The PMO as an Agent of Change

Project Management Offices (PMOs) are uniquely positioned to be agents of change within an organization.

Change is hard.  And change is everywhere. Change is one of the most difficult things businesses do.  Project Managers can plan for the change, they can execute the science of the change, but there can be a missing element for business change to be truly successful.  It is the “art” of change, and it has to do with people.

People need to accept the change.  And there are plenty of change methodologies and books and training about how to go about executing successful change.  However, within an organization, you need skilled people to implement change.  A Change Manager or a Change Management Organization is ideal.  A PMO can also be an agent of change.

Think about it.  A PMO is staffed with professional Project Managers.  These are people who get things done for a living.  If the PMO is not taking an active role in implementing change, change will fail.  But a PMO is not, by default, equipped to lead effective change initiatives.  I mean, the science of change, yes.  But not the art.  There are soft skills and leadership skills needed to sell change, to lead people through change, to help an organization embrace and accept change.  And while senior leadership is ultimately responsible, the PMO can help “where the rubber meets the road”.  The PMO is uniquely positioned on the front line of change, and can help implement a successful change initiative.  You just need to make it part of its charter.

The charter of a PMO defines what it does.  If playing an active role in change initiatives is part of the charter, the PMO will then endeavor to hire and train its Project Managers on the skills necessary to support change.  Most of those are already in the DNA of a good Project Manager.  But in most cases you have to build on that.  You have to provide the skills and training needed to be a successful change agent.  These soft skills can be taught and improved with training and practice.

Effective change management can be taught to all levels of an organization’s leadership.  But there is one group that is uniquely positioned to have the greatest impact.  And that group is the PMO.  All major initiatives should run through this group, and a member of this group should be assigned to lead them.  Making sure this group accepts its responsibility for the success of change, above and beyond the key performance indicators of their project, is a critical success factor.  Implementing the new system is not enough.  Adoption and acceptance of the change are also key.  The PMO needs to expand its scope to include these.  And PMO Project Managers are well qualified to lead change.

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