Project Management

5 Ways to Mentor from the PMO

The Project Management Office (PMO) performs several basic functions which set the stage for success. Not every project manager answers directly to your PMO, but the PMO still needs to provide a framework that guides each project toward a successful conclusion. Your PMO should be the center for information flow, and the place where integrated systems are born. The PMO must provide:

Guidelines for industry best practices. By collecting information on previously completed projects, you create a road map that outlines the route that most often leads to a successful project.

Repeatability. Methods that led to success in prior projects must be usable for future projects. This often means you must distill the actions of the team to isolate the process from the specific project.

Standardized terminology. Every team member and project manager must be able to communicate clearly to move project forward. The PMO sets the standard for language used and determines what lingo to use for what situation.

Templates and tools. A template shows project managers a step-by-step guide that follows identified best practices and repeatability processes. Templates offer guidance along with the needed flexibility to respond to changing project goals. Tools help project managers make need changes while staying on track for the overall project template.

Expectations and accountability. You communicate to the project manager what the minimum expectations are for each project. They communicate that information to the team working on the specific project. Ultimately, accountability for failed projects flows through the PMO, making it a crucial part of the management process.

Benefits of a Successful Project Management Office

Taking your PMO from data collection to information center creates several organic organizational benefits. The purpose of your PMO is to create better management capability. By individualizing management capabilities across your organization, each team member learns to work smarter, within the practices set forth by the PMO. This ultimately improves productivity and efficiency.

A successful PMO enables new lines of communication between technical experts and management professionals. Getting tech experts on board with project management office methodologies improves their understanding of the importance of planning, budgeting, scheduling and other nuances of project management. This forms the foundation for continued success for all projects.

Taking the Step from Manager to Mentor

The PMO sets the methodologies each manager is expected to use, but often without the additional training needed to ensure each manager has the tools to properly follow the guidelines. The challenges to translating from management office to mentoring office are the same for virtually any project: scope, time and cost. Before starting a mentoring program, it is important for you to understand the ways to integrate mentoring from the PMO.

1. Identify a need. Jumping in with an organization wide program causes massive confusion and eventual failure of the entire program. Identify a few key employees that could benefit from additional training and a mentor-protegee relationship. Look at performance, qualifications and placement to find the employees that could be of real value as protegee candidates.

2. Build a framework. Your PMO needs to have a mentor system in place and ready to roll out before approaching your first candidates. A fragmented mentor program where the protegee receives a lot of different, contradictory, information is a recipe for disaster. Have a basic training schedule worked out before implementing the program.

3. Train your mentors. Assess your organization and capacity, using that data to define what mentoring will mean in the context of your organization. Then build a plan to help mentors execute that definition with their chosen protegee.

4. Design templates and tools. Templates and tools offer project managers a quick and easy way to provide documentation for projects and communicate with clients and co-workers. Your project management office should offers these tools to every employee, but mentors and their protegees should be involved in the development process for new documents and presentations.

5. Put outcome measurements in place. Having a mentoring program does not tell you how successful the program is. On-the-job training is much more successful than academic coursework or power points as a teaching tool, but it still requires oversight to ensure success. Determine your criteria for a successful mentor-protegee relationship before implementation to ensure an unbiased overview of the program.

Using these five tips will help your PMO truly stand as the information center for your organization. Careful up-front planning and attention to detail along the way will keep your mentors on track and your protegees where you want them in the development process. Every employee has the capability to be an extraordinary asset to your company, but only when provided with the tools they need for success. Turn your PMO into a Project Mentoring Office and reap the rewards in productivity and efficiency increases.