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What is a PMO? with Lindsay Scott

“Very basically a PMO normally stands for a project management office. And they're there to basically help organizations get better at delivering the projects that they have.”

If you’ve ever wondered what a PMO is, that quote from this episode of Time Limit is your answer. But take heed, because there’s a lot of complexity to PMOs. That’s why we invited PMO expert and Director of PMO Learning, Lindsay Scott, to join us to fill us in on:

  • The benefits of a PMO and why you might need a PMO
  • The types of PMOs that exist
  • When to set up a PMO
  • PMO roles and responsibilities
  • The career path to get from PM to PMO
  • Typical PMO structures
  • Education and certifications for PMO

Resources mentioned in this episode:

About our guest

Guest

Lindsay Scott
Director of PMO Learning

Lindsay has been around PMOs since the late 90s, working first as a Project Office Co-ordinator and later as the PMO Manager for Hewlett-Packard’s Consulting Division. She then became the co-founding Director for Arras People, a project management recruitment business, where she focused on PMO recruitment for a number of years.

Through the PMO community, Lindsay volunteered for the PPSOSIG, a community of PMO practitioners who met after taking the training course called the PPSO (Programme and Project Support Office). There, she met her current business partner Eileen Roden, and she began running and attending the PMO Flashmob, a networking group for PMOs.

With the success of the flashmob, the annual PMO Conference felt like a great way to gather the PMO community.The last conference, which takes place each June in London, had 400 PMO practitioners in attendance, all eager to be inspired by PMO thought leadership.

Hence, Lindsay and Eileen's training company PMO Learning felt like a natural progression. Eileen is a top PMO trainer in the UK and Lindsay just loves getting people together to enjoy a good quality learning experiences.

Episode Transcript

Transcript

Brett Harned:       Hey, welcome back to Time Limit. This episode is all about PMOs. Now what's that you ask? Well, this weeks guest, Lindsay Scott, is the perfect person to explain them to you. She's the director of PMO learning, which is a learning and certification company that caters to PMOs specifically. She also started and organizes a fun meet up in the UK called the PMO Flash mob, and during our conversation, she not only educates us on the PMO, what they look like, where you'll find them, the advantages and the challenges, but she also talks about how you can grow your career into a PMO. There's a lot of good stuff in this episode thanks to Lindsay, so check it out.

Brett Harned:       Okay. Lindsay Scott, thank you so much for joining me on Time Limit today. How are you doing?

Lindsay Scott:      I'm doing great, thank you. [inaudible] Yeah? Looking forward to it.

Brett Harned:       Awesome. You are in one of my favorite cities in the world which is Manchester, in the United Kingdom. So I'm happy to have you on, happy to maybe even see you this year at the Deliver conference. But, for now, I'm really excited to kind of dig into a topic that we haven't talked about a lot at TeamGantt or on Time Limit, and that's PMOs. I think what I want to do is start at the really base kind of ground level. Can you just tell us a little bit about what a PMO is and where you might find one?

Lindsay Scott:      Well it's a great question, and there's lots of different answers that I can give you, but just generally, very basically a PMO normally stands for a project management office. And they're there to basically help organizations get better at delivering the projects that they have. So if you look at any kind of organization, and different sizes and how good they might already be at project management, or how many projects that they're running, and the types of projects that they're running, all of those kind of things have a bearing on the kind of PMO that it might have. But essentially a PMO can be one person, it can be a number of different people all working together, but essentially, the bottom line is for a lot of smaller organizations they would have a PMO to both help projects get delivered smarter and quicker and better, but also they send help to the people that are delivering the projects as well. So there's a lot of things like coaching, and mentoring project managers, so all the people who have had a PMO background have been in project management for a long time, and tend to spot and be able to see where problems or blockers are in the way, if a project seems to get projects delivered.

Lindsay Scott:      And then you can have PMOs in lots of different shapes and sizes because of the nature of the projects or the organization in which they're in. Very large organizations have many PMOs, and you can imagine that they're running hundreds of projects. That kind of PMO all changes and has a [inaudible] to it, because if you imagine an organization that's got hundreds of projects, you kind of need somebody there to oversee what's going on and to be able to be the eyes and ears for senior management... need to know what's going on across a hundred projects, and who is the person who is going to be able to see all of that because individual project managers are down in their projects, delivering their projects, and don't really have that much to do with other projects that are going on. So that's where you get an enterprise level PMO, where you can basically have people that can oversee everything that's going on and start to understand what are the dependencies perhaps between projects, or how do we prioritize the projects that we're going to deliver based on the resources we have available. So the work of PMO can be so wide-ranging because of the nature of the organization that it sits in. So I tried to give a basic answer, but it's never basic [inaudible]

Brett Harned:       No, it sounds like basically, at the heart of it, the PMO is about making things a little less complicated and maybe adding a level of standard across projects and across project managers as well.

Lindsay Scott:      Yeah, yeah. I think it got born out of... And, I mean, there is lots of history about if you go back and look at things like the projects office at NASA used to be one that a lot of people... They model from. And you can imagine back in the day, when it was the space race and all that, that all they're projects that were going on, that they needed that office there

Brett Harned:       Right.

Lindsay Scott:      To, like you say, to standardize is one of the problems that a lot of organizations had in the early days, when they first started to get into doing projects, is to try and have a way of doing things that makes things standardized and simple, and everybody knows what they're doing. It's about reducing waste and all of that kind of good stuff, but an interesting thing is, is that smaller businesses that may only have two or three projects running, probably don't need a PMO.

Brett Harned:       Right.

Lindsay Scott:      It's only... The complications start to come when you're doing more and more projects, and you need more and more project managers, and you just want to make sure things are... They use the word... A favorite word around PMOs is monitor and control. That's the kind of thing that it's been born out of, but I think more recently in this day and age where we've got different delivery approaches. Obviously things like AdJail hate that kind of monitor and control type language, so with that kind of PMO working around AdJail projects, it's changed its language to be more that we're here to remove blockers, that we're here to mentor and to coach you through things if you need it. So, yeah it's an interesting place to be because the PMO does change, it has to change, based on how an organization is approaching the way that it does its projects. And that has changed over the last decade or so.

Brett Harned:       Yeah. So it sounds like there might be a tipping point at organizations in terms of number of projects, or maybe number of project managers where it makes sense to bring on, or start a PMO. Right? Or bring in a person into that role. Do you have a sense for kind of what that number is? Or is it really kind of just a case by case type of thing?

Lindsay Scott:      There is that bit of case by case, but I think a good example of when it starts to feel like it's a need is if... When a project manager is actually managing maybe two, three, or four projects at the same time. And then what tends to happen, you bring in a project support type person to do some of the more administratives done in the projects, so that project manager that's been assigned to four projects is very much focusing on the things they need to focus on.

Brett Harned:       Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Lindsay Scott:      And that support person or that right hand man or whatever you want to call them, coming in and taking off some of the more repetitive things like filling out logs or doing time sheeting type stuff or that kind of thing

Brett Harned:       Fair.

Lindsay Scott:      Actually can pass on. So I feel that when it's a business that is doing projects that's quite new to it all, that tends to be the kind of tipping point I think. You want a project manager to focus on the things a project manager does well, getting the team motivated, working with the customer, all that kind of stuff. And if you're assigning them to three or four projects, somethings got to give, and that's when that tends to happen. That's when you get the early... you don't necessarily call those people PMOs, you just tend to call them people like projects coordinators or something like that. But that kind of starts the whole journey for a lot of organizations that are literally coming from a place of, “we're just starting to do projects and our maturity level around projects is not massive, but we're okay at the moment because we're not creaking we can manage it.” But I think it's the point when, actually, the business is getting more and more projects and I think you tend to see that by... You'll start to feel the pain when it comes to resourcing those projects, and then you're starting to think like, "okay I think it's probably time to look at getting some help in for these project managers."

Brett Harned:       Got it.

Lindsay Scott:      It's a very... It'll differ, it will differ for different businesses. And I think another indicator is probably by how risky and more complex projects are getting, as well.

Brett Harned:       Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Lindsay Scott:      If you're finding that... If you've got what we call bread and butter projects that your business is doing day in and day out, and actually they're fairly easy for you to do because it's what you've always been doing. I think it's once you start to get new projects, new products or things that are more complex, more risky, potentially more is at stake, that you then start to think, "actually, we probably need to be thinking about how we are delivering these projects, and are we monitoring and controlling it correctly" and all that kind of good stuff. And that's when you're starting to look into some of the deeper, best practices there are in project management. And so... That's where good PMOs come in because part of their job is, like you said, is to help an organization get better at delivering projects, and they do that by putting in place, standards and governance and controls, and things like that. Yeah, it's... [inaudible]

Brett Harned:       It's so interesting because I'm sitting here listening to you, and by the way thank you for all of that, that's really helpful. I'm sitting here realizing that I was in a position as a PMO. It just wasn't my title, and my title was vice president of project management. And I think that's just so common within our field, people... The titles that organizations give to people are not necessarily standard across the board, so you have someone who is a PMO without that title, but what they're doing is kind of similar. I'm curious kind of along those lines, what is your experience or what do you see as maybe the career path that takes someone from project manager or project coordinator through to a PMO, or a director of a PMO?

Lindsay Scott:      Again, we generally, and I say we... I'm based here in the UK, so we tend to... We do have a slightly different model around PMO than we do against the states, for example

Brett Harned:       Sure.

Lindsay Scott:      And I'll explain about that in a second. But in terms of... We generally see two different types of career path, and that's people that come in through that project support level, and then they're working their way up through from a project support role into PMO analyst, into a PMO manager, and then the head of PMO or that kind of route. And for some of them, they never deliver a project. They've always been on that side of the... where they've been about the methods, the processes, the tools and techniques, that's sort of been their job. And then you get people who come directly through a delivery, so they've started out as a assistant project manager, project manager, senior project manager, program manager, and then quite easily slip into the PMO, head of PMO type role, because it's one of the... When you get to a senior level PMO when they're from an enterprise level PMO

Brett Harned:       Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Lindsay Scott:      Those are often almost at a board level. If they're not at a board level, they're just one underneath because ultimately their portfolio, or projects, and programs in a big business could be worth billions.

Brett Harned:       Right.

Lindsay Scott:      So to be in that role, you're going to be pretty much a senior executive anyway. So you generally find with those roles, that the prerequisites are that you will have been in a delivery capacity at some point in your career, and preferably on a large program of work that was worth a lot of money, because they need somebody that has been around that block basically, because there's such a huge amount at stake. So you... Then you will get people that flit, so you'll have somebody who'll be working as an assistant project manager into a project manager, and they'll say, "you know what? Actually, now that I've seen what a PMO does, I'm actually more interested in that side of it than I am in delivery." And you do see a lot of project managers making the change into PMO, which for whatever reason, not everybody has a great time being project manager. It's not suitable for everybody. Some people recognize that and think, "well, I'm in project management, but I really have had enough of delivering projects, what else is there for me?" And then PMO is about project management across the entire organization, and getting better at that. So there's different roles and responsibilities there and perhaps not the stress of delivering a particular project but, the interesting thing is what I mentioned before.

Lindsay Scott:      The model in the states is slightly different than here in the UK. You generally... With a PMO it's very much something where you don't have the project managers reporting into you. So the project managers are actually reporting to somebody else, and the PMO doesn't have that line management responsibility to project managers, and it's a subtle difference but actually it has quite a big impact. So, it is one of the main differences, so in the states you do kind of generally... most of the time you'll have project managers that sit within a PMO structure. Yeah, so you would be like you were saying, that you can be a head of project management and your accountabilities are not only about improving project management, but you've also got to improve the project managers, and that's your line management responsibility for that.

Brett Harned:       Right.

Lindsay Scott:      Whereas, here in the UK you don't see that model as much. The PMO is there to improve project management, but the improvement on project managers is done by another senior manager.

Brett Harned:       Now you that senior manager, would that person report up to the PMO then?

Lindsay Scott:      Not likely... No...

Brett Harned:       Okay.

Lindsay Scott:      Doesn't have to, no.

Brett Harned:       Interesting.

Lindsay Scott:      It's crazy. Mad, isn't it? I'm going to apologize, because you're supposed to be making this subject simple, but if anything, I think when people... One of the things we get a lot of, when you're in PMOs, you come across project managers that, "oh I can't stand the PMO, all they're ever doing is nagging me for stuff, and want me to fill out this report and that report, and I have no idea why I do it, and what the outcome of it all is." And sure, people have had some bad experiences, but I think half the time, is that if you are coming across a PMO, one of the questions you need to be asking is what is it's remit, what is that PMO there to do, because they do have different remits and I think sometimes there's a kind of miscommunication between the PMO and project managers about what are they there to do. And [inaudible] they're getting better at it, but generally it's been a bit of a love hate relationship. But ultimately we're all there to do the same thing, which is to deliver projects successfully.

Brett Harned:       Absolutely.

Lindsay Scott:      And sometimes we can probably... We could be working better together, and that comes down to communication

Brett Harned:       Yeah.

Lindsay Scott:      Which is the top skill in project management. But yeah, it's just an interesting one because, like I said, PMOs do differ, and the clients, they've got different titles and they're called all sorts of weird and wonderful different names. The bottom line is it's just about trying to understand what is their remit? What are they there to do? Because it will differ.

Brett Harned:       Right. Either way, it sounds like the PMO is there at a higher level to, like I said earlier, make things less complicated, streamline processes, make sure that the project management practice is actually working for the organization. I'm wondering, if I'm someone who does want to get into a role in a PMO, are there any benchmarks, or classes, or subjects that you think that I should be looking at or doing to kind of advance my career?

Lindsay Scott:      There is, and again what's interesting about a PMO career is that you're expected to know just as much as a project manager. So whatever training and courses available for project management, absolutely PMO people also need to know all of that. But it's not just project management, because the letter "P" in PMO can also mean program, so

Brett Harned:       Right.

Lindsay Scott:      [inaudible] understanding about those... About program management. And it also stands for portfolio management as well,

Brett Harned:       Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Lindsay Scott:      So again, depending on what kind of business you're in, and what kind of PMO. So you need to understand what we call PPM, even through it's three things, it's projects, programs, and portfolios, you need to understand about all of that because it is the bigger picture of how an organization sets its strategy, and then from the strategy how do we get into initiatives, and then how do we prioritize those, and then how many... What projects are we going to be running. You need to understand that entire ecosystem, and how that all sticks together. And then there's the other side of it... Just... Right, again my project management is that focus on the behavioral side of what you do, so the [inaudible] pensions, the relationship building, all that kind of stuff that again, is key. But the other side as well is also having a wider business understanding, because the project management department does not work in isolation from the rest of the business. So there's this whole understanding the change aspects of a business, as well as the business as usual. So it's a massive undertaking...

Brett Harned:       It's a lot, yeah.

Lindsay Scott:      Yeah, right. I'm not saying that you work in a particular PMO, but you wouldn't stand out at a portfolio level, generally. You've probably worked your way up from projects, into programs, into portfolios, like that.

Brett Harned:       Absolutely.

Lindsay Scott:      So there are lots of things around project management. There are also courses all about PMO as well, which is because you... I suppose the bottom line there is, okay so how do we set up a PMO? And if we're going to set up a PMO, how do we decide what services we're going to offer to people? And if we offer these services, how do we know that they've been undertaken, and how good they are, and how do we improve on it. So there are, then, courses that are very specific around that area, about working a PMO, and how do you bring together all those things we just talked about, the PPM stuff, the business and the behavioral skills. How do you use all those together to create a functional service within a business like a PMO? So, there's a... I've always said to people that PMO can never be broadened. You could be broadened, couldn't we all, but believe me there are lot's of different types of PMOs out there to choose from.

Brett Harned:       Right.

Lindsay Scott:      That you then go on and do something that's completely different. That requires another level of accountability and another level of skill that you've not had before, and all that kind of stuff. But yeah it's... I feel like I'm recruiting to anybody who's listening to this, who might be a project manager, as long as you know that there's something out there that allows you to be in project management without having to deliver a project.

Brett Harned:       Right.

Lindsay Scott:      Because I think project management, you tell me, I mean project managers, don't they get to a point where they feel like, "Oh I'm just delivering another project, that feels very much the same to the last one, yeah [crosstalk]

Brett Harned:       I know certainly I've been in that scenario, where I feel like, "Okay there's not much more I can do here in my career. What can I do that... Where I can make an impact in a different place, or change the course of my career." And I have to guess that a lot of PMs are thinking about that, but I think, to go back to something that you said earlier, it's that you can't be a PMO without experience as a project manager. You kind of have to have been through the ringer a little bit, to gain that experience, to know how and what you can manage at a high level, and how you can make an impact on a team or an organization, whatever kind of level it might be that you're working at. And to me that's exciting, I think a lot of this sounds like something I would love to do at some point. I'm curious about the learning aspect of it, so as we know you're the director of PMO learning, and my guess is that you've got a good insight into what kinds of topics are really important to people in this position. Wondering if you could share a little bit about kind of what courses are most popular, or well-attended, or even make the most impact on a PMO?

Lindsay Scott:      Yeah, I mean it's like any other type of professional training, is that there's always people that want something that is certified.

Brett Harned:       Right.

Lindsay Scott:      So you take a training course, like a PM...

Brett Harned:       PMP? Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Lindsay Scott:      And... But that's not just about getting a certificate, I think it's about wanting to gain the knowledge of what is the good practice, the best practice, that's out there, because the interesting thing about... You speak to a lot of people in a PMO career, there's quite a lot of them that work alone. You get a lot of PMOs of one, so it's literally one person that can be trying to do a lot of the good work around standardization or whatever. And for those people, you've only ever really got one organizational view i.e. the one that you're in. So, to do certificate based training is good for people to be able to say, and see, that, "look, this is the best practice, being on the course is around the best practice. The best practice, it'll probably not work for us in it's entirety, but we can take some elements from that best practice, and then use that in our organization." So, they're not certificate based courses like, "this is how you definitely do successful PMO, and here's five steps, and if you go away and do that you'll be fine. It is more about an understanding of what good PMOs do, and then being able to learn that, to the knowledge side of it, and then come back into your organization, take the bits that are going to work, and then do it.

Lindsay Scott:      And there'll always be... It's nice to have a certificate as well, because that's obviously showing everybody else out there, when it comes to job hunting and stuff, that you're serious about your profession and things. And here in the UK, we have three different bodies, which is... We have BCS, British Computer Society [inaudible] That has two that most people have heard about, they have one called P30, and then we have an international one, which is AIPMO, Association for International PMOs. Those are the three main certification bodies that have those kind of courses for the exams. Interestingly, there's not any in the states that I know of. PNY definitely don't do anything that's directly PMO related.

Brett Harned:       Right.

Lindsay Scott:      So it's an interesting one, isn't it? Because PMOs exist, and they have existed for a long time, so I think you can probably see why we've decided to set up this training company to be [inaudible]

Brett Harned:       Right. [crosstalk] I mean, It's hard to wrap your head around doing training for something where there is no standardization, right? Or certification around it, it's a lot... I don't know, this is kind of my personal opinion on project management training and certification, which I'm a fan of by the way, but it's like, there's no single project that's run the same way. So I can teach you all of these different things that you could do

Lindsay Scott:      Yeah.

Brett Harned:       As a project manager, working with a client, or working with internal stake holders, but I can't tell you exactly step by step how you need to do these things, you need to actually think through those things on your own.

Lindsay Scott:      That's [crosstalk] and isn't that the thing about anybody working in the project management

Brett Harned:       Right.

Lindsay Scott:      Field today, have a certain level of intellect, a certain level of pragmatism. So, it stands to reason that as long as you can expand your knowledge in lots of different areas, it is about then, thinking, "Right, okay, so how do I make this work in the particular environment that I'm in right now?"

Brett Harned:       Right.

Lindsay Scott:      There's nothing worse than... I think one of the problems with PMOs is that you get a lot of people that will move from organization to organization, it's a thing, a good consulting role would be setting up a PMO for a business, yeah? It's a nice piece of work, it can take about 12 to 24 months, something like that.

Brett Harned:       Oh, I'm sure.

Lindsay Scott:      And you can see how that could be quite a good career to do, keeps kicking about every two years. [crosstalk] Is that people then think, "Oh, let's set the PMO in this business, now I'm going to go and set one up in this business over here, and I'm just going to do it in exactly the same way that I've just done it."

Brett Harned:       Right.

Lindsay Scott:      That's where it goes wrong, because you're assuming that the environment that you're now going in to set up a PMO in going to be the same as the one that you did before, and they're not. And it is about being pragmatic with, "Okay, so these are the best practices out there, but actually, these bits will not work in this environment because of x, y, and z."

Brett Harned:       Exactly.

Lindsay Scott:      Yeah, it's... Project management is, it's a professional job, that requires... You need a level of intelligence and problem solving to work through it. So, yeah, the certification training is... The way that I see it is, is this is the best practice out there. You need to know that in order to make informed decisions about what you can and can't do as you go forward. And whether that be in your project or in a PMO. But the other thing that's interesting with our business is because we're deeply embedded with PMO people because of some of the other things we do, we're here listening all the time to what's what and what are their challenges, what's going on right now. And you'll hear the same things as you would with a project manager, it's just that they're coming at it from a different angle. So for example, big subject is resource management, how do we make sure that the projects that we have coming down the line are going to be sufficiently resourced. Every project manager has that problem.

Brett Harned:       Absolutely.

Lindsay Scott:      A PMO looking at it from a organization point of view, so the project manager is [inaudible] in nine, 10 people on this project, in two months time, times that by 100 projects across that business, somebody's got to be looking at that resource plan for the entire business. That's the kind of PMO... The world that they're looking at, and then you've got project managers obviously looking at it from their particular project point of view. So the subjects are the same, it's just we've got a different problem to solve.

Brett Harned:       Yeah. [crosstalk] It seems like it's just on a bigger scale, right?

Lindsay Scott:      Absolutely.

Brett Harned:       I mean it's, I'm not just thinking about the project, and the team, and the stakeholders, I'm thinking about the project managers and the process, and the tools that we're using and everything else. Making sure that we're operating in a way that is efficient and keeping people productive, and happy, and all of those things.

Lindsay Scott:      Yes, Yeah.

Brett Harned:       I love it. I think it's really interesting, and I think there are so many parallels that you've drawn between the role of PM and the role of PMO. And it's kind of like, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink, right? When it comes to training and certification, but at the same time, you have to have some base level understanding of how projects work. And if you're trying to take on a role as a PMO, you've got to spend a little bit of time in that organization to make sure that you understand what makes it tick, and what's going to work and what isn't going to work. So to your point earlier, there's no way that you could say, "I'm going to set up a PMO in this company and two years from now I'm going to move on and do it with a bigger company." Because, just like getting your PMP certification, yes you may have learned all of those things, and they may apply in one scenario, but they're not going to apply everywhere, so you have to take your time to get to know the organization and it's people, and do your research to roll out something that is actually going to be practical, useful, and will...

Lindsay Scott:      Yeah.

Brett Harned:       Sustain several years, several projects, and people, right?

Lindsay Scott:      Yeah, I mean, the other way you should look at it is that in PMO, it's just running a project. The project is [crosstalk]

Brett Harned:       Right, exactly, yup, that make...

Lindsay Scott:      So there's no reason, there's no reason why a project manager wanting to change into becoming a PMO manager should be that difficult.

Brett Harned:       Yeah.

Lindsay Scott:      But I think what it takes, is just that appreciation that you are looking at a problem through a different lens.

Brett Harned:       Mm-hmm (affirmative). I think that makes sense.

Lindsay Scott:      Yeah, and there's no reason why project managers wouldn't make great PMO managers actually.

Brett Harned:       Yeah.

Lindsay Scott:      But I think it's, like I said, there's been a lot of history between PMOs are there to do one job, and then sometimes a project manager might have, rightly or wrongly, felt threatened by what sort of the remit of a PMO might have been.

Brett Harned:       Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Lindsay Scott:      Just [inaudible] status reports, and sending them to senior execs, and doing a [inaudible] reporting, and all this kind of stuff, has left a lot of bad blood between them.

Brett Harned:       Interesting. Well let's... I want to talk about something that you kind of touched on very, very briefly a couple minutes ago. I want to talk about the PMO flash mobs that you organize. I've kind of been watching that afar via Twitter, and LinkedIn, and I wish that I could join one of those events. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about what that's about?

Lindsay Scott:      Yeah, I'm slightly... Anytime I hear anybody else say "flash mob" I'm slightly embarrassed about it, but I'm not really. What it was... Because of what it was born out of, which is about six years ago, something like that. At the time when people were doing flash mobs in train stations and [crosstalk]

Brett Harned:       Right.

Lindsay Scott:      And we just got the idea, me and a colleague one night, we were sat on the south bank in London watching the sun go down with a cocktail in our hands. And we thought... He was letting rip about some problem that he'd been having. He was working in PMO. And we were just sat there and chatting away, and then he said, "What would be a really great idea, is of you could just get loads of people, maybe just six or seven, just around a table, and they could just put the world to rights all about PMO stuff, and we could be helping each other, kind of like a little coaching circle." And this is before, the days of meet-ups and stuff, which has just exploded everywhere. Before all of that, there wasn't that kind of thing going on.

Lindsay Scott:      So that's where we started, and we just basically started putting on dates, and saying, "Look, if you're in PMO turn up here at this pub in London. We're just going to sit and talk about particular theme around PMO." And from that, it got a little bit more formal, started doing certain nights where we might have a guest speaker, so you're getting crowds of about 30, 40 people. And it still goes on today, it's like that, it feels a bit... We listen to what people are chatting about, and think, "Oh, actually that would make a good topic for the next flash mob or later on in the year." Because what we start hearing all the time, is that people will start talking about the same thing, "Oh well I've got that problem as well" and we'll hear it again and again. So that's what makes us keep going basically, because it's tough to get people together and keep them engaged and all the rest of it. But we have such good fun really, and I think the name kind of shows that it's not going to be that stayed and boring.

Brett Harned:       Yeah.

Lindsay Scott:      Yeah. There's some drinks and pubs involved in some of it, but some of the things we're doing, we hold them at organizations as well. So, we've got PMO people all over the country that are giving us their office space, and saying, "Come in. Come do something around here" and all of that. And that lead to doing bigger events. We have a conference each year in London that's really well attended, and yeah it allows us to have a bit of fun with it. But the training company came later, because people just were saying, "Well, the flash mobs good for knowledge sharing, and networking, and chatting to each other, but actually, we... It would be quite good to have some more formal stuff.

Brett Harned:       Yeah, that makes sense. [crosstalk] It's fun to have a meetup and find a community and share ideas, but to be able to take that to kind of the next level, to help people be even better, and kind of even standardize a little bit, even though you're not doing that super formally. It's kind of a nice feeling for those people.

Brett Harned:       So I have one final question for you, and it's kind of all around the theme of Time Limit, which kind of just nods to the fact that we're all trying to get a lot of work done with limited time, and limited resources, and as someone who leads classes, and runs the flash mob, you know that people in project management seem to always be stretched for time. I'm sure that you have events where you expect double the audience, and you get a lot less people. So, I imagine that in a PMO role, that time becomes even more limited because you're even more responsible for a lot. Are there things that you'd recommend to help a PMO stay calm, but still kind of have their finger on the pulse of what's happening within their portfolio, or their office?

Lindsay Scott:      Yeah, well, it's interesting you should bring that up actually, because we do something regularly with flash mob, at least every six months or so, which is to get them into the [inaudible] that continue.

Brett Harned:       Right.

Lindsay Scott:      Does that make... Part of the problem is, is that we carry on doing things that actually nobody is getting any benefit from, nor really wants, but nobody's bothered until I ask the question "Do you still want us to do this?" So we just do a really simple exercise, which is literally, what should we stop doing, what should we continue doing, and then what can we start doing. Because it gets people back into this thinking, "You know what? Actually we've got all these things on the stock list because nobody wants it." So you've actually got resources in PMO time dedicated to doing stuff, that could be hours a week that actually nobody really wants. So it you just stop doing these things that nobody wants, you've actually freed up so much more time to start doing the things that people actually really do want. Part of the job with the PMO is you've always got to be scanning the horizon and what's coming down the line. So its things like, is it a new tool? I mean, here in the UK we're all getting quite excited, and a bit daunted, by this whole AI stuff. Like the robotic processor [crosstalk]

Brett Harned:       Oh yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Lindsay Scott:      Yeah, all of that. Well our PA, in PMO world would be amazing, because a lot of the job in PMO, especially around [inaudible] is fairly repetitive. But actually, you could automate some of that stuff.

Brett Harned:       Absolutely.

Lindsay Scott:      [inaudible] Not even getting read. So which is why the exercise that we do is very simple, but it's like, why are we trying to carry on doing all this stuff, when actually there's more important stuff coming down the line, and we haven't even got time to even give much thought to that.

Brett Harned:       Absolutely.

Lindsay Scott:      Which is what your business really needs.

Brett Harned:       And that's a really simple way to make that happen, to identify where you can save some time, where you can be more effective, and what your priorities are. So that you for that, that's a really practical, easy tip, I think for anyone in business to use.

Brett Harned:       Well Lindsay, thank you so much for joining me one Time Limit today. Really appreciate you having here, I think we could probably talk for another hour, maybe you'll come back and join me on a future episode, but thanks so much for being here. I really do appreciate it.

Lindsay Scott:      Thank you very much.

Brett Harned:       All right, well that's all we have today. Not going to lie here, I think a PMO role sounds really interesting. If you're a PMO or if you work in one, and want to chat with me, please get in touch, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it. Also, if you're liking the podcast, please rate us and leave a review where you get your podcasts. Doing that will help us to grow the show, and we've got a lot of great ideas of future episodes. And if you're looking for more project management education, check out all the stuff we're producing at TeamGantt. We've got live classes on a variety of topics which I'm presenting weekly, or check out the art and science of leading projects, which is an on-demand video course designed to help build your project management skills. You can find that on the TeamGantt website, or even on our YouTube channel. All right, that's all we've got for this week. Thanks again. See you on the next where we'll be talking about motivating teens.

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