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Resource Index > Fast Tracks for Your Project Role > Head of PMO

Head of Project Management Office,
Project Support Group or Project Management Center of Excellence

The head of the PMO, PSG, or PMCOE is usually responsible for multiple project managers and/or for the performance of project management in the organization. Companies charter such a group to proactively ensure that project management is applied consistently and effectively across the many projects the business needs to get done. Responsibilities of the group can include monitoring progress of all projects, sponsoring training programs for project managers, providing PM coaching, facilitating knowledge sharing among project managers, defining the company's project management processes and creating related resources.

Implementing and Improving Project Management in the Organization

If what's uppermost on your mind is your role or your group's role in implementing project management in the organization, here are several resources. NOTE: Even if you do not have a formal PMO or project support group of any kind, these resources apply to anyone who is looking to improve PM processes and project performance in their organization. The resources cover introducing project management discipline and processes, dealing with the changes required, and determining how to work with executives to make it happen:
  • Increase the odds of successfully launching a Project Management Office: Your charter should help build and document stakeholder consensus about the PMO's goals, mission, constraints, and resources. The Enterprise Project Management Office (PMO) Charter outline, provided by an experienced and highly successful director of an enterprise PMO, walks PMO heads and stakeholders through key success factors for launching an enterprise-wide PMO, Project Office, or Center of Excellence.
  • Making Matrix Management Work: In many organizations, functions are king and getting work done cross-functionally is difficult at best. "Matrix Management Reinvented," by Paula Martin, who has extensive field experience with matrix organizations, discusses what it takes to make it all work, including getting alignment around goals, projects, and roles, achieving collaborative management, and what's required of individuals.
  • Starting a PMO: Options and Results: Thinking of starting a PMO, or already have one and wondering if you've got everything covered? Why You Need a Project Management Office (PMO) from CIO Magazine says that companies seeking more efficiency and tighter monitoring of IT projects are opening project management offices in growing numbers - but they shouldn't expect a quick fix, easy metrics or an immediate payback. Read the article for examples of what different companies are doing and why, and what results they see.
  • Getting Value from a Project Management Office: To enable an organization that executes well to its strategic plan, your Project Management Office (PMO) can make the difference - IF it is set up to effectively eliminate typical ongoing fights over resources and project priorities. The paper How to Get Value out of a Project Management Office (PMO) - Building a PMO that Executives Love from International Institute for Learning and EPM Solutions takes an executive-level look at the elements of the PMO that can dramatically increase the probability of your organization meeting its goals. It focuses on four major processes: Choosing the right projects via a new kind of strategic planning, permanently linking strategies to projects, managing the project portfolio correctly, and measuring the PMO correctly.
  • Getting Executive Support for Project Management and PM Improvements: You know that an effective project management process can help your organization achieve its business goals. So how do you convince the different levels of executive management? The presentation When Management Isn't Buying: Six Internal selling Tools that Work shows how to effectively champion the adoption of PM process by tailoring solutions and value propositions to each level and each individual in your management "audience."
  • Getting PM practices into use quickly: If your goal is to introduce new project management procedures to an organization, develop related PM skills, and improve project performance as quickly as possible, Implementing PM Procedures and Developing Skills provides a step-by-step guideline, including techniques projects can put to use immediately.
  • Rewarding Project Management Skills and Adoption: To bring PM high visibility in the "culture" of the organization - as well as encourage good project management with team members as well as PMs - consider using our Project Manager and Team Member Performance Appraisals in your organization.
  • Adjusting Attitudes Toward Project Management: If you're being hampered in your mission by some team members or functional managers having negative attitudes toward project management or project managers, read our paper Getting Relevant to Get Results for some personal perspectives on this very typical issue, from an engineer-turned-project manager.
  • Questions on Implementing PM: Read our Burning Questions on Implementing Project Management for insights from leading PM books on this subject and other sources.

Providing Support Staff and Services to Projects in the Organization

One role for your group may be to provide support staff to projects or facilitate specific project activities as "consultants." Some PMOs offer facilitation and consulting services to projects. The goal may be to be a source of seasoned resources for such facilitation work, with the benefit of allowing the project manager to participate in the meetings rather than worry about running them. The goal may also be to model various skills for your project managers to help them develop the capabilities themselves:
  • Assigning Appropriate Project Managers to Projects: Different projects can require different project manager experience levels and specific strong skills. Our Project Manager/Team Leader Selection Worksheet helps a Project Sponsor or PMO member think through the needs of a specific upcoming project; evaluate one or more project manager candidates against standard characteristics your organization requires from PMs, PLUS special experience or abilities that new project needs; ultimately select the best candidate AND identify any coaching or support that PM might need.
  • Educating Project Sponsors: Use our template on the Project Sponsor Role to help get your project managers effective project sponsorship and ensure the PMs understand how to use a sponsor effectively on a project.
  • Getting New Team Members Up to Speed Quickly: Help your project managers get new team members acclimated to the team and their role and understanding their project work quickly with the tools in Fast, Effective Ramp Up of New Team Members, a book excerpt from Teach What You Know: A Practical Leaders Guide to Knowledge Transfer Using Peer Mentoring.
  • The Project Controller Role: Project Managers are so often weighted down with a wealth of details to coordinate, review, analyze, and act upon. Managing those details may not be the best use of their time. Our paper Reining In Your Project Controls discusses the role of the Project Controller, which some organizations are using to free up project managers for more strategic work. It includes comparisons of proposed complimentary project manager and project controller roles, proposed duties, and suggested qualities for a good controller, as well as advice for building a business case for the shift of functions.
  • Project Kickoff Meetings: Facilitating project kickoff activities can be a really important function for your group - especially if your organization is just getting serious about project management. Project kickoff meetings can provide a fast way to demonstrate some project management fundamentals while you ensure a new project is getting started on the right foot. See our template Project Kickoff Meeting Agenda and Guidelines for tools to provide your project managers to design a sound kickoff meeting. See our presentation Rapidly Implementing High-Impact Low-Overhead Project Management for a description of how to run kickoff meetings. This presentation also specifically covers how to run lessons learned meetings on past projects, and bring those insights into the kickoff process.
  • Collaborative Project Vision meetings to achieve team alignment: One key part of Project Kickoffs is getting the team aligned on the project's goals and constraints. The Project Vision document template provides a format and process for developing a common understanding of goals with the team. Our paper Powerful Project Visions for Developing Products in Half the Time provides indepth coverage of how to run Vision meetings and typical issues to avoid.
  • Lessons Learned and Closeout Meetings: If you want to support and facilitate Closeouts and Lessons Learned meetings for project managers and teams, our Delivery Phase templates provide models, surveys, and checklists to assist you. Included are a Lessons Learned Meeting Agenda, a different Project Closeout Meeting Agenda, a Lessons Learned Survey for getting feedback ahead of time, and a Lessons Learned Meeting and Report guideline that discusses how to run the meetings and document the results.
  • Advice on Project Closeouts: The paper and presentation Project Closeout - More than Goodbye and Move On by Terry Cooke-Davies of Human Systems Limited provide additional perspectives, advice, and suggestions for successful project closeouts. For some pointers on informal approaches to gathering lessons learned, see our interview of a Hewlett-Packard program manager.
  • Processes for your teams to use to raise serious issues: When the going gets rough project managers need to know exactly how to get critical issues in front of management and ensure follow-through. This detailed Project Escalation Process Guideline discusses how companies set up processes to systematically “send issues up the chain” of command for suitable attention and provides several examples.
  • Cancelling a Project When That's the Best Thing to Do: It’s always painful; it's always a hard step. But sometimes it's the right thing to do. These Project Cancellation Guidelines cover how to decide whether the project should be cancelled and techniques for handling the cancellation as gracefully as possible.
  • Rescuing projects in trouble: The PMO can help monitor project status and offer assistance in recovering projects in trouble. Our paper Rescuing and Revitalizing the Problem Project describes how to uncover and fully understand a project's true root-cause problems, come up with a viable recovery plan based on addressing the true causes of past trouble, determine how to go forward, and revitalize the plan and the team.

Project Manager and Team Member Training, Development, and Support

Another critical role of your group can be teaching, mentoring, and supporting project managers in their skill development and career paths:
  • Determining Project Manager Training and Support needs: For a team training survey to help you find out your project managers think they need, try our Project Manager Support Survey.
  • Surveying functional managers and others about needed project management skill and support needs: To find out what kind of support your executives and functional managers and others think project managers need, see our Project Support Group Survey and Results. This template provides a survey format and a filled-in template of compiled results as an example.
  • Creating Project Manager Development plans: To ensure you're covering the bases for how to develop each of your PMs, our Project Manager Development Profile provides a one-page form allowing comprehensive assessment and development planning for individual project managers across categories such as management skills, career ambition, and short- and long-term growth potential. Appropriate as an individual coaching/assessment tool as well as a guideline for personnel growth and assignments.
  • Creating a comprehensive development program: Based on what support your project managers need, you can construct a comprehensive program for project management training and ongoing learning opportunities. See our Company Program for Ongoing PM Learning as a model.
  • Educating project managers on their role throughout a project: New project managers need to understand how their role and responsibilities can vary at different times in a project. Our guideline Leadership and the Project Lifecycle can be used as a guide for selecting people with the right leadership and management attributes to lead projects, and it can be used to educate new project managers on how their role is influenced by the activities of each project phase.
  • Coaching Project Managers during projects: To give project managers one-on-one targeted support during their projects, our PM Coaching Guidelines provide a comprehensive guide for project manager coaching.
  • Helping project managers gain real-world business-related and soft skills: Since so much of project management competence has to do with gaining practical real-world judgment, and experience dealing with areas such as business goals, your project managers may be thinking "How can I go about gaining career-enhancing skills and experience without spending another 10 years to gain enough of them to matter?!" Our guideline: Ways to Gain Career-Enhancing Skills and Experience provides practical suggestions for helping your project managers get more experiential learning in a shorter time, in areas such as business understanding, communication and influence skills, and rapport with upper management.
  • Building project management skills into performance appraisals for PM and team members: To bring PM high visibility in the "culture" of the organization - as well as encourage good project management with team members as well as PMs - consider using our Project Manager and Team Member Performance Appraisals in your organization.
  • Funding a Project Management Support group: If you're thinking about what to budget for supporting your project managers, our Budget for Project Management Support Group provides an example. It was created to record non-salary expenses for a PM support group started by a company to provide training opportunities, books and publications, coaching and mentoring, recognition, and other support, in order to enable their mix of (mostly) new and (some) experienced PMs to grow their skills and have ongoing support while they executed critical projects.
  • Encouraging PM Knowledge Transfer: You can play a huge role in knowledge transfer among multiple project managers and teams. See our presentation Paths to Practical Know-How: Crucial Learning beyond Training for insights into ways communities of practice and project support groups can promote this exchange.
  • Maintaining Functional Knowledge-Sharing in team-based organizations: Sometimes organizations moving to cross-functional team-based organizations lose the richness of functional knowledge sharing their team members still need. Our paper Learning Across teams: The Role of Communities of Practice in Team Organizations includes approaches for making sure team members still have vital access to their functional colleagues for ongoing learning and development.
  • Project Manager skills and attitudes needed for different types of projects: Managing Projects Under Uncertainty discusses the different project manager skill sets and attitudes appropriate for projects with different levels of risk. The information can be used to help select the most appropriate PM for a project, or to help show managers where they can develop further to be able to lead a wider range of projects.
  • Helping Project Managers plan career paths: To provide motivating career paths for project managers (and help them understand why business skills and soft skills matter to their career options), our presentation PM Powers: A Wealth of Career Options and How to be Ready discusses the following: career options and career development for project managers, including our "customers" and how we can think about "marketing" to them; career-expanding skills - traits and behaviors that are valued by executives; PM-related career opportunities, and what skills matter most to each opportunity; and career development plans and what project managers can do personally to grow their abilities in key areas and seek out the new opportunities.

Designing Methodologies and Processes and Acquiring Project-Related Tools

Another important role is to provide a central responsibility for designing processes or acquiring tools – including software tools or methodologies for your organization's project management and execution activities:

Implementing Project Portfolio Management

If your group is chartered with implementing Portfolio Management for better managing priorities and resources across multiple projects, see our know-how on Managing Multiple Projects.

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