Mar 5, 2012

"The Unthinkable Might Happen" and Other Arguments for a Strong PMO

Posted by Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A few weeks ago we had fan mail - always exciting when that happens, but in this case it was more than usually rewarding, since our fan, Jim Liporace, PMP, has posted a review of our latest book, An Inside Look at High-Performing PMOs,on the Projects@Work site. I called him up to find out more about him, the challenges he faces in his work, and how he put our book to good use.

JC: Wow! Thanks for that great review of our book. Just curious how you came to pick it up.

JL: Well, I've known Kent for many years, so I'm on your mailing list. I was attracted by the idea that I'd find the stories of other PMOs that had achieved success.

JC: I understand you've been involved with PMOs at some pretty large companies.

JL: Yes, I previously was involved in PMOs at Motorola and GE. Presently, I'm with Cameron, a supplier of equipment and services to the oil and gas sector. It's an exciting opportunity: we have project managers in Romania, Norway, Brazil and Singapore as well as Houston.

JC: Do you experience cultural issues in applying project management across these global projects?

JL: Some, of course, but mostly I find that project managers relate on the basis on project management pretty well across the line. It's mostly a challenge of getting all the project managers on the same page in terms of methodology and practices. And with experienced people, that isn't difficult if you just provide the structure. Anyone who has been in business for a while can tell you a horror story where something went wrong that could have been prevented by having those tools in place.

JC: Tell me one!

JL: Well, for example I remember a case where we had some machinery developed for a site in Europe - millions of dollars, parts shipped in from all over the world, a team assembled to get it on line and then they realized no one had ordered the bolts. One little whoops and thousands of dollars and the time of dozens of people, all wasted.  That's why I constantly strive to express the value of the PMO, the value of the trained project manager. One mistake and you could pay his salary 10 times over. Project management is what allows us to look around corners, to stop firefighting. The unthinkable might happen - but if you've done your risk management, you probably will be able to recover from it more seamlessly.

JC: What's your biggest challenge?

JL: The death of most PMOs is the lack of strong senior sponsorship. I  didn't see this covered much in your book, but I guess one reason why the winning PMOs are so successful is that they have it. I have seen in the past that without this, no matter how good you are, it is a game of attrition to see who gives in first, you or senior management, and either the PMO succeeds of dies.  So if you do not have strong executive support, then get it, sell the benefits of the PMO and how it impacts the bottom line and how you are the best one to make this happen.  By the way, I bet no one ever told you that as the PMO leader you have to be even a better salesperson than those guys on the next floor! Trust me, you do.   I got lucky this time around, for in my current role this is not the case, as I have the full support of the President and all of the VPs.  So now that I have the top brass' unyielding support, I need to make things happen quickly and this is where this book comes in real handy.  

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    1 Comment on “The Unthinkable Might Happen” and Other Arguments for a Strong PMO

    Aly says:

    Hi Jeannette - I work for a risk analysis software company here in Houston, TX.  I’ve commented before and came across this article.  Cameron has a big presence here in Houston, so it was an interesting read.

    Anyhow, thanks for sharing! - Aly

    Posted on April 2, 2012 at 8:44 pm

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