Lean agile PMO
Is Traditional PMO thinking in software companies in 2018 still happening?
This is not how it is supposed to be…
I thought to myself
Yet the fatigue in the eyes of my friend and colleague
Told me otherwise.
“She just told me to forecast the delivery for the next year”
My friend shared with me.
“Do you mean the new Enterprise PMO?”
“Yes” my friend replied and continued:
“Ever since she was brought onboard to transform us
It’s been like this – every day a new mandate.
I stopped investing my time in what’s important
I stopped managing the 12 managers reporting to me
And the 120 strong developers that are
Responsible for creativity and innovation in our
It’s become an around the clock constant barrage of
PMO stuff….or can I say: crap?”
Our catchup meeting ended and I was reflecting on what
my friend was saying…
After all he is working in a software company which implemented agile
and things were working well. They had a local lean agile PMO.
It was focused on best practices and lean agile methods – scrum, kanban, communities of practice, fast delivery ect.
Until a new SVP was hired. In his mind, the forecasting was subpar so he hired a manager to lead the Transformational PMO. He in turn mandated reports, templates, standard operating procedures – annoying bureaucracy – and lots of traditional forecasting.
I empathized with my friend.
Traditional project management offices drive in inefficient forecasting
How much do we need to read and learn on forecast bias to understand that top down roadmaps are BS.
Roadmaps done the agile way are better –because we have the people doing the job committing to the delivery. Moreover we get better roadmap estimates.
It is 5 years since I’ve written the Lean agile PMO – which through its four editions changed as my thinking changed.
One of the first articles I published referencing the book was: marrying agile and waterfall – Interfacing between Linear Waterfall and Agile Approaches or The Odd Couple: Marrying Agile and Waterfall
It was trying to illustrate a truce or even integration between agile team thinking and PMO traditional mindset.
Well, it turns out to be a horrible marriage where the couple constantly argues and bickers.
Basically, I was wrong. The approach is unsustainable – you can’t have the PMO represent the top down command and control managerial structures and hope to grow a lean agile delivery environment.
To succeed at least one has to undergo substantive therapy. If we want agility to succeed, it’s the PMO that has to visit a retreat 😉
Why invest in a Lean agile PMO?
Because we’re losing the race, because every time we have a traditional PMO ask for another progress report or made up forecast …an angel dies. Really!
Because the FANGs [Facebook, Amazon, (Netflix), Google – and Apple] have figured fast iterative delivery of the right features and if we want to stay in business and compete with the them; we need to remove process and the blind adherence to top down mandates, we must adopt lean agile thinking across the organization – the lean agile PMO drives such this type of thinking.
Just listen to what the richest man in the world has to say about it – 10 Ways to Think Like Jeff Bezos
Are Project Agile Offices inherently evil?
So no – I don’t think that PMOs are inherently evil – I think we must unlearn what we know, about PMOs and structure Lean agile PMO in a way that delivers true lean agile value to the organization:
Remove process – cut down unneeded process and bureaucracy (Lean agile PMO 1)
One of the most effective ways to impact value delivery in an organization is waste removal. It contributes to the organization’s profitability as well as provides a bridge towards Agility. Do you really need to 70 page long Business Requirement document?
Pivot quickly from wasteful features and products (Lean agile PMO 2)
As a rule of thumb, about 25% of the active projects create an overloaded system and can be eliminated. Read more here.
Drive local decision making and adaptive forecasting (Lean agile PMO 3)
The PMO provides cross team dependency resolution by implementing TOC or Kanban techniques rather than forecasting resource capacity and managing it across the entire organization. Forecasting is done at team level – very similar to this approach.
Drive towards business agility (Lean agile PMO 4)
Create the bridge between team agile delivery and the business – drive for business agility. I refer to it as the “Agile And Waterfall Shoe Continuum” – the PMO is the driver to make business portfolio leaders collaborate rather than fight with agile team.
What Do You Think?
Whether you’re a PMO member or reporting to one, what insights would you offer your PMO to become lean agile rather than prescriptive? What would be one thing you would have your PMO change?
Add your insights below
Lean Agile PMO – Side Bar Musing
Hard to believe; I’m in the project management field for 20 years give or take; I played with Primavera and MSProject and got my PMP in 2005
I implemented in my management consulting business traditional tools of Project Management and made great revenues in my first years at Sapir Consulting; selling snake oil like PMO know how until I saw the light around 2012.
In the past, I read in disdain all the stories of born again zealots who have seen the agile scrum light and when I met Henrik Kniberg in 2013 I think I came across as a traditional sceptic.
But I have acquiesced – maybe – seen the light.
Maybe I am still not a true scrum zealot, but getting there – I mean – really – using construction based project management techniques from 1950 to manage a software project in 2018?
The Problem is: traditional PMOs tend to go over 10 X what’s needed.
And – the real culprit is forecasting – as its foundational to what a PMO is about – provide forecast of completion – a roadmap of delivery based on progress reports and planned vs. actual data === time and cost control.
Bringing a transformational PMO to get rid of the amazing work in team based long term forecasting and mandate a top down forecasting approach – how stupid is that?
In my chat with Henrik in 2013 he told me that Spotify eventually will grow in size. Then what?
How much can they sustain true agile leadership?
It seems that the big responsible boys will bring their traditional methods and get rid of tribes and guilds and squads and chapters. I am happy to say that I was proved wrong.
But they are the exception. Increasingly we are witnessing a schism between teams that are using agile and scrum and traditional thinking.
Later on I structured a value driven PMO model. You can find a presentation about here