Is there such a thing as a perfect PMO meeting? Some may feel that a good meeting, let alone, a perfect PMO meeting are as elusive as the Fountain of Youth or the Holy Grail. I am here to tell you today that they are real and do exist! I have seen them with my own two eyes. This article will focus on how you can collaborate with your project team, how to set the meeting up, what the agenda should look like, and what should and should not take place at this meeting.
The Perfect PMO Management Meeting
First, let me give you the context of the company in which this particular Project Management Office was operating. It was a mid-sized software development company that was broken down into four separate channels of business. All projects were run through the PMO. Resources from each department reported to the Functional Managers directly and the PMO worked closely with the Functional Managers.
There was also an off-shore development and QA team that was integrated into this mix. They were spread across the four channels of business in support of the project that were underway. As much as possible, all resources were dedicated to one business unit and ideally one project at a time. The idea of shared resources was attempted but was quickly found to be wanting.
Every Thursday morning (in my opinion, the perfect time for a weekly meeting) key managers in this company would meet. Over time, the agenda we used was honed to the following four topics:
- New Best Practices Review (up to 10 minutes)
- New Project Review (up to 20 minutes)
- High Risk Assessment (up to 20 minutes)
- Project Deployment Schedule Review (up to 10 minutes)
The meeting is fast-paced and the epitome of “just net it out for me”.
- The New Best Practices Review would consist of best practices that had been implemented over the previous week. These were based upon Lessons Learned from projects that were in their Closing phase. This could be anywhere from a new approval process or workflow, to a different way in working with Clients. There would be minimal discussion as the details had been vetted out prior to the weekly PMO meeting and this was presented as “this is how we will now be operating”. This may not sound like the most exciting topic, but it was always presented with the intent of how can we make everyone’s lives easier working together. People had provided their input into these systems and processes that were being introduced and this was just the culmination of their efforts.
- The New Project Review allowed anyone that wanted to introduce a project to the PMO to submit a 1- page summary that provided a brief description of the project, the business objectives that were supported and the benefit this new project would bring to the organization. It was then open for brief discussion or questions and the project was either approved to move forward (for example…paying Client work), turned down on the spot, or put out for further research to be revisited the following week. The beauty of this arrangement was that everyone in the company knew about the ability to introduce a project in this way. They would work through their respective department heads and prepare the necessary documentation. If the project was justified from an ROI perspective or had merit for its strategic importance, it would be approved to work on. It also prevented a lot of unnecessary or wasteful pet projects starting up outside of the PMO arrangement and kept the company resources focused on the right things.
- The High Risk Assessment portion of the meeting utilized a high-level milestone report that showed the Red, Yellow, Green status of all projects within the organization broken down by business unit. There was zero time spent on anything that was going as planned due to the fact that professional project managers were managing the work. This portion of the meeting focused on exception management and only projects that were in trouble were discussed. Decisions were made on these projects, obstacles were cleared and risks were mitigated.
- The Project Deployment Schedule Review. This was the final part of the meeting. Since this was a software development company that worked with business users, the deployments would be done over the weekends. A schedule was provided for the upcoming deployments that were up to 1-month out, with a particular focus on the upcoming weekend. This included any code that was being deployed, hardware upgrades or maintenance or anything else that would possibly touch the Production system. This, in turn, provided for a great opportunity for every departmental manager to know what was coming and prepare their teams for the work that was in the queue.
A key component to making this successful is having the right people in attendance. You need to have Project Managers, Functional Managers and Executives that could make the decisions on the spot in attendance.
How do you know if you have the right people involved? If you find yourself during this meeting saying “we have to check with…” then you don’t have the right people there. You need the decision makers who can focus on the issues at hand and get them resolved quickly.
Week-in and week-out, the company can step up its level of professionalism, review and approve new projects, mitigate risk and get everyone on the same page…all in about 1 hour per week. Really? Just one hour per week? It does sound a bit unbelievable to cover all this ground in one hour.
Truth being told, the early project management office meetings were not this way. Everyone was still trying to figure out the format, what was important, what wasn’t and who needed to attend. Early meetings could run as long as 2-3 hours as these issues were being resolved.
In a matter of just a few weeks you will start seeing a big difference. And within months your meeting will be running like clockwork.
What Not To Cover at the PMO Meeting
As counterintuitive as it may sound, you will want to stay away from solving complicated problems at this weekly meeting. That’s not the purpose. The purpose of this meeting is to identify issues, make decisions, and clear pathways. If there is a problem that comes up or an issue that you see is going to take a long time to discuss, then set up a time to follow up on that particular item with just the people needed. You can then dig into the details and take all the time necessary to find the best solution.
Otherwise, you will find that your meeting will quickly go off the tracks. People will start rendering opinions about areas they may not be familiar with and overcomplicate the matter at hand. At the very least, it will be hard to keep the meeting within the targeted 1 hour timeslot.
As the moderator of this meeting it’s up to you to identify these trouble spots and set up the follow-up meetings afterward. The good news is that there’s the possibility of getting to a near perfect, if not perfect, weekly meeting. What it requires on your part is a solid agenda, discipline to keep things moving, and follow-up. You’ll soon enjoy the forward momentum and traction that such a meeting will introduce to your company.
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