Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The PMO is Dead. Long Live the VMO (Value Management Office)!

It seems that the Project or Programme Management Office (PMO) function is 'de rigour' these days. Every search I do for Quality, Process or Change Management contracts throws up a whole bunch of PMO roles - PMO Lead, PMO Manager or PMO Analyst.

Now I've never been a PMO Manager or Lead - at least not in my official 'Job Title'. I've had much more encompassing roles, which have included most of the activities I see mentioned in these job specifications, and a whole load more. Which is probably why no-one is offering me even an interview for a PMO role...but that's another story...

I've written about PMOs in the past - often in rather unflattering terms. (Ref:PMO - Master or Servant?) Because just about all the PMOs I've encountered in recent years suffer from the same set of issues all stemming from the fact that they have either lost direction or never had a direction to lose in the first place.

I'm not even sure that the PMO name is appropriate in many cases. Because many PMOs are nothing more than management snoops and data leeches - they have become a burden to the projects rather than the supporting function they once purported to be.

The PMO isn't the only function to have fallen by the wayside. The Quality Assurance (QA) function now appears to be synonymous with Testing and is often outsourced to low cost delivery centres. Many organisations also now have a Delivery Assurance function which seems to overlap in many respects with the PMO as well as traditional Quality and Process Improvement functions but without actually delivering genuine value to the business, but acting as the compliance police, and causing additional angst to project and programmes. Many businesses now appear to be outsourcing their PMOs so they will become unseen and largely unapproachable sources of contention.

In my Utopian world I would like to see an end to the unnecessary, valueless functions (Type II Muda in lean terminology) within the organisation. I'd like to propose the Value Management Office (VMO) which has a direct reporting line to the Chief Executive with dotted reporting lines to the other C-Level executives.

The VMO is a business function, designed to oversee corporate governance, organisational change, quality, compliance and process management. The VMO is permanently staffed with a small core of Value champions to co-ordinate, act as gatekeepers and maintain continuity of the function but the ideas, requirements and solutions come from Value Action Teams from within the body of the organisation. These are virtual teams created from the people closest to the work, brought together to address real issues within their scope of expertise. This isn't a new concept - it is the way many Software Engineering Process Groups function. When objectives, roles and responsibilities and values are clearly established and shared, it is a very powerful mechanism for establishing and sustaining change in an organisation.

Above all, the VMO is a supporting function, providing genuine assistance to the wider business. VMO staff should look at every activity they are involved with and be able to clearly articulate why they are doing it, who they are doing it for, what value it brings, and whether it is genuinely a business necessity (Type I Muda or actual value add to the customer).

The VMO acts as a single conduit for all organisational change where it can evaluate the impact of change and how changes align with each other (or not) and prioritise accordingly. This helps to minimise the risk of change overwhelming the business, and the problem of multiple changes competing for the same resources.

Detractors from a central VMO approach are likely to say that this is just simply another overhead bucket with a different name. Indeed this is exactly what it could become if it is allowed to function unchecked and become another self serving and disconnected unit. Which is why it needs to be under the direct control of the highest executives within the business and why its own governance must be designed to prevent that from happening.

In future posts I'll expound on this proposition, especially about how to scale up the model to work in larger organisations. If you already have a model like this in place please share your experiences, good or bad!

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