The PMO: Promoting best practices in stakeholder engagement

Stakeholder engagement is one of the most important factors in the successful delivery of projects.

pic2On 24th February 2017, the Cape Town PMO forum hosted by PwC deliberated over what role the PMO should play in promoting good stakeholder engagement on projects.

We were conscious that there is a fine line between the PMO facilitating good practices; acting as a broker between the project and its stakeholders; and taking on the role of leader in stakeholder engagement.  The more responsibility the PMO takes, the higher the risk that it disempowers the project and threatens the creation of effective project-stakeholder relationships.  That said – it is clear the PMO has the potential to support and encourage good stakeholder engagement practices.  How to get the balance right?

Using inputs from the P3O practice guide and insights from the research onto the role of the PMO as a facilitator and networker, we debated in groups what were the key functions that the PMO should provide.  Here are where the workshop attendees felt the PMO had an important role to play:

  • Sharing of stakeholder lessons learnt: It was recognised that this would involve sharing sensitive information in an open and honest forum. Encouraging sharing between peers in the project community and creating the sense of a ‘community of practice’ would be important if this is to be effective.
  • Providing a knowledge base on stakeholders: PMOs should ensure that project managers (particularly those new to the community) understand the “Who’s who in the zoo”. This goes beyond standard governance information but includes more tacit knowledge about how best to communicate and engage.  What are the “hot buttons, communications preferences and do’s and don’ts?”pic1
  • Formulating stakeholder engagement strategies: The PMO can provide guidance and templates in this area but… It is particularly important around stakeholder engagement that an “I fill in the template attitude” is avoided.  There will be a few templates, but most importantly the aim should be to provide a toolkit alongside the coaching and training which enables project managers to recognise when to use which tools and when.  In the presentation, we differentiated between ‘role-based’ and ‘agenda-based’ – the tools and approaches used for these different groups will vary.
  • Instigating/facilitating project coaching: For stakeholder engagement, on-the-job coaching is probably more powerful and important than classroom based training.  We debated whether the PMO manager themselves should do the coaching – it’s possible that this could wrongly position the PMO manager and the project manager.  Other mechanisms such as encouraging peer mentoring  were seen as good alternatives.
  • pic3Oversight on type and level of stakeholder engagement: How far the PMO should go in monitoring stakeholder engagement was an interesting question.  While a programme or change management office should be actively involved in this, if a project office takes on this role it may stray too far into the responsibilities of the project manager.  It was felt that the PMO should monitor the nature of the engagement taking place.  Was it appropriate, the right people, and the right types of engagement.  This might be mapped against the nature of the project as outlined in the stakeholder-neutral to stakeholder-led continuum discussed during the workshop.

Many thanks to all those who took part in the discussions.  I will be taking these ideas forward to the PMO Conference in London, June 2017.  I hope to see some of you there.

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If stakeholder management matters it must make a difference to the way we structure and conduct our projects.  Does it on your projects?

References and links

Julian, J., 2008. How project management office leaders facilitate cross‐project learning and continuous improvement. Project Management Journal39(3), pp.43-58.

OGC, 2008. Portfolio, Programme and Project Offices, TSO

Pemsel, S. and Wiewiora, A., 2013. Project management office a knowledge broker in project-based organisations. International Journal of Project Management31(1), pp.31-42.

Worsley, LM. (2016): Stakeholder-led project management, Changing the way we manage projects, Business Expert Press

The PMO & project stakeholder management from Louise Worsley

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