Major Projects Knowledge Hub

The PMO; a knowledge broker in project-based organisations

The inspiration for this week’s Friday Insight post for the Major Projects Knowledge Hub came from the last PMO Flashmob online meetup of the summer, which included a discussion on a research paper originally published in the International Journal of Project Management back in 2013.

Flashmob founder Lindsay Scott subsequently shared the highlights in “The PMO is the Knowledge Broker?”- an article available from the PMO Mob Yield area of the community website.

What is apparent is that the findings from this research remain just as relevant 5 years on.

The original research analysed 7 different organisations across Sweden and Australia; the first part focused on what PMOs do to facilitate knowledge sharing, which was then compared with the expectations of project managers and resulted in six overlapping areas;

  • a repository for lessons learned
    PMO Flashmob
    the networking and knowledge-sharing community
  • active knowledge sharing
  • training, workshops and seminars
  • formal and informal social interactions
  • control and quality assurance
  • project standard and procedures

It became clear during the research that a mismatch was occurring; project managers placed more value on knowledge shared via face-to-face interactions, personal experiences and training which directly benefitted their projects – whereas PMOs were more focused on providing artefacts, reports, lessons learned databases and retrospective outlooks.

The research describes project managers as people-oriented; free thinkers; passionate; autocratic; conservative and pragmatic. They have distinct learning and sharing behaviours – they prefer to learn by doing it themselves rather than learning from others.  This contrasts with the approach taken by many PMOs, where knowledge sharing activities are frequently geared towards the ‘broader and longer-term perspective of the project-based organisation’.

In short, project managers want more social interaction with their PMO colleagues; coaching, facilitation and building relationships all ranked highly alongside being available to help them find the information they need and explaining how to apply it. They want their PMOs to be leading by example, exhibiting appropriate behaviours and expertise when delivering change, demonstrating the value of the systems and processes in place and how these contribute towards successful project delivery.

The article prompted me to reflect upon my own experiences as a PMO practitioner, and those times where feedback has indicated that the approach taken has really added value. Things like running forums or Lunch and Learn sessions focused on particular topics, travelling to visit teams spread across different locations to facilitate workshops, creating team sites, chat forums, virtual or physical rooms that are safe spaces to come and ask questions, making introductions to others within an organisation or across a wider network… activities that involve skills beyond the frameworks and methodologies covered in many textbooks or certifications.

The article features a great real-world example of how one PMO manager encourages more interaction between project managers and her team.

Which leaves me with a question for fellow PMO practitioners – what approach can you take to really understand the knowledge sharing needs and expectations of the project managers you work with?

Originally posted as Friday Insight in the Major Projects Knowledge Hub