Are you a POO ?

Frodo as POOLeading the change process to support a project-based organization (PBO) requires a focus on adding value and alignment, from strategy through to execution.  Management roles and approaches to leadership in a PBO might range from a Project Office of One (POO) to a Strategic Project Office (SPO).  If this is your concern, first take the time to describe an ideal project-friendly organization; then embark upon a journey of discovery, consisting of steps in a change management process, designing components of a project office, and relating concepts to successful implementations.

The term project office is not without baggage.  For some people it means overhead and bureaucracy.  They want a lean organization where competencies and action are dispersed across the organization, not in a central (expensive) unit.  These same people may ask if they can establish POs of one, meaning that each project manager embodies all the traits, skills, and knowledge that a project office could offer.
A “Project Office of One” (POO) is a worthy concept.  An individual (or an organization) may adopt an approach to work and a culture that supports the essence of a project office but not its structure.  Individuals learning to unfreeze, change, and refreeze the people around them offer tremendous value.  The steps along a change management path can be taken by individual project managers.  In fact, they may not have that title; they just happen to be doing projects or leading a change effort.  They want the results they create through a set of activities to be great instead of average, and the outcome to contribute and fit with organizational goals instead of going on the shelf.  The pieces that help make this happen are the process, experiences, and knowledge of best practices.

A PO of one may not be an established norm or term in usage, but it can live in the hearts and aspirations of devotees.  These people (sometimes compared to a Special Forces military person) place a high value on the right force delivered to the right place at the right time, perhaps even in a ‘non-corporate’ way.  A hope is for this concept to provide inspiration.  A further hope is that success then expands enterprise project management possibilities to higher levels of maturity.

In the Lord of the Rings trilogy, hobbit Frodo Baggins is told, “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”  He is the ring bearer who must act alone to destroy the ring.  The wizard Gandaf is his project sponsor.  A fellowship of colleagues is present for the project start-up.  Then he’s on his own.  The fellowship later creates a diversion that enables him to complete his project.  Frodo is an accidental project manager who needs to function as a project office of one.

To function as a POO, assess the current situation, the potential, sense of urgency about current problems, politics and the amount of support among a powerful coalition, and if a critical mass of people can be harnessed to support a project office.  Start with small wins, prove that the process works, and then build a broader base course of action.  Instead of dogmatic or rigid application of methodologies, keep focused on adding value to the organization.  Follow a set of steps starting with current reality, leading to a desired future state.  Flexibility is key.

Then you can proudly say, “I’m a POO!”

Randy Englund,

Adapted from Creating the Project Office:  a Manager’s Guide to Leading Organizational Change


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