servant leader, this person needs to be very adaptable. You need to be able to change and based on changing needs of your business, your constituents. I would also look for a fairly good level of business acumen in addition to knowledge of project management.

Mel:  This is Mel Bost and I’d like to add something we haven’t talked about here. It might with project lessons learned. One of the most valuable attributes, I think a manager can have is being a systems thinker. What that means is to be able to anticipate what the reaction of the organization is going to be to an initiative that your group might initiate.

In other words, too many people put initiatives out or initiate projects and don’t think about the way it’s going to be received or the reaction people are going to have. Sometimes it falls on deaf ears and they have to go back and either, repeat what they said or they’ve got to modify. They don’t really think about what reaction am I anticipating from the organization. Being a systems thinker is very important to understand what feedback your group is going to get.

A lot of the work I do looks at patterns of behavior. In other words, if you have five or six projects operating in the same project environment, oftentimes they have similar patterns of behavior. And having a systems thinker who’s able to sit back and look at what those different patterns of behavior are that are based on the project you firmly put in place gives that person the ability to take action and communicate and collaborate with others on somewhat of a different level. So I think this whole systems thinker concept is very important.

Steve:      This is Steve. The attributes that I would like, I think, are basically just the same things that everybody else in the call still, has already described. I guess I’ll offer them, even though again there’s some redundancy, but hopefully there’s a little bit of difference in flavor if you will. So a very tactical list would be someone who’s capable of communicating and collaborating with all levels of the organization. PMOs can be working with everyone.

Beyond that, I need that PMO leader to be capable of energizing and inspiring others. I want a PMO leader with an acute understanding of project management. And although it might be obvious to many folks, I think it’s critical. An evolving, if not acute understanding of product and portfolio management, the more a PMO director understands how product decisions are made and how products are governed, the far more successful they’re going to be.

Then along the lines of some of the comments we just heard, somebody that can shift from left brain, logical and analytical thinking, to the right brain, intuitive and subjective thinking. PMOs are founded in logic and rigor. They’re constantly subject to changing dynamics and human behaviors. The leader of a PMO must be comfortable with both of those dimensions, with both of those aspects of their role.

Terry:      To follow along with that, this is Terry, it wouldn’t hurt that they would be a Jedi knight. These are not the droids we’re looking for, move on, right? Your PMO manager obviously has got to go out and influence without a lot of direct authority across the organization. Really having that level of human insight, soft skills capability, despite the fact I despise the term, I’ll say it, some level of political acumen in terms of being able to get along well with everyone in the organization. Know when to be firm and when to be empathetic are critical capabilities for any PMO manager.

Samir ( Facilitator): Yes. This is a good solid list of servant leadership, communication, systems thinking, business acumen, systems thinker, energizing, inspiring, I mean this is a good list of a leader for a PMO. A lot of people who will listen to this are also project managers, program managers, project managers, and if these folks are looking as their next career move to head a PMO, with all this background what’s the one thing that you would advise them to start doing?

Mel:  I would say, this is Mel Bost, I would say start listening to your surroundings and the feedback that you’re getting from the organization. I see too many PMO managers who think they know everything and want to instill their will on the way things are going to be done and really what they ought to be doing is listening and getting feedback from the rest of the organization as to what the real needs of the organization are.

As Terry said, change is just a constant that we all face. If a PMO manager is attuned to that change that’s going on in the organization and receiving that feedback and processing it, he really will not be ahead of the curve when it comes to putting these programs together.

Harlan:     This is Harlan. I like Mel’s answer a lot. I’d kind of like to add a little bit to that. I think there are two things, if you were to ask me, and I know you asked for one. I would really emphasize learning to be a good servant leader, which sort of follows with what Mel just said. The other thing too is I’ve just seen this happen over and over and over again. I think that project managers really need to get a better or high level of business acumen in their roles. They need to understand their business better; the business that they work for, the business that they support.

Steve:      This is Steve.  I’ll try to stick to your one thing. If I’ve got a project manager that’s truly a project manager. They’re out there, they’re leading projects, and they want to start working at a PMO. Start leading a PMO, delivering value to PMO. If there was one thing I’d say go out there and learn product and portfolio management. Understand that discipline. Understand the discipline of governing projects. That understanding is going to provide a lot of insight and understanding into the value a PMO can deliver.

Terry:      Yes, I think to follow along those lines, this is Terry, first off, it’s important to probably state that you shouldn’t make a presumption that a good project manager is well-suited to be a good PMO manager.

In the same way a good football player doesn’t necessarily make a good coach. There is a big difference between the primary focus of project management, which is primarily a largely tactical function, and we’re working against that time, cost, and quality component which, quite frankly, has nothing to do with business value.

The PMO needs to be elevating its perspective beyond project management, while certainly that’s an important part of it, they need to be thinking about why is this project being initiated to begin with. What is the business value of creating this change that this project is doing? Then, understand how the resulting product or service or asset (inaudible 26:02) point is doing along its life cycle.

There’s a much broader life cycle to this concept of managing change than just the project management element, which is an important but relatively small part of it. Completely different set of skills that certainly project managers have a good foundation to start building on. But they’ve got to get well beyond what’s in the (inaudible 26:33) or the prints to guide, or whatever methodology it is that they know.

Mel:  This is Mel Bost. I want to add one other point that sort of pulls this together. On the NASA website, there’s an interesting list of lessons learned by project managers in NASA. One of the principle lessons learned was that if you’re a project manager and you’re the most knowledgeable, intelligent person on your project team, you have not done a very good job of developing your team.

I think that one of things a project manager, as he looks forward to becoming a PMO manager is to understand who around you has the capabilities that you don’t have and nurture those relationships so that you can benefit and leverage that to your advantage as you go forward. No one person has every skill, competency, capability that’s needed for the organization. And recognizing that gap sometimes is probably more important and understanding how to work with it is more important in a PMO managers role going forward.

Samir ( Facilitator): That is so true. A lot of people struggle with trying even relate to it and even recognizing that they need to nurture these relationships. For the people who are listening, these are such great pointers; listening, servant leadership, the business acumen part of it, portfolio, product management, but all I would urge the listeners to do is pick one, whichever it is, and start doing it.

Too often we listen to these webinars and we listen to and we go to trainings and we don’t do enough, we don’t implement enough. All of these folks have given you great pointers. I would say pick one, whichever you think you can do and run with it and start doing it as soon as you can.

One last question I have for the four of you is, you consult, you travel, you speak and in the process you come across so many organizations, people, ideas, what are some of the trends you’re looking at from a PMO perspective in the world today?

Terry:      I guess I’ll start things off by, when we think of PMO trends, one of the things that I find fascinating that’s going on right now is when we look at project management in general. We are in a very different world compared to when the basics of project management were first instantiated, you know 20, 30, 40 years ago. Back then project management primarily revolved around functions that were associated with classic projects, construction, aerospace, defense, that type of thing. They were very tangible.

Now when you look at what’s going on with project management and what most projects are about these days, it’s really about a much more intangible type of situation. I think in general, the project management community is continuing to get their arms around what it means to execute projects in this new world that we’re in the 21st century.

As that continues to evolve, we see Apple, for example, starting to extend well beyond software development into other project types. We’re starting to see more interests around adaptive project management. I think that there’s a huge amount of change that’s going to go on within the project management community.

Therefore the PMO community, as we go forward over the next decade or so and learn new ways of managing these very challenging types of projects that we do. There’ll always be a role for classic project management because we’re not going to stop building skyscrapers and bridges and jets, but when you look at the majority of projects these days, they’re very different animals and they require very different approaches and techniques.

Harlan:     This is Harlan. I’d like to follow up a little bit on that. I think a trend that I’m seeing with the people that I’ve been talking to is that we’re starting to mature a little bit beyond some of the basics that Terry mentioned that came about in the sixties and seventies. We are understanding that it is more project outcomes are more important than scope, budget, and schedule, that projects must add value to the organization.

Organizations are beginning to understand, and this kind of goes to something Steve said that projects and product management or the product life cycle and project management life cycle are much tighter or much more integrated maybe than they were in the past. I think that we are evolving to understand, we have to add value. That is probably more important than process, tools, and techniques and templates and things. I would say that that’s a trend that I see going forward.

Mel:  Yes, this is Mel Bost. I obviously would speak up for my own competency area project lessons learned, and a close-out of projects. One of the things I see more and more is project groups want to develop what I call actionable lessons learned. They want to be able to write those in such a way and document then that they can be incorporated in a continuous process improvement loop that makes major improvements to their basic project management process. If they’re able to do that, they can rapidly ramp-up their entire project process by those improvements.

Let me add one more thing though that I’ve noticed recently. I’ve been very amazed that there have been some PMOs I’ve come into contact with who were trying to take the PMI PMBOK processes and apply them literally to what they were doing. When you question why are you doing this, they say it’s because PMI directed us to use the PMBOK processes. There was not a lot of a rational thought on the part of these business people. Because PMI had said go use the PMBOK  process.

I’ll give you a good example of that. I was consulting with the Panama Canal Authority on project lessons learned and they had developed a dashboard with their methodology and had been told by a major supplier of project program management to use to the PMBOK processes as a basis for capturing lessons learned. Nobody can do that because it’s just not intelligible to do it. I’m amazed sometimes that some of the PMOs I come across who literally try to take what’s in PMI from pin PMBOK and apply it. Because it just doesn’t apply to what they’re doing.

Steve:      Exactly. The PMBOK  is a project management body of knowledge. It’s not a process. It’s a guideline. It’s a set of knowledge. It’s not processes. It’s not techniques.

Samir ( Facilitator): Yes, yes, that is true. Did everyone get a chance to tell u s their trends? Did we miss anyone? No? Great. For the audience who’s listening, I would say reach out to Terry, Harlan, Mel and Steve and say thank you to them for sharing and for the time they’ve spent with us.

As I said before, pick one thing that resonates with you from all that we’ve said and start applying. This has been a great panel and I want to thank you again Harlan, Mel, Steven and Terry for your time, for sharing with us your knowledge. Thank you so much.

Mel:  Thanks, you’ve been a great facilitator.

Steve:      Yes, thank you very much for giving us the opportunity.

Samir ( Facilitator): Thank you so much. You all have a great day. Thank you so much for doing this.

Panelist Bios: 

Harlan Bridges: 

Mr. Bridges is a recognized leader in the implementation of PMO processes and PMO setup.  Mr. Bridges has over 30 years of experience in business and project management. Most recently, Mr. Bridges worked with MESSA, a non-profit organization, to re-align their PMO to better achieve the goals of the organization. Mr. Bridges is a contributing author to Project Pain Reliever (Garrett, 2011) and Business Driven PMO Success Stories – Around the World in 80 PMOs (Perry 2012) and has conducted presentations and workshops at a number of PMO symposiums, workshops, and events. Mr. Bridges is the author of All Things PMO, a column on –

Mel Bost:

Mel Bost is a Principal in BOT International’s PMO Practice and Head of the Advisory Services Practice for Project Closeout and Lessons Learned.  He specializes in PMO best practices, project lessons learned, and program management.Mr. Bost has worked with the PMO Executive Council in Washington, DC to define best practices for PMOs, and with the Advisory Board of The University of Arkansas, Walton School of Business, Information Technology Research Institute. In 2011, Mr. Bost developed and facilitated two courses in Project Lessons Learned for the Panama Canal Authority Construction Division in its work on the Panama Canal Expansion Program. He is the author a blog about PMO structure, activity, behavior and performance known as MEL BOST PMO EXPERT –

Terry Doerscher:

With three decided of experience as a practitioner and consultant, Terry Doerscher is the principal for the Project Portfolio Management (PPM) practice at BOT International.  As an advisor to more than 100 companies around the world, Mr Doerscher is known for his expertise in developing business practices aligned to the rallies of modern organizations. Terry is the co-author of Taming Change ( with Portfolio Management and has contributed to several other titles.

Steven Romero:

Steve Romero is a published and globally recognized IT governance evangelist and IT business value activist. His mission is to help enterprises realize the full potential of their IT investments for strategic and competitive advantage. Romero’s is the founder of Romero Consulting and he is a principal member of BOT International. His extensive technical and IT leadership background started in the US Navy before joining Pacific Bell where he founded numerous ground-breaking governance processes. He blogs at

About Samir Penkar

People, trends and ideas on the world of work. Get my FREE eBook NExt: a project manager's journey to the next level - when you sign up for updates.
This entry was posted in INTERVIEWS and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.