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Episode 424: Lean-Agile PMO (Free)

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A Burns + C. Fichtner
Andy Burns and Cornelius Fichtner

Slow PMO?

In today’s “right now” business environment, “hurry up and wait” annual planning cycles won’t do! To be fit for purpose, PMO processes deliver value faster than the competition—continuously, and certainly not just annually. Lean agility delivers this winning velocity! Here's a diet to help lean out an overweight PMO.

Transforming the heritage PMO takes insight, empiricism, and experience.

This interview with Andy Burns (LinkedIn Profile) was recorded at the encouraging Project Management Institute (PMI)® Global Conference 2018 in Los Angeles, California.

The experience shared in this interview should inform those needing to deliver fast—before the competition! We compare and contrast the practices of the heritage PMO and the lean-agile PMO and illustrate a technique to tailor the PMO process.

Episode Transcript

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Podcast Introduction

Andy Burns: Hello! This is Andy Burns and in this episode of The Project Management Podcast™, we are going on a diet. A diet to lean out and overweight PMO.

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to The Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com. I’m Cornelius Fichtner.

Podcast Interview

Cornelius Fichtner: We are coming to you live from the encouraging 2018 PMI Global Conference in Los Angeles. And with me right now is Andy Burns.

Hello, Andy!

Andy Burns: Hello, Cornelius and thank you so much for doing such a great service you did for project managers.

Cornelius Fichtner: Well, thank you for sitting here with me. Two years in a row! We did one last year, right?

Andy Burns: I think so, I think so.

Cornelius Fichtner: Yeah! Okay, so my question has to be: What are you going to present next year because we need to do an interview on that?

Andy Burns: I’m doing more and more with portfolios and Lean and Agile so it will probably be there.

Cornelius Fichtner: Alright! So your presentation is titled: Calorie Counting and the Lean-Agile PMO. Let me begin with somewhat of a challenging question, Lean-Agile PMO, those two things, Lean-Agile and PMO, they don’t seem to go together all too well in my head. Lean and Agile, that talks quick and fast and you know Lean and Agile, right? Whereas PMO, it’s like okay we are prescriptive. We have this methodology. You have to fill in these templates. It takes forever. Here’s a new rule and if you don’t do it our way, we’ll send an auditor. How do these two things mix together?

Andy Burns: Well it’s very interesting because we found out that Agile itself doesn’t scale very well from small teams. We also found that PMO with their prescriptive nature are not very good at managing the flow of value through a business. And so there’s a school of thought, a group of people that has come together and said: Let’s Lean out the PMO. Let’s take some of this heavy-weight prescriptive documentation and process and let’s look at flow and let’s focus on getting business value to come out continuously.

So we see an opportunity to have value come out immediately and compound like compounding interest in a bank account and we are incredibly encouraged by what we are seeing myself and several colleagues that are doing this for different companies. And so it is possible to take the traditional PMO and say: ‘Look at your practices and see if you can Lean them out. So I do have a bit of a recipe I’m going to share at the Congress on Monday and I’m incredibly excited to do that.

Cornelius Fichtner: Right, and what are the qualities of a Lean-Agile PMO when you compare it to say a traditional PMO?

Andy Burns: Well it really comes down to the definition of your work. If you think about our definition of a project, our traditional definition of a project, it’s a one-time endeavor to create a new service or a new product. And if you think about that, how can I possibly optimize something that is unique and being built one time. So the Lean PMO says: You need to pay a little bit more attention to the components of the project and break it down and drive some of that variability out of the process so that you can basically optimize the entire value chain from the moment the project or the program becomes a gleam in someone’s eye down to the person that’s actually delivering the unique product or service.

So in this context, we are saying, projects are too big and too amorphous. We really need to focus on what are the individual components and this can be done at the portfolio level and Lean is informing us of different ways of doing this. So I’m really excited to share this on Monday.

Cornelius Fichtner: You said you and your colleagues have done this in several places, have you succeeded everywhere or have you found that oh it works better in this industry versus that industry?

Andy Burns: Well what we found is that agility is not a destination that’s a continuous journey and naturally things will go backwards from time to time and they’ll go forward. And so everybody has periods of retrenchment and periods of doing better. But if you think about it the traditional projects say it’s going to deliver a million dollars in 10 months, so in 10 months, you’ll get that million dollars worth of value.

If you think about a Lean project going through a Lean PMO, it’s going to give you $100,000 a month for the next 10 months. So basic financial costing will show you that you’ll begin to get interest on that first 100,000, on that second 100,000 and every month, you have more and more money compounding. And so, there’s really no competition. Once these processes and thought processes take hold within a portfolio, you can’t compete. I mean it really doesn’t.

Cornelius Fichtner: This is exactly where I was going to go next, thought processes. Because what change in the mindset of people --- project managers, PMO managers, management in general --- has to take place before you can convert or even implement a Lean-Agile PMO.

Andy Burns: Well in my experience, we always talk about culture. You know how well we change the culture? My experience has been that culture changes last. You need to bring processes online and show people the success and then prepare to refactor those processes and make them better and better as you go along.

So your first steps really depend on having a recipe in place. In my presentation, I’ll talk about this recipe, which basically has six steps. But from a portfolio organization level, there are few things you can do to build what we call social capital. And social capital is basically saying: People begin to trust you when they see incremental improvements and then the cultural change. You can’t go in and say: ‘Change the culture.’ There’s no magic wand to wave, no fairy dust. Nothing you can do. However, if you are going to make small incremental improvements, the culture does begin to move.

Cornelius Fichtner: The recipe that you have just mentioned is actually seven-steps long and they jumped right in to the last one, the social capital. So if I understand this correctly, this is what you get at the end of the first six steps once you’ve gone through them? You’ve shown that it works therefore you get the social capital and now let’s really do this.

Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. Please subscribe to our Premium Podcast to receive a PDF transcript.

Tags: PDUs: Technical Project Management, PMI Global Conference, PMI Global Conference/PMI Global Conference 2018

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