January 16, 2018


Project management advice, tips, tools and recommended resources for existing and aspiring project managers.

Project Lessons Learned, but knowledge lost

By Linky van der Merwe

Lessons LearnedRecently I gave a talk at the PMO Forum (Western Cape, South Africa) making a case for Lessons Learned, the challenge we still have around retaining the knowledge and experience, how the PMO can promote learning and act as a knowledge broker, as well as examples of a story-based approach to lessons learned.

The purpose of this article to share plenty of insights based on some interesting discussions.

Knowledge Management

Often people, especially project managers, don’t want to learn from other people, they prefer to learn from their own hard-earned experience.

Some project managers don’t like to share things, it may show if they have messed up; this is true if they are achievement focussed. However, in a culture that supports people being open and honest, it creates the environment for a culture of learning.  Organisations need to create an environment that is safe to share.

In many cases, there is too much emphasis on systems and codifying the knowledge. PMOs are well positioned to act as Knowledge Brokers within their organisations. PMO’s should play a bigger role to put a focus on processes and organisational learning.

When we talk about tacit knowledge, it’s more about the transfer of knowledge from project manager to project manager, with the PMO being the facilitator to allow sharing naturally.

For organisational learning to take place, health checks are good mechanisms to use the learning from various projects across different sponsors. Sponsors need to ask the hard question: “What does organisations do about learning from key projects?”

Another good idea for sharing lessons learned, came from the ‘pmoflashmob.org’ website.  It is called the “Call 3” pack. Before you can get a new project approved, you must have a 30-minute phone call or meeting with each of three people identified by the PMO for having done similar projects in the past. They may not be project managers, but they will have war stories to share.

In case the project managers are not available a year or two after projects have been completed, you can also request PM’s to create a “call 3 pack” at the end of a project. They need to think about and imagine it is a year down the line and they are sharing with a new PM starting a similar project. What would they say? What advice would they impart? This is perhaps a better approach to keep the emotion and passion intact, rather than documenting it all in a sanitised or filtered report.

Audience feedback

Based on feedback from the PMO representatives in the audience, it was evident that less than 25% of organisations have a formal process in place for transferring project management knowledge from one part of the organisation to the next. Interestingly enough, more than 50% of attendees indicated that their organisations use lessons learnt from past projects during the induction of new project managers or get them to look at lessons from similar projects in the past.

It was found that the top 3 contributors to their organisation’s success/failure to effective knowledge transfer were:

  1. Lack of communication
  2. The right level of story-telling
  3. A blaming corporate culture

Key insights

Feedback from the audience indicated that some of the key insights from attendees included:

  • Sharing is essential
  • The importance of knowledge sharing
  • PM’s not willing to share and learn
  • Peer Reviews
  • At start of a project confirming my own “feeling” about lessons learnt
  • How to change is dependent on organisation & people within.
  • The essence of project to organisation learning
  • Interview/story telling approach to lessons learnt
  • Learning for the PM, the PMO and the organisation
  • How to share lessons learnt
  • Story based lessons

To access the full presentation, click on Success Stories Shared, share experiences and promote learning.

Book Review: Power of Project Leadership

By Linky van der Merwe

What I liked about the book: The Power of Project Leadership: 7 Keys to Help You Transform from Project Manager to Project Leader” by Susanne Madsen, is the fact that it’s an easy read and it’s applied specifically to project managers. For project managers who are seriously aspiring to become better leaders, the book will help make the transition from project manager to project leader. Looking at project management future trends, more leaders are what organisations need.

Power of Project Leadership

Susanne Madsen

It’s organised into 4 chapters and very practical with exercises, reflective questions, check-lists and calls to action. An excellent break-down of the six human needs is given and you are guided towards an in-depth understanding of your own values and beliefs. The seven keys of Leadership are covered in much detail. It guides you to new insights and helps you to become very clear on your intentions.

There are multiple resources spread through-out the book that will help you to change your mind-set. Susanne has a very engaging writing style, she shares useful tools and perspectives from experienced project managers that inspire.

The book has the potential to take you on a journey of transformation from manager to leader, to being conscious about what you want to achieve. It will help you gain clarity on the impact you would like to have on other people, on projects and on the industry. You are guided to compile your own project leadership vision and to determine your action steps.

The book leaves you with the thought: “unleash your project leadership potential, because the world needs your leadership” and that will inspire you to follow through with your action plan.

I would recommend this book to all fellow project management professionals and PMO leaders.
For more information about the author, the book and many other resources, visit the Power of Project Leadership website.

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Project Management Maturity and Project Performance

project management maturityIn the difficult economic times we live in today, organisations are faced with the challenge to continuously adapt to the changing environments in order to survive and prosper. For most companies project management has become part of their competitive advantage strategy. The question is if there’s a relation between project management maturity and project performance?
This question was answered by the results from the survey done by Price Waterhouse Coopers:
Global Insights and Trends – Current Portfolio, Programme and Project Management practices

PM Maturity and Performance

Project management maturity is measured by evaluating projects on 5 performance indicators:

  1. Delivering projects on time;
  2. Within budget;
  3. To scope;
  4. To quality standards;
  5. With the intended business benefits

Project performance is evaluated around 4 core elements:

  1. Processes
  2. Organisational structure
  3. People
  4. Systems and tools

The survey results were analysed to determine the current state of project management maturity and the characteristics of higher performing projects. This article will highlight some of the key findings.


When a systematic and organised set of processes exist for project management, or in other words when a well-defined repeatable PM process is in place (can be grouped into a PM methodology) the chances are better to deliver consistently high project results.

Organisational Structure

When looking at organisation structure as an influence on PM performance the following aspects are considered:

  • Resource ownership
  • Definition of clear roles and responsibilities
  • Support from senior management
  • Use of a Project/Programme Management Office (PMO)

Results indicated that project management is critical to business performance and organisational success. Where suitable project organisational structures exist on project(s) it clearly outlines the project team and reporting relationships.
Senior management support of projects is a contributing factor to project success especially for projects that are expanding from departmental to national and international levels.
Established project management offices result in projects with higher quality and business benefits. Employing a PMO is one of many methods to institute standardized project management processes and project controls in an organisation.


Well-developed people management skills are fundamental to a high PM maturity level. Aspects considered in this area include: project staff skills and experience; development and training programme; and an emphasis on PM certifications.
They found that engaged, experienced staff leads to project success. Training and staff development in the field of project management has grown drastically. More PM certifications have become in demand.

Systems and Tools

Organisations purchase and create systems and tools to automate and support their PM processes. This includes the use of software for PM, Portfolio Management and Agile, as well as Earned Value Management, which is more relied on in the US as a useful tool.
The use of Portfolio Management software drives higher levels of portfolio performance and greater satisfaction with an organisation’s project management practices.

Portfolio Management

When implementing PfM, the survey results indicated that the three largest ways to be more successful include aligning the portfolio with the organisation’s strategy; using an enterprise PMO to manage the portfolio; and conducting monthly reviews. There are also several benefits to implementing Portfolio Management like:

  • Adoption of PfM has positive effects on both project performance and performance of the overall portfolio.
  • Two thirds of respondents that employ PfM reported that more than 90% of their organisation’s projects perform to expectations on the five key performance indicators. In contrast, seven out of ten organisations that do not employ PfM reported that less than 10% of their projects met the key performance indicators.

In summary, it was found that higher maturity lead to higher performance within the five key performance indicators. However, most organisations still desire a higher maturity level.
To read the full PWC Global Project Management Report, click here.

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Recognition for Excellence in Project Management

An announcement from the Project Management Institute (PMI):

Submit a qualified nomination for the PMI Award for Project Excellence, PMI Project of the Year Award, or PMO of the Year Award before 1 April 2014!

A PMI Professional Award will help you gain new business, recognition from your colleagues, peers, current and future employers and the personal gratification of being recognized for excellence in project management. Plus, you’ll gain visibility among more than 700,000 PMI members and certification holders – the largest professional network of project managers in the world.

Award recipients will be honored among their peers at the 2014 PMI Professional Awards Ceremony preceding PMI® Global Congress 2014 — North America in Phoenix, Arizona, USA.

Please visit PMI Professional Awards for a complete list of all the PMI awards.

Project Management: How a PMO Can Make a Difference

PMORecently I attended a Virtual Conference hosted by the International Institute of Learning (IIL). A presentation by James C. Brown about how a PMO can make a difference was very insightful. Today I want to share some of what I have learned from him about Project Offices and the value that they bring.

PMO Perceptions

Often there are many perceptions about Project Management Offices (PMO’s) in organisations. They are considered to be ‘Report Generators’, ‘Process Creators’, ‘Infastructure builders – building and maintaining costing, time-keeping and scheduling tools etc’, ‘Dashboard/Scorecard experts’, ‘Organisational home of Project/Program managers’, ‘process police’ and so on.

In reality a PMO is and should be much more than any of the above. Let’s take a closer look at what the goal of the PMO should be.

Goal of a PMO

According to James Brown and the research that he has done, the goal of a PMO is the following:

“The right information at the right time in the right hands.”

For a PMO the commodity is information. How a PMO manages and communicates that information to others so that they know where it is, have it at the right time, and it’s pertinent to them to use it, interact with it, and make decisions with it, is the key to success.

When you want your PMO to deliver real value, you need to make Portfolio Management your goal. This would include:

  • Strategy development
  • Revenue planning and budget development
  • Functional resource management
  • Project execution

And how all of the above relate to one another.

James Brown states that for a PMO to be successful, the PMO needs to make life easier for the stakeholders by providing data that they need for decision making and making visible what projects have done for the organisation at any given time.

Types of PMO’s

Traditionally there are 3 types of PMO’s:

  1. Auditing – responsible for auditing methodologies and compliance with quality and standards.
  2. Enabling – to improve the maturity and effectiveness of project leaders
  3. Executing – actively engaged in implementations, responsible for facilitating and doing project work.

The ultimate vision, according to Brown, is to be a bit of all these types, but being flexible depending on the needs of the organisation.  For a PMO to survive it should become agile, which means it must learn to adapt and overcome challenges.

Some critical success factors for successful PMO’s are:

  • To support the vision of the Leadership team (innovation, cost savings, growth etc)
  • Focus on value delivered from a stakeholders point of view
  • Support decision management with data that matters to stakeholders
  • To improve forecast capabilities
  • To provide near real-time data that is always accessable

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Please share in the comments section if your organisation has a PMO and what your perception is of the value that your PMO delivers.

Leading a PMO to Deliver Better Projects

Are you a project manager, a Project Management Office (PMO) leader or maybe an executive who is looking to establish a PMO in your business?

Do you want to know how to find the right balance between projects and business demands?

Leading successful PMO's If you look for ways to benefit from a PMO within your organization or you want to know how to lead a successful PMO to deliver better projects, then you would love the new book from Peter Taylor:

Leading Successful PMO’s

Peter Taylor is the author of the number 1 bestselling project management book ‘The Lazy Project Manager’ and ‘The Project from Hell’.  He has recently launched his new book ‘Leading Successful PMO’s’.

Leading Successful PMO’s is a book to guide all would-be and current PMO leaders.  This is a book for all project based organizations and for all project managers who contribute to and benefit from a PMO (Project Management Office) within their organization.

It is also a book about successfully leading a PMO to deliver better projects, better business to all the customers of those projects and to best serve the contributing project managers from both a professional and a personal perspective.

This is not a book about managing PMO’s as the author does not believe that they are such a stable business unit at this point in time, but rather a book about leading PMO’s which is a much more complex challenge, especially with the association of PMO activity with business strategy.

This book brings together the experience and views of PMO leaders from around the world and the project managers that work within the PMO’s, as well as those who are now seeking leaders for their PMO’s.

Peter Taylor

Peter Taylor

In support of his new book, Peter Taylor (together with some great partners) has launched the PMO Leader of the Year Award, to celebrate the very best of PMO leaders around the world.

This award will be presented to the PMO Leader, nominated by their PMO team, who shows the most excellent leadership and understanding of what a PMO can deliver to a business.

A panel of independent judges will review all submissions to consider how each nominee has led their PMO over at least the last 12 months and how they plan to grow the PMO under their stewardship in the coming months.

The Judges will look as the key PMO leadership skills in the areas of:

  • Flexibility
  • Resilience
  • Setting example
  • Professionalism
  • Support

Timescales: All entries should be received by Gower by 31st March 2012. The shortlist for the ‘PMO Leader of the Year (2012)’ will be announced on 31st May 2012. The winner of ‘PMO Leader of the Year (2012)’ will be announced on 29th June 2012.

Prizes: The winner will receive:

  •  A library of Gower project and programme management books with a list price of over £600.00
  • A written award from the judges underlining the reasons for the award
  • A ‘PMO Leader of the Year 2012’ electronic icon to use on any of the winners electronic profiles, web pages and so on
  • An interview with Mark Perry on The PMO Podcast
  • Publication of the winning submission through the website: http://www.gowerpublishing.com/projectmanagement

Click here to download a pdf document containing all information regarding the Criteria of PMO Leader of the Year Award.

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