What if we told you that purpose-driven PMOs could dramatically transform your company’s productivity and bottom line?
Galen Low is joined by Joe Pusz—Founder and President of The PMO Squad—to talk about the role of the project management office in organization-wide digital transformation initiatives and the right way of integrating not just project management, but value delivery, into operations.
- PMO’s Role in Digital Transformation [0:50]
- PMOs have significantly evolved over the years, shifting from being process-oriented to becoming more purpose-driven. This evolution has opened up a new realm of possibilities for businesses, particularly in how they manage and deliver projects.
- A prime example shared by Joe was from his stint at a healthcare organization. There, he realized that the priority should not be about following procedures, but about the patients’ lives – the real purpose behind the organization’s existence.
- This experience sparked a change in his mindset about PMOs, making him understand the importance of focusing on purpose, measurement, and optimization over procedural bureaucracy.
- PMO Evolution and Value Delivery Shift [8:54]
- The importance of aligning the expectations of PMO directors and executives cannot be overstated.
- Often, there is a disconnect between what PMO directors and executives believe the PMO’s purpose should be. Joe advises shifting the focus from project management to project delivery to align the PMO and the organization’s expectations.
- By understanding why PMOs exist and optimizing their results, organizations can truly harness the power of their PMOs.
- Shifting the Focus to Purpose-Driven PMOs [14:09]
- Many PMOs prioritize operational processes and methods when entering organizations.
- The approach should shift to begin with the “why” – the purpose of the PMO.
- The focus should transition from project management to project delivery, emphasizing outcomes over processes.
- The responsibility to ensure alignment should primarily rest with the PMO, not the executives.
- Promoting project managers to PMO leadership roles requires a shift in mindset from project-centric to department-centric value creation.
- Business Acumen for PMO Leaders [22:52]
- The difference between a project manager and a PMO leader is substantial, with the latter needing to think from a broader business perspective.
- A PMO leader must also understand the role of a chief change officer and learn how to build relationships with the C-suite. This shift in mindset is essential for those aspiring to become PMO leaders.
As a project manager, we’re just thinking about the project. But as a functional leader of the project delivery team, we have to be thinking, ‘How does this help the company achieve our strategic goals?’Joe Pusz
- Bridging Operations and Project Delivery [30:54]
- One of the key challenges faced by many organizations is bridging the gap between project delivery and operations teams.
- Joe emphasizes the importance of fostering collaboration, building trust, and aligning leadership with the strategic portfolio of projects.
- He also highlights the potential of training budgets in funding professional coaching for PMO leaders, a must for any organization aiming for continuous growth and development.
- Building Trust and Developing PMO Leaders [36:43]
- The key focus is on building trust with common goals, not competing ones.
- Trust is crucial for collaboration, and past bureaucratic practices hinder trust.
- Mentoring and coaching are crucial for PMO leaders to gain different perspectives.
- Aligning everyone with the project’s outcome and “starting with why” builds emotional attachment.
- Shifting from “us versus them” to a common purpose enhances project outcomes.
Everybody’s being trained on how to deliver a project, but not how to deliver a team, a function, an organization. And that’s where a lot of the problem exists.Joe Pusz
Meet Our Guest
Joe Pusz, PMO Joe is an internationally recognized leader in the Project Management and PMO community. He is a frequent Keynote Speaker, Author, Project Management Innovator and was named the 2022 Americas PMO Influencer of the Year by the PMO Global Alliance. Joe speaks on topics of Leadership, PMOs, Purpose Driven Mindset, the Project Management Journey, and a variety of other trending Project Management topics.
He is the Founder and President of THE PMO SQUAD, a Phoenix-based PMO and Project Management Consulting firm serving clients across the United States. The PMO Squad was named Winner 2022 Small Business Awards by the Phoenix Business Journal. Joe is the host of the Project Management Office Hours Radio Show and Podcast providing Project Management Leaders a voice within our community. The show has over 40 million plays and downloads featuring guests from around the world.
Joe is also Co-Founder of VPMMA, the Veteran Project Manager Mentor Alliance which is a 501c3 Non-Profit Organization assisting Veterans seeking to transition into civilian Project Management careers. He is the Founder of The PMO Leader global community. The community is the only global e-commerce community for PMO Leaders and teams to share content, gain knowledge, and exchange experiences.
Joe supports our industry having served as a Judge for the Global PMO Awards, participates with the PMI Executive Roundtable on PMOs, and is a long-time member of the Project Management Institute. He has been a PMI Volunteer, Sponsor, and Mentor.
A PMO leader is a very elevated position in the organization that’s focused on business outcomes, not project benefits.Joe Pusz
Resources from this episode:
- Join DPM Membership
- Subscribe to the newsletter to get our latest articles and podcasts
- Connect with Joe Pusz on LinkedIn
- Check out The PMO Squad
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Read The Transcript:
We’re trying out transcribing our podcasts using a software program. Please forgive any typos as the bot isn’t correct 100% of the time.
Galen Low: Hey folks, thanks for tuning in. My name is Galen Low with the Digital Project Manager. We are a community of digital professionals on a mission to help each other get skilled, get confident and get connected so that we can amplify the value of project management in a digital world. If you want to hear more about that, head on over to thedigitalprojectmanager.com.
Okay, today we are talking about the role of the project management office in organization-wide digital transformation initiatives and the right way of integrating not just project management, but value delivery, into operations. With me today is Joe Pusz, the Founder and President of The PMO Squad and the host of the Project Management Office Hours podcast. But many of you may know him simply as PMO Joe.
Joe, it's so great to have you on the show.
Joe Pusz: Thank you, Galen. It's great to be here. Love talking to your audience and looking forward to a fun conversation.
Galen Low: Absolutely. And spoiler alert, Joe and I were just having a really good conversation in the green room that I probably should have recorded, but I'm like, so eager to dive in.
PMO is your thing. You've been doing this for well over a decade, and I'm happy to dive into what this means for organizations that are really just careening through this digital transformation era. I do want to dig in, but first of all, I mean, I said that in the intro, I'm like, everyone knows PMO Joe. But for listeners who don't know you, do you think you could just give a quick overview of your background and how The PMO Squad came to be and like the type of people that you help?
Joe Pusz: Sure. Absolutely. Thanks. So The PMO Squad, as you mentioned, been around for a little over a decade now, but I've been doing projects for, as you can see the gray and the beard. 20 plus years, right? And ultimately, I was a project manager in corporate world, elevated up to PMO manager, executive director of PMOs, ran PMOs in multiple industries, and the same thing kept coming up over and over again. And it was my boss always asking me to go out and get consultants to be able to help the organization get better with PMOs.
And we could find Deloitte and Accenture, all the big four consulting firms, but there really weren't any specialty firms who focused on PMOs. And ultimately, we would pay big time dollars for usually really inexperienced people who didn't know anything about PMOs. Man, I know more about PMOs than this person the consulting firm just brought in.
We're paying them a lot of money. So my wife got tired of me complaining of that when I would come home, and she's, why don't you just go start a company that can go help organizations? And that's all you do is focus on project management and PMOs. I said, sure, why not? Except you're a stay at home mom and I got four kids, right?
How are we going to be able to make this work? And she said, just don't fail.
Galen Low: No pressure.
Joe Pusz: Here we are, 10 years later, all of that pressure put onto us and The PMO Squad is continuing to grow and we're really helping clients from across the U.S. up in Canada as well. So we're super excited. It's been a great journey and I think we're just getting started, really have a long path ahead of us as well.
Galen Low: I love the origin story. I like that it was the right idea and the right pressure because that does sound like an immense amount of pressure. But to your point, like that's just a thing that you kept getting asked about. There was a gap in the marketplace and you grabbed it. I think that's so cool.
And I mean, you know, it's in your name, it's in the company name, it was the right idea in terms of the demand. I'm imagining it's something that you felt pretty passionately about in terms of the PMO. Is that right?
Joe Pusz: Yeah, because what I found out through my own work and then talking with clients is it's a really misunderstood part of our industry, right?
Every company has operations on lockdown. Whatever widget or service they're making, they have SOPs in place, everybody knows where to step. I mean, it is really lined up to be able to produce. But delivering projects, every company drops the ball with this, right? So for me, when I found out about project management the first time, I didn't even know it was a profession, right?
I was doing it before I even know it existed. One day my boss, Dennis, said to me, Joe, how's the project going? I'm a young 20 some year old guy out working on client sites in a software company. And I said, Dennis, what's a project? I have no idea what you're talking about. And after he explained it to me, I said, man, that's kind of how I'm wired. That's just who I am. I don't have to be something else. If I can do this for my career, how amazing would that be? Because that's just who I am. So for me, I've been fortunate to be able to find that profession that lines up with my DNA.
So I don't have to pretend when I go to work. I don't have to pretend when I come home. I'm always PMO Joe because that's just who I am. It's just how I'm built. So to be able to go help companies and get paid for that, it's kind of like a pro basketball player, Michael Jordan saying, I get paid to do something I'm good at and I love.
That's how I feel. I just get to do what I love and be able to help companies doing it.
Galen Low: I love that story about just like, Oh, what I'm doing is project management. I've never thought about project management before. I mean, you could even scale that up, right? And I imagine you see this a lot where there are organizations running projects that they don't think are projects. Because either it's blurry, it's blended with operations, it's just somebody who wanted to do a thing and it didn't have any formality around it.
And therefore it's probably not a project. It's just a thing that's happening. And yet that's a thing that's probably the Achilles heel of some of these organizations. Because they are just informally running projects that are probably in the grand scheme of things, actually really important to get right.
Joe Pusz: Yeah, we like to call those accidental projects where it's just happening. And we'll go to a conference or a networking event and just listen to people talk around us and people throw out the word project all the time. And not like they're intentionally talking about a project we're running, they're just saying our company is doing a project.
And I'll go over and start having a project management conversation with them. And you can see their eyes get all big and really, no, no, no, no, no, no. Not talking about that. And I say, yes, yes, yes, you actually were. You just didn't know it. Right? So that's what we're trying to do is be able to bring this level of education to organizations, big and small, that it's okay to talk about project delivery just like you talk about operations and how can we make the organization better. Right?
One of the major things we find when we go in and do PMO assessments for companies is we'll come up with a list of findings. And most of the time, about 70% of the findings are about the organization getting better, not about the PMO. Just think of, we talked earlier off air before we started, right, about the invoice process. Accounting owns the invoice process, but everybody in the company participates. And how do they participate? By letting accounting send invoice. Right? Somebody in marketing doesn't send out the invoicing. Somebody in engineering doesn't send out the invoice.
If they did, we'd have chaos, right? Nobody would be able to track those. But in project management, as you talked about, somebody will start a project and nobody knows it's happening. So why is it okay to have the random project kick off, but not okay to have a random invoice sent out? Right? So organizational operations are locked in on how we do operational things to support our widget making, but we're not locked in on how we deliver change via projects in the organization.
And to me, that's kind of the evolution of where PMOs are headed, to be able to be focused on delivering value the way we deliver value out of operations.
Galen Low: I think that's probably a good segue because leading up to this conversation, I was talking to some folks in our community and a lot of them come from agency side.
There's definitely a huge chunk that's also come from an in-house perspective. When we're talking about PMOs, generally the things that pop into their heads immediately are either the sort of traditional enterprise PMO, right? The PMO that sort of brings people together. These ragtag groups of people from disparate departments and just drags them kicking and screaming through a project, you know, the "right" way.
Or in some cases, it's like just air traffic control. It's like making sure that projects are actually in flight and aren't about to collide in terms of resources and goals, etcetera. But it's kind of more sort of like high level management. But I was looking at your profile and your background and you've been doing this for a while now, and especially with a specific focus on PMO over the past 10 years. And I'm imagining that it's been evolving quite a bit, especially in organizations that are more projectized, whether they know it or not.
Or like digital organizations trying to transform like quite quickly. So I just wanted to get your perspective. What is the biggest difference you see today between the anatomy and purpose of a PMO in 2023 versus what a PMO was when you first formed The PMO Squad like a decade ago?
Joe Pusz: Listen, I am a victim of my own understanding way back when, right? The first PMOs I built were what was acceptable at that time. Process heavy, bureaucratic, focused on the process, the audit that we were going to get to make sure that we were adhering to that process. But I had a breakthrough moment. I was running a PMO for a healthcare organization. We reported into the CIO, and the CIO was also in emergency room position.
So he was kind of like Batman, right? By day, he was Bruce Wayne, and at night, he was Batman. So he had dual roles. He was the CIO, but also an emergency room physician. And when we were running a project, and we used a gated methodology. So, we were running a project to be able to make a change to one of the healthcare procedures within the organization.
And we got to a gate review, and I said, as PMO director, I said, No, you can't go to the next gate, because you didn't complete one of your checklists. Cause we were a governance organization, we had to make sure you followed the process. So the project sponsor is like yelling at me, like, you don't understand the impact you're stopping.
We can't make progress on this and patients are going to be impacted by this. And I said, doesn't matter, here's the process. So afterwards, my boss came up to me, because the sponsor went and talked to my boss, right? So my boss comes over and says, Joe, what's more important? Saving a patient's life or following the process?
Jesus, nobody's ever asked me that before. Probably any other question I would have said, follow the process, right? They're like, of course, we have to save the patient's life. I mean, that's so important. So he explained to me, he said, I'd like you to come and go on an emergency room tour with me and watch how we operate in the emergency room.
Not operate like medically operate, but how we function. And what I noticed was, they had a standard process for everything. Patient comes in, you start with a triage, you go to the next step, and you go to that. But the only thing that mattered was making sure that patient stayed alive, so that they could get into the next procedure to be able to stabilize them or take what they needed to do.
It changed my entire mindset around PMOs. It was a shift, and this is what's happened to PMOs over time. It used to be bureaucracy and governance was accepted. Make sure we're doing projects the right way. Now, organizations are fighting back, and they're saying, We want a value management office. We want a strategy realization office.
We want a XMO. PMI just came out with an article about XMOs. The only reason they did that was because PMOs aren't providing strategy and value. If they had been getting that from their PMO already, they wouldn't have had to ask for a new function. So we shifted probably a decade ago. We've been well ahead of this curve to say that's what we should be driving.
The other part where this comes into play is we listen to our clients. It's great when consultants come up with, Hey, we've got a new way to do business. And everybody should follow it and like, well, where did you come up with that? I don't know. Back room one night in the middle of the night, I couldn't sleep.
And I came up with a new process. Well, who cares about that? But when you listen to your clients and you get the same story over and over again, you start saying, how can I help them with the needs they have? I'm not concerned about what I'm creating. I'm trying to solve their need. And historically that kept coming to us and say, listen, I'm a PMO leader.
I need your help because my boss keeps telling me we're not creating value. Next company, we're in there. Why are we here? Well, my boss keeps telling me we're not focused on strategic outcomes. Next company we go to, we're not delivering value the way my boss wants, right? So all of a sudden we start saying, listen, this is the trend and we created our own process for this.
So we changed PMO, right? Project Management Office. Everybody knows that. And for us, it's purpose, measure, optimize. Doesn't matter how big you are. Doesn't matter what size, what industry you're in. What is the purpose of project delivery at your company? How are you going to measure if you're being successful, and then optimize to ensure that you're being successful.
And that way it doesn't come about the bureaucracy, it's about the outcomes, right? Because the purpose is going to tell you what you're trying to achieve. So that's our evolution. That's how I've seen PMOs evolve over time. The industry is still not there, right? The industry is moving in the right direction, but we're busy, which means people still don't get it, right?
They're still stuck in the old school PMO mindset and we're helping them get there. So there's progress, but not quite there yet.
Galen Low: It's actually really interesting because, I mean, on a certain level, even just with project management, there's almost this gap, right? You mentioned it earlier, people are doing projects and without even knowing it, or they don't want to get into this dense conversation about project management process.
And that's what project management is. It's about process and knowing all these buzzwords and whatever, how to do a Monte Carlo simulation and all this stuff. Like, yeah, we just want to do a project, leave us alone. And then even at that layer, that definition of what a PMO is, like sometimes it's abstracted away from the purpose because it's so process oriented and probably in some ways, like sometimes they are set up for that, right?
And maybe like an ISO standards thing, or we just need to have everything being done the same way. And then the purpose of the PMO, if I'm picking up what you're putting down, becomes about this rigid process and sort of compliance, and then is not strategic. Therefore, the ask on top of that is like, okay, well now we need a value delivery office, or now we need an SRO and we still need this PMO because it's the process layer.
Whereas actually, it probably should be more related to what an SRO would do, or what leadership is looking for from their projects, fundamentally.
Joe Pusz: There's a great book, right? We've probably all seen it. Simon Sinek's book, it's Start With Why. Most PMOs go into organizations, want to say, how are we going to operate, and what is our process going to be?
We've shifted that up and say, it starts with why. Why does your PMO exist? What is your purpose? And when we go into new clients and the first exercise we do with them, when it's related to PMOs, is we ask their C-suite and their PMO leader to independently write down what is the purpose of the PMO. And we've been doing this for over 10 years now.
Never in 10 years has the PMO director and the executives written the same thing down. They are misaligned from the beginning on why the PMO exists. And because of that, they'll never be able to meet expectations, right? The PMO can't meet the expectations of executives if they think they exist for a different reason.
So we then work with them to come to a common purpose. And by doing that, you're all starting with the same expectations. Usually the PMO director is focused on process, and the executives C-suite are focused on outcomes. So we change the mindset from project management to project delivery. Deliver the outcome of the project as opposed to what's the process of doing the project. Process is still important, right?
You still have to follow it, but the executives don't care about that. They care about the outcome. What are you going to deliver to the executives with this project? So go with purpose driven PMO (Purpose, Measure, Optimize). Why does your PMO exist becomes more important than what is your scope and how will you operate? Why becomes more important than how and what. That's kind of how we help organizations get started. And by doing that, it's more focused on outcomes and not the audit of, are we following a process the certain way?
Galen Low: Does that like kind of turn everything on its head in terms of, like as someone who is going to be the executive director of projects or lead a PMO, usually they've been brought on and they're already in that mindset of being process oriented and like, I'm here because I know how to implement these processes so that projects are done right.
And then your team comes in and says, actually, we just need to build a whole new thing around your purpose. And does that kind of pull the rug out from underneath the teams that you're working with? And they're like, wait, we need to start from scratch here.
We thought we had a playbook, but actually everything we know is untrue.
Joe Pusz: It's an earthquake for him, right? Yeah, everything gets rattled. But we're not saying throw away the process. We're just saying make it be secondary to why you exist. Because you still want to be able to produce good results and usually consistent delivery is based on having a sound process. But don't lead with that. Don't try to tell the organization, we're going to follow this process because it's going to produce results. We have enough history, whether you're looking at the Standish report or PMI zone PM, trends pulse of the profession trending. 50% to 70% of projects fail, we have to change.
Right? So when we talk about this with them, I use an example of a pizzeria. Right? I'm from New York originally. I love pizza. And the way we talk about this is if you go into a pizzeria, you place your order for two slices with pepperoni, you go sit down, there's a process happening in the kitchen. You as the customer don't care what that process is.
You have an expectation. They know what they're doing and they're going to be able to do it the right way. But if they walk out with two slices with mushroom instead of pepperoni, I'm an unhappy customer because they didn't deliver what I asked for, right? And the owner will come over and say, Hey, does your pizza taste good?
And it's a yes or no answer, right? We don't ask our executives or our sponsors of our projects, Hey, does your project taste good? Because that's focused on the outcome. Did you get what you wanted? Instead, we keep showing them all of these measures of our process and they don't care. They just expect that we're going to do that.
We care about the process more than they do. They care about the results and that's not unique to project management. That's every department, right? Executives don't care about how you engineered something. They just want to make sure what you engineered is going to provide value to the company or same with marketing, same with finance, same with legal.
It doesn't matter, the department. You are expected to own that process and be good at. Executives want results. And we've been focused on not results. We've been focused on, I don't focus on results because we fail all the time, right? Our failure rates are high, but we've been focusing on process.
So our earthquake that we come in there and rattle up these leaders is to say, stop thinking about process stuff and start thinking about why you exist. If you're here to create value for the company, let's make sure that's what we're delivering. Don't worry about the gate review and, oops you didn't have a checklist complete.
So you can't go to the next stage of the gates. Why? We're slowing down progress. We can do that checklist on our way. Let's keep moving forward because we need an outcome that's going to be able to deliver for the company.
Galen Low: To play the metaphor out a little further, because I totally agree. I love that. I'm like, I wouldn't want to go buy pizza that does not taste good. Even if you have the best process and the pizza doesn't taste good, that's not where I'm going. But coming back to something you said earlier, which is you had the PMO director and the executive kind of like write down what is the purpose of the PMO?
It was never the same thing. Like what level of accountability is there on leadership and not explaining, like not ordering a pepperoni pizza, not saying that they wanted a pepperoni pizza and then being disappointed when they get a mushroom pizza or a pepperoni pizza, but like, did they not "place" the order?
Joe Pusz: Well, and here's my view is they did place the order and the PMO didn't deliver what they asked for. Now, why is that the case? The leader of the PMO never went to the executives and said, let me confirm your order. You wanted two slices with pepperoni, correct? So we think what we heard, we didn't confirm that, right?
That's why we do this session to bring them together and make sure they're on the same page. Should the executives be confirmed? Hey, did you get that pepperoni order that I put in place? Yeah, let's throw some responsibility over to the C-suite as well. But to me, in a customer service mindset, me delivering service to my customers, I want to put that burden on me.
I don't want to put the burden on the customer, right? They've already told me what they wanted me. During the hiring process, I'm sure they explained to me what they were looking for. And in my brain, what I heard was, Ooh, let's make sure we have a good process. Right? And they were saying we need to be able to deliver 20% growth this year. And you're thinking, man, I got to get a great process to be able to get that 20% growth. I'm going to focus on my process. It's a very big shift in the mindset.
Galen Low: I can see that exactly happening, right? They're saying one thing, we SPMs are hearing another thing because that's just how our brains work, what we are trained to think through when we're trying to solve a problem.
Joe Pusz: Part of the reason why is because the people running PMOs used to be project managers, right? We're promoting project managers who are good into the leadership role. So all they've been focused on is an individual project.
Or maybe they're running multiple projects at once, of course. They haven't been thinking about a department, a function in the organization providing value, right? That they're thinking about what benefit is this project going to create? Not what value is the department going to create? So that's a big shift for them.
They haven't been prepared to do that right on the operation side. They have all of the mechanics in place to promote people up through levels and get them the training they need to help that organization be successful. But on project delivery, there's nothing in place for that promotion and leadership training.
So there's a gap in how we train and build leaders of project delivery. That's making all of this be compounded because we don't have people in there who understand what the business needs from them. So they fall back on what I know. I know the project process, right? So I'm going to focus on that.
Galen Low: And like, I know it's common in so many different crafts and different areas of business where it's like, okay, yeah, you're pretty good at this. We're going to promote you up here. Just, you know, you're going to use those skill sets, do more of the same. And people, they paint their career path in that direction. But like, as you're saying this, what I'm realizing is that actually, the person who is a good PMO leader might not have to have been a good project manager or a good project manager doesn't necessarily make a PMO leader.
What are some of the characteristics that someone would need to be a successful PMO leader to be able to take the guidance that your team is giving them and understand what to do with that? Like how is being a PMO leader different from being just a good project manager or a program manager?
Joe Pusz: Yeah, absolutely. Great question. For me, business acumen is number one, right? Understanding what the business is there for, right? As a project manager, we're just thinking project. But as a functional leader of the project delivery team, we have to be thinking, how does this help the company achieve our strategic goals?
What value is my department providing to the organization? How do I prepare the organization for the change that's going to happen as we bring delivery throughout the organization? So business acumen and understanding how to be able to work within the rules of what the business has built. I'd also throw in there being able to work with your peers at an executive level, even if you're not, a lot of times PMO is underneath the CIO or a functional leader. But all of your customers are the C-suite, so you have to be able to talk to them.
I always recommend, take people out to lunch, take people out for a breakfast. Get to know them on a personal level. Start building a relationship with them so that you get to know how they think, how they function, how they operate, and what they need. And as a project manager, you may not be doing that, right?
Because again, you're just focused on the individual project. So PMO leader, to me, is a very elevated position in the organization that's focused on business outcomes, not project benefits. So you have to be able to think differently. You have to make sure you're providing the right coaching and leadership to your team to make sure you're getting the most out of them, that they're being able to progress in their career.
Whereas if you're on a project, you're just focused on yourself, not on trying to get the rest of the team promoted. So it's a much higher view, a much broader skillset, and it's not as focused on an individual project. It's now about people and team. The way I look at it is I love baseball. So if you're a player, if you're Aaron Judge on the Yankees, that doesn't mean he's an amazing player.
When the MVP last year got set the record for most home runs in the season. That doesn't mean he's going to be a great manager of the Yankees, but it does mean he's a great player. Right? Because when he becomes the manager, he doesn't go to the plate and try to hit home run.
He doesn't run to the outfield and try to make a great catch. As a manager, your role is different. It's how do I utilize my team to deliver the most value to produce wins and hopefully get us to the world series. Same thing with the PMO leader, right? You're the manager of the team. You're not one of the players on the team anymore.
Galen Low: You know, it's so interesting just even thinking through that notion that like the art of project management, like our craft is about temporary projects. And it is about relationships and people, but in some ways that's often temporary. You don't necessarily get to build long term relationships with your sponsors and even your teams.
And then as you're saying that, I'm like, Oh yeah, because you'd need to retrain yourself almost to think in terms of building long term relationships with the executive team, the C-suite and really be a part of the machine. Not just getting your mission impossible envelope that should you choose to accept and then it explodes and you do the thing and come back and get another one.
Like it's very temporary and cyclical versus the mindset of, okay, I am a core component of the business and how it operates. I need to think of it from a business perspective as much as if not more than a project perspective.
Joe Pusz: Organizations have chief operating officers who make sure the operations are efficient and profitable. Projects we know are unique endeavors. Essentially, they're change. Every project is a change to something. So who's the chief change officer in the organization? There isn't one. So I always try to tell the, whoever's leading the PMO, behave as if you're the chief change officer. Operations are being handled by the CEO.
They're making sure that keep the lights on business is working the way it needs to. But every project that comes over, changes how the organization works. Hopefully for the better, because that's the whole point of doing a new project, right? It's to improve something. But the organization isn't used to that.
They're used to doing the standard operating procedure. And now you're going to do something different. So the organization's impacted by that, not just the project team, right? The whole organization. A lot of times project team members fight, right? They push back. They're like, I don't want to be on this project because I have to go do my day job.
That's the mindset of how we're going to do this. Not why we're going to do this. The why would be we're asking you to be on this project because we're trying to improve your day job. We're going to make your day job easier. So you should want to come over here and work on this project to ensure we make it the best for you.
As opposed to the mindset today, they go kicking and screaming of, Oh, my performance review is going to suffer because I know 25% of my time, I'm not going to be able to produce the same number of widgets I used to.
Galen Low: So what would you recommend that either they as individuals do to gain some of the business acumen skills to learn about how a PMO is run? And I guess on the flip side, if you're an organization trying to groom somebody from a project manager into somebody who could be a future PMO leader, where do you send them? What kind of training do you give them?
Joe Pusz: Most organizations have leadership development programs in place already, but they never bring the PMO into that. It's always the operations folks, right? So identify some of those high talented, high value PMs and bring them into your established leadership development program. If I'm a PMO leader and I'm trying to improve my skills, mentoring and coaching would be the first two things I would start with. I would find a C-suite executive in my company that has nothing to do with project management and ask them if they would be willing to mentor you for a year.
Executives eat that stuff up, right? They love giving back to people. It makes them feel important and they are important, but it also, all that wisdom and experience and success they've had, they're able to share that with you. It gives you a completely different perspective than what you have running projects.
So my first thing is always go reach out to somebody and ask them, once a month, can we go to lunch and just talk for an hour or two hours? This is an organizational mindset shift we have to be able to help companies with not just projects, right? It's about how do we change what we deliver compared to the operating rhythm that we have in place today.
Galen Low: Can we dig in on that? Because I think that is at the crux of my mindset on PMOs and digital transformation and change, which I think from my perspective, whether people know it or not, a lot of organizations have done a ton of projects, especially coming into and out of the pandemic to transform their business like drastically because they had to.
And I think probably that might have gotten a little less pushback because it was obvious why you would need to change a bunch of stuff, whether setting up a call center that's now remote or, going from brick and mortar to ecommerce or what have you. There are all these things that happened as part of digital transformation, whether those organizations called them digital transformation initiatives or not.
And then I feel like that's in direct conflict with that traditional view where projects are separate. They're like side of desk, right? You have to put down your day job and work on this project for a quarter of your time and it's a pain in the butt. It's not part of your role. And yet what you're saying, I think really resonates with me is that projects are catalysts.
They're change, right? They drive change. They are important. And yet somehow it's almost always like side of desk in an organization. It's like, okay, yeah, I need you to spend a bit of your time not producing those widgets, maybe not hitting your metrics as hard because we need you on this project.
And it's kind of like, aw, man. But I think one of the things that you've talked to me about in the past is just this notion of like, integration, right? Like, what does an integrated PMO actually look like when it's actually part of operations. From your perspective, you see a lot of these PMOs, what are people sometimes getting wrong about integrating their PMO? Because I think a lot of folks think that their PMO is integrated, but it probably isn't as integrated if what people are saying is, Oh man, I got to work on this project.
Joe Pusz: We all work for the same company, operations and project delivery. What's the goal of the organization? Let's just say the company goal is 20% growth this year.
That's the main target for everybody. What's the common ground between operations and project? We both should be working to create 20% growth. If we're integrated, that's seamless. But in most organizations, it's an us versus them. I'm either on operations or I'm on project delivery. What we try to do is work with the organization's operations team to be able to say, how do we partner to ensure that we get our 20% growth this year?
Because I want my company bonus just as much as you do. What we try to explain to them is when you create a, we call them dark project, right? When operations kicks off a dark project that wasn't approved as part of the portfolio, you're taking resources to work on your pet project that may not be aligned to 20% growth.
It may be aligned to you getting good performance score this year on your evaluation, but it's not going to create growth. The company approved a portfolio of projects. We have to work collectively to make sure that we deliver on those because there is an expected ROI to help us get growth. So we're not going to talk project management.
This is what we try to teach people. We have to start learning in the project space how to speak operations. Stop thinking that they understand when we say, yeah, we gotta go create our WBS. They're like, eh, lost me, see ya later. We have to go in there and say, can you tell me how you do your job today? And then we write that down and create a WBS.
It's asking them in their words, how to build a WBS for us, because they don't care about a WBS. When they say critical path, you hear this all the time in organizations. Somebody will say, yeah, this is on the critical path. That doesn't mean that they actually built a schedule and mapped out the critical path.
It just means it's an important task. So we have to think their critical path, not our version of that, right? So bringing our language and almost being a translator, right? We know we speak project. We have to learn to speak operations and only talk to the operations people in their language. Come back to our project and translate and build our project requirements and show the benefits of why we're doing this and become integrated.
The operations team should include as part of their performance evaluations the amount of project work they're doing. So, employees aren't only being evaluated on what their operations are. Employees should know that. They should understand that. They should appreciate that. We have to work on the way that we deliver.
And not be focused on, we're going to create schedules and tools that only we understand. How do we incorporate the teams in that and utilize tools that they understand? The PMO Squad did a research report last year and we asked, what's the number one project management tool used at your company? And the number one answer to that was Microsoft Excel.
That's great. Everyone I, they hear that they're like, Oh my gosh, we're horrible, right? We're not using our project management tools. And I said, but you're using tools the business understands. That person in accounting and marketing who doesn't understand how to use Microsoft Project or some other tool, it's okay because we can go talk to them in Excel.
Right? So finding ways to coexist as opposed to being us and them makes you an integrated PMO. Over 10 year history, I would say maybe 5% of the PMOs have been integrated. There's always a battle that there's an us versus them happening. And what we try to do is break down the walls and build a bridge over the moat that's separating us, right?
We have two castles in the company, there's moats between us, and we have to build a bridge to get over there. And the way we build that bridge is by not trying to push project management down their throat, but us learning about operations, us learning about business acumen, us learning about business objectives, and utilizing our own skill set to make those things happen for them.
It's what are we doing with you, not what are we doing to you. That's a big cultural shift, that's not an easy thing to accomplish, but if you don't start doing that, you'll never get to the endgame. And that defined purpose, right, coming together with a collective purpose for the project delivery function, that's the beginning.
Because that C-suite of operational leaders are the ones that helped you define your purpose. So whenever conflict arises down the road, you have a center point to go back to. Right? Somebody in your team who is a, maybe off the marketing department and they're like, I don't want to work on this project.
It's taking away time for me to be able to do my creatives. I hear what you're saying, but the purpose of our organization is to implement changes to provide the financial benefits the company is looking for. We're both doing the same thing. Let's check with your boss to make sure we're aligned on this, right? Try to prevent those us versus them conversations and what are we doing together?
Galen Low: You know what I love about that is it's so multifaceted because it starts, grassroots, like let's remove the walls and let's not be adversaries. It's not stealing, it's collaborating. And then also what strikes me is just that importance.
You mentioned dark projects and I see it happen all the time. And a lot of that is also because there isn't alignment with whatever that portfolio of projects is that was sent down from the top. There is an onus also on leadership to get people bought into the strategic portfolio or program of projects that we need to run in order to hit that goal, which we all share.
Yes, like maybe 20% growth like this year. Those two things together then are like, yes, let's get our bonuses, let's deliver on the mission, and we are doing the same thing, like we are not competing, we are not teams that are competing, like ops versus projects.
Joe Pusz: It's about building that trust that we have common goals, not competing goals. And if I don't trust you, then I don't want to work with you. And in the past, you've made everything bureaucratic, and you've slowed down my capability to do my job better, so I don't trust you. So we have to overcome that, right? The history's there. We can't have a blind eye to it. We have to acknowledge that and go about this in a different way so that we can start building that trust up with the operation side of the business to be able to go collaborate, to deliver a common goal.
Right now, they think we have different goals than they do because of the history of how we've always done project delivery. So we have to be willing to change.
Galen Low: So it's interesting what you said about 5% of the PMOs that you've seen are integrated, which also then means that 95% of organizations with a PMO has some healing to do, some trust to rebuild, some translation to have happen.
So that we are not cramming project process down people's throats and all this vernacular that they've never seen before and don't care to understand so that we can start building that trust and start delivering value together.
Joe Pusz: And that's really not even an unknown fact, right? And I mentioned the survey we did last year. Another question we asked was, is your PMO successful? The response back we got was only 43% of PMO leaders said their PMO was successful. So less than half know, they already know they're not successful. So they understand this, they just don't know how to go fix it because they've been a project manager most of their career.
They've never been a PMO leader, so they're not sure how to go fix what they've been trained their whole life to go do. PMI doesn't have a certification out there for PMO leadership. There's not a PRINCE2 solution for PMO leadership. Everybody's being trained on how to deliver a project, but not how to deliver a team, a function, an organization. And that's where a lot of the problem exists.
They're willing to say, We're not good at this. We're not successful. And I don't even know what to do to go fix it. And that's where, again, PMO Squad, that's why we're out for 10 plus years, because we're here to be able to help companies fix that. We get it, we understand, and it's not just me, right?
The team, the squad, there's a bunch of us. We've been PMO leaders. We know what it's like to be in your situation. And we come in with solutions that are geared to help you be successful.
Galen Low: And maybe even just to round it out, because I think what it all comes down to, this whole thing is kind of that the skill of the PMO leader, like at their relationship building, their ability to communicate, their ability to be organized. Yes, process driven, but it is stringing all of these things together to deliver value and make change in an organization.
And I do think that a lot of the folks I talk to, they are maybe a project manager, maybe they're a senior project manager, maybe they're a director of projects and a PMO leader is something that is appealing for them. But like you said, they probably haven't gotten the training and exposure to do the job yet.
So what would you recommend that either they as individuals do to gain some of the business acumen skills to learn about how a PMO is run? And I guess on the flip side, if you're an organization trying to groom somebody from a project manager into somebody who could be a future PMO leader, like where do you send them? What kind of training do you give them?
Joe Pusz: Yeah, most organizations have leadership development programs in place already, but they never bring the PMO into that. It's always the operations folks, right? So identify some of those high talented, high value PMs and bring them into your established leadership development program.
If I'm a PMO leader and I'm trying to improve my skills, mentoring and coaching would be the first two things I would start with. I would find a C-suite executive in my company that has nothing to do with project management and ask them if they would be willing to mentor you for a year. Executives eat that stuff up, right?
They love giving back to people. It makes them feel important and they are important. But it also, all that wisdom and experience and success they've had, they're able to share that with you. It gives you a completely different perspective than what you have running projects. So my first thing is always go reach out to somebody and ask them.
Once a month, can we go to lunch and just talk for an hour or two hours and learn how they talk is very differently than how you talk within the organization. And then the other would be professional coaching. The best sports players, athletes in the world have coaches. The best actors in the world have coaches.
The best singers and bands in the world have coaches. All of the people who are in the arts have coaches. We in the project space think, Hey, I'm a professional. Why do I need a coach? There's an expectation that I know what I'm supposed to know. Well, maybe you don't, right? There's people out there that can help you pull the best out of you.
And if organizations are willing to have a training budget to cover training for you, I would ask, can I use my training dollars on paying for a professional coach to help me in my role? So by getting a coach and getting a mentor, you're now getting a way different perspective than you've ever received before about project delivery and about leadership in an organization.
Galen Low: I see so many people, myself included, get hung up on this notion of, if I need a coach, then I probably am not very good at my job. And for some reason that's not okay. And the other thing I really love is that, I was like, okay, Joe's gonna go one of two ways.
Either talk to somebody who leads a PMO, and you went, no, talk to somebody who's got nothing to do with projects, because that's what's really gonna round you out. So that you can get out of your sort of project management myopia and start seeing a business for what it is and how it operates and how leadership thinks about a problem so that you can then understand the value that you are delivering.
Because otherwise that value you think you're delivering value by completing a project or by making sure a whole portfolio of projects got completed, but that isn't necessarily value as much as a pizza that has a great process that doesn't taste very good isn't a good tasting pizza.
Joe Pusz: Exactly. It's about the outcome. Right? And there's an expectation again, that we have the process. It's what are we producing for the company? And we have to change that mindset. We have to get everybody aligned to the outcome and starting with why. Why are we working on this project? Builds an emotional attachment to it.
I'll tell you a quick story. There's a company that produced valves, right? Heart valves for folks and they're a manufacturing company and they had become stagnated in their growth. The owners wanted to grow and they couldn't figure out how to do it. So they called in, I believe it was McKinsey to go do some research to come, how can we improve?
After a month, McKinsey comes back and says, we have your solution. We want to put up two posters and the executives are like, we just spent all of this money on McKinsey and you come back with two posters. Why are we going to invest all of this money and then come up with that? And they said, well, let me tell you about the posters.
You're producing heart valves. The first thing we want to do is there's a common entryway into your plant. I want to put a poster at the entryway of people who have received your heart valves. To let everybody in the organization see, not a heart valve that they're producing, but a person that's benefiting from that.
And then second, in your break room, there's a common break room. We want you to put up a poster of your own employees who have received your heart valves. So now it's not even just a person random out there. It's people who work at your company have received your own heart valves, and we want that to be visible to everybody in the organization.
Executives go implement it, six months later, 20% increase in efficiency. They didn't change anything else in the line. They didn't change anything else in their process, but it gave people a common why. They understood their job was not just producing these widgets. Thousands of them, over and over, day after day after day.
It was, I'm saving lives and I'm more important because I'm a lifesaver, not just a widget producer. When we do that with projects, we have a higher success rate. We're able to deliver because there's a common why. It's an emotional attachment to delivering something bigger than project 107. It's the outcome that you've attached to, and everybody wants to be a part of that.
That's again, this starts with why this purpose driven mindset, the purpose driven PMO, to be able to integrate that into the organization, so that we're collectively delivering on outcomes for the company, as a collective, as opposed to us versus them.
Galen Low: Amazing. Joe, thanks so much for hanging out with me today. It's been such an honor having you on the show. And before we let our listeners go, I thought I'd ask, how can folks find out more about what you do, your squad, The PMO Squad?
Joe Pusz: Yeah, obviously out on LinkedIn, everybody can find us out there. Look up PMO Joe, only one out there, of course, and thepmosquad. com. You can certainly go out there and learn more about us. We also have a global community called The PMO Leader. And that's a free membership to join, doesn't cost anything, and it's to be able to help us become better PMO leaders, right? To be able to help networking, share, exchange information, and that's a global organization.
So, LinkedIn, PMO Squad, PMO Leader, any of the three, we'd love to hear from you. And certainly feel free to connect with me as well. Galen, thanks so much for the time today. I really appreciate it.
Galen Low: Oh, thank you very much for spending your time with us. It was a pleasure. I definitely learned a lot. So, thanks again.
Joe Pusz: It was great to be here.
Galen Low: All right folks, there you have it. As always, if you'd like to join the conversation with over a thousand like minded project management champions, come join our collective. Head on over to thedigitalprojectmanager.com/membership to learn more. And if you like what you heard today, please subscribe and stay in touch on thedigitalprojectmanager.com.
Until next time, thanks for listening.