First 100 Days As a Project Management Office Leader

May 09, 2016

Contributor: Rob van der Meulen

In your new role as leader of a project management office, the first 100 days are crucial in creating a positive perception of the role and earning credibility.

There is no one right model for a successful project management office (PMO), but there are certain qualities that make an effective new leader.

As a PMO leader, do you focus on the right things?

According to Mbula Schoen, senior research analyst at Gartner, PMO leaders in their first 100 days should focus on several key things: defining and managing expectations, building relationships, earning credibility and cultivating an acceptance of the PMO's direction.

Ms. Schoen explained the process in four stages.

Prepare and Assess (Days 0-30)

These early days will define how you're perceived within the organization. Engage immediately with key stakeholders, staff and organizational leaders to learn what needs and pain points should be addressed first.

“  Engage immediately with key stakeholders, staff and organizational leaders to learn what needs and pain points should be addressed first.”

Begin establishing strong relationships across the organization, and secure a good reporting relationship with an influential, well-positioned executive who understands the value of the PMO. Their support will be a major asset in the coming months.

Assess your staff and resources — ascertain the value of what you have, any liabilities, and what gaps you must fill to succeed.

Lastly, identify one to three challenges you can successfully address in your first 100 days. Tier these goals based on your ability to actually deliver and how visible the results will be.

Plan (Days 15-45)

Success in your new role hinges on perception. With your goals in place, don't fall into the "detailed planning trap." Ensure the plans you make are simple, and be prepared to change direction if required.

Draft, refine and validate an outline for the first year, and prepare a more detailed plan for the second 100 days. Present your draft ideas to key stakeholders, noting their reactions and level of interest. Be prepared to make the appropriate adjustments.

Think about plan execution and what you'll need to deliver results. Launch your recruiting efforts, inside and outside the organization, for staff who can help deliver this vision.

Act (Days 30-80)

It's important that execution and implementation are not unduly delayed. PMOs should be actively implementing alongside long-term planning. Credibility is built on results. At the end of this phase, be prepared to demonstrate:

“ PMOs should be actively implementing alongside long-term planning.”

  • One completed major milestone
  • A working stakeholder group, with its first meeting behind it
  • A charter outlining the agreed-upon expectations, signed off by your manager and stakeholders

These results will win your staff engagement from IT and business management and put you in a strong position to continue executing the evolving PMO charter with their support.

Measure (Days 45-100)

As you move on to your long-term goals, you'll find that success is more about people and less about things. The desired outcome should be a shared vision of what a PMO can do, and will be, together with agreed initial actions and their expected impact.

Use the last month of your first 100 days to finalize a solid starting point for the PMO to move forward. Publicize your early successes and — using the positive perception cultivated over the last 100 days — start working on major project portfolio management (PPM)-oriented initiatives.  

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