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Why PMOs need to get to grips with Agile

Members of PMO sat around meeting table in office with laptops and project documents discussing their agile strategy for work

“What can we do about Agile?”

PMOs (project, programme and portfolio management offices) are still asking that question, even though this conversation has been going on for years. There remains a real sense of misgiving and it’s largely due to the perception that Agile means loss of control.

On the other hand, I’ve also found that some PMOs are actively kept out of Agile meetings because it’s assumed they will stifle the new way of working by asking for additional documentation or reports. In this context, the PMO is seen as resistant to change which, when you think about it, is ironic because the PMO actually brings about change.

So why is this still happening?

I believe it comes down to lack of understanding on both sides, but particularly the idea that making a business more Agile can be perceived as a need to get rid of the PMO function (bureaucracy). This creates apprehension within the PMO and reticence to engage with the new direction; something which doesn’t help anyone - not least the organization.

Tips and techniques

Rather than hiding away, we teach the PMO to be present in Agile and to accept that everyone is just trying to deliver projects; Agile just does it in a different way. The key is to realize that Agile can be hugely helpful if you just buy into it. This does, of course, require a change of mindset and we encourage the PMO to start with a few simple steps:

  • Be present: Go to the demos, go to the Scrum meetings (if it’s being used) and the retrospectives. You’ll get all the information you need in one of those forums.
  • Try it: Learn about it rather than running scared. Don’t surrender to your inherent distrust of change and actually give it a go.
  • Proactively change your perspective: Break out of your bubble and open up to new possibilities. Instead of asking the Agile teams for information, turn it around and ask what you can do for them to make the project run more smoothly. It’s less about “give me this” and more “how can I help you?”.

Hybrid approach

That’s not to say this should be an “either-or” situation. When organizations claim they need to be more Agile, often what they really mean is to operate in a faster, more flexible and in a more adaptable way.

In fact, they often still require an element of control at the beginning and end of a project in order to track some form of benefit and delivery against expectations. It’s the bit in the middle that needs attention because locking down the scope of a project no longer suits a world that moves at an ever-increasing pace.

This is why adopting a hybrid model in the form of PRINCE2 Agile® can prove the ideal solution as, unless you are in software, projects are rarely pure Agile or pure business. This professional qualification acknowledges and brings the two sides together towards better integration — and that can only be a good thing.

Read more AXELOS Blog Posts by Emma Arnaz-Pemberton

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PRINCE2 Agile Foundation: a pragmatic approach to project success

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