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Trivial Pursuit: The PMO Competence Edition

Trivial Pursuit: The PMO Competence Edition | Wellingtone PPM

By Emma-Ruth Arnaz-Pemberton

Let’s play a game.

What are the key skills for a Project Manager to be successful?

Most people say communication, organisation, and influencing skills are key to be able to effectively manage a project to a successful conclusion.

Now, what are the key skills for a PMO person to be successful?

Does your response to the PMO question include being competent at administration, resource management, and planning?

No, I didn’t think so. It’s more likely to include communication, negotiation skills, leadership, and emotional intelligence.

Thanks to the collective intelligence of our PMO Practitioner course delegates and our peer network (our ‘hive mind’ for you Star Trek aficionados), we have recently been able to define what makes a PMO and created the five Wellingtone PMO Principles. We have now turned our attention towards PMO people and what makes us who we are as PMO practitioners by looking at what competencies can support a professional and personal journey.

When we looked into it, our research indicated that PMO people are typically bound by competence frameworks or guidelines that are delivery focused rather than looking at the whole of the PMO cheese. Which is a shame because PMO People do so much more than ‘just’ enable delivery of projects through being well-versed in the mechanics of successful project management.

One of the key facets of PMO success comes down to the people and how they build and maintain relationships. This is especially important when (as often is the case) the PMO are supporting the implementation of organisational change – effecting the change whilst being affected by the change at the same time requires a degree of mastery when it comes to dealing with oneself and others.

The Harvard Business Review published a number of articles in 2017 focusing on Emotional Intelligence (commonly known as EQ) and the impact of how it is perceived by most. What they found was that EQ is considered when thinking about someone’s sociability, sensitivity, and likeability, but not necessarily how EQ relates to their professional ability. They found that when people think about EQ, they are not thinking broadly enough and so, they introduced the concept of EI which is comprised of four domains: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.

The competencies that sit within each of these domains are not only learnable (whereas a lot of EQ is broadly accepted as not teachable but a natural consequence of our nature), but when understood and applied well, they support an individual in delivering outstanding performance as a Leader.

Harvard Business Review - Emotional Intelligence Has 12 Elements

Ever played the board game Trivial Pursuit?

Trivual Pursuit - Wellingtone PMO Competency Framework - Wellingtone PPMOf course you did! Devised in 1979 and released in 1981 (yes, really!), it was a global phenomenon by 1983. The aim of the game, to complete your ‘cheese’ through demonstrating your grasp of (general) knowledge across several different topics. The game was designed to stimulate the desire for knowledge; and it did so by making the gaps in one’s general wisdom obvious through the spaces in the wheel to empower people to be curious.

It is no secret that PMO’s can touch all aspects of PPM in an organisation. And we already know that the skills needed to become a successful PMO practitioner are different to those that you need to become a successful Project Manager. Some are transferable, but others are not copy/paste.

So, to develop a Competence Framework for PMO people, we dipped back into our collective ‘Hive Mind’ and got to work to understand the importance of balance between our three Competence Domains: Delivery, Strategy, and Capability.

Focus Areas and Drivers - PMO Competence Framework - Wellingtone PPMWhile the functions provided by your PMO can be more orientated towards a certain element, it is important to note that these three elements are not mutually exclusive. To make a balanced PMO professional, they are (and should be) intrinsically linked so it was especially important for us to understand the inefficiencies that can happen if an individual is focused on developing just one domain.

So, in the spirit of Agile Principles, we created some personas that bring this scenario to life and looked at what motivates people to choose to develop into a blend of domains.

NOTE: These personas are not modelled on anyone we know; but we don’t take any responsibility if you do!

Focus 3 Personas | PMO Competency Framework | Wellingtone PPM

The Wellingtone PMO ‘Cheese’

Our PMO Competence Framework has been designed to avoid extreme bias and to be perfectly balanced across the three domains: Delivery, Strategy, and Capability. As with all things PMO, there is no one size fits all, so it isn’t about ticking every box, but instead it is about understanding the boxes that are important to the individual (and the PMOs) journey.

As a PMO professional, it provides a view on how an individual is performing in each domain (as well as combined) and incorporates the Emotional Intelligence competencies to provide a path to that well rounded outstanding performance Harvard Business Review talks about in their report.

Additionally, it considers elements from the APM Competence Framework and the PMI Talent Triangle which also emphasise that talent is not just about delivery but understanding your own business context and be equipped with indispensable ‘complementary skills’.

Like Trivial Pursuit, the Wellingtone PMO Competence Framework is designed to stimulate the desire for knowledge.

It has seven competencies in each of the three Competence Domains (21 in total): Delivery, Strategy, and Capability, and covers all the skills required for an individual to forge a successful PMO Career Path; regardless of their route into the industry, or their previous experience.

Wellingtone offer the Competence Framework through several channels:

  • At the start of PMO engagement, the PMO team work with the new client with a self-serve toolkit to get an overview of the level of competence in the team in order to deliver an appropriate roadmap
  • A stand-alone service which includes the competence framework through a series of interviews, coaching and mentoring over an agreed period of time
  • Those attending the PMO Practitioner course get an insight into their competence levels with a taster of the framework to get them started on their personal journey

The Competencies 

Each competency is fully defined and provided with an illustration of characteristics and behaviours to enable individuals to understand their strengths and weaknesses.

DeliveryStrategyCapability
Frameworks & MethodsStrategic ThinkingEthics & Professionalism
Developing TalentDecision MakingWorking with Transparency
Resource ManagementBenefits RealisationEmotional Intelligence
Lifecycle ManagementAnalysis & ReportingStakeholder Engagement
Governance ArrangementsBusiness AcumenCommunication
Change ManagementStrategic AlignmentLeadership
AssuranceHarnessing KnowledgeCulture of Excellence

The Result

Like developing general knowledge to play Trivial Pursuit, other than being the big PMO ‘cheese’, an individual’s current skill will be graded on the below scale and provided in a report that provides insight into key areas of strength and opportunities.

If our consultants are working with an individual on a one to one basis, they will also develop an action plan to target areas of opportunity, and to make the most of notable strengths.

Like many other Competence Frameworks, we do this by reviewing both an individual’s knowledge of, and their experience delivering, that competency.

This allows the result to be truly bespoke to the individual, their role, and their aspirations.

The Result | PMO Competency Framework | Wellingtone PPM

Work and Life Balance

This unique blend of competencies is rooted in the same ethos that Wellingtone have for PMOs.

There is no one better ‘type’ of PMO or PMO Practitioner. There is instead a nature in everything and everyone, so the competence framework enables individuals to look inwardly for context as well as their work persona to create a bespoke, rounded journey to support their very best self by filling in their PMO ‘Cheese’.

According to Reed, a work life balance allows individuals to realise their personal as well as their career goals. This is achieved through an understanding of their nature as a person and how that is implied both in their life and work context. The Wellingtone PMO Competence Framework blend of domains and competencies includes some elements that can be applied in both contexts (such as Emotional Intelligence) allowing for a career path that reflects the individual as much as it reflects the professional.

Source: Reed; How to Achieve a Work-Life Balance

To find out more about the Wellingtone Competence Framework click HERE or contact us directly.

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