Just last week, Eileen presented to an audience of project management and PMO practitioners at a conference in Slovenia. The session theme was all about how we continue to develop as individuals working in a changing project management landscape. Within the session, professionalism was explored.
With different delivery approaches available for managing ever increasingly complex and complicated projects, it stands to reason that us, as the practitioners who work within this field, have to be mindful about how our knowledge is up to date and is fit for purpose. To be capable of performing at a high level, to be a professional at what we do, a commitment to lifelong learning should figure highly in our development plans.
This got me thinking about people in PMO, are they professionals?
In this article, we explore that question.
Bassot’s Thoughts on Being Professionals
We often refer to PMO practitioners as PMO professionals, but should we? What does it mean to be a professional?
The Professional Standards Council states that a professional:
. . . . is a member of a profession. Professionals are governed by codes of ethics, and profess commitment to competence, integrity and morality, altruism, and the promotion of the public good within their expert domain. Professionals are accountable to those served and to society.
We could say that the people who work in PMO are part of the project management profession, so how is profession defined? Again from the Professional Standards Council:
A profession is a disciplined group of individuals who adhere to ethical standards. This group positions itself as possessing special knowledge and skills in a widely recognised body of learning derived from research, education and training at a high level, and is recognised by the public as such. A profession is also prepared to apply this knowledge and exercise these skills in the interest of others.
Bassot’s 2013 paper – Capturing your Learning for Personal and Professional Development – helps to breakdown the term ‘professional’ and provides an overview of what being a professional means:
If we take Bassot’s overview of what a professional is, can a PMO practitioner be a professional?
Let’s take a look at the ten areas and how it might work
1. You have a body of knowledge in relation to your particular profession
The body of knowledge related to the PMO includes project, programme and portfolio management – alongside PMO specific knowledge such as P3O (Portfolio, Programme and Project Offices), to be a PMO professional means you understand and have learnt the bodies of knowledge related to your job.
2. You work in a relatively autonomous way, without needing close supervision of every aspect of your work.
The vast majority of PMO positions from PMO Analysts upwards should be working autonomously, the job to support delivery and decision-making within the delivery organisation pretty much demands it. To be a PMO professional means you know what is expected of you and can carry out the work without constant direction from others.
3. You are expected to show some initiative in your work.
The role of the PMO is a wide and varied one, some work can be seen as repetitive – certainly in regular reporting cycles yet most work requires different approaches at different times. Knowing when to use certain processes or techniques; working through different challenges and solving problems; being there to remove the blockers; scanning the horizon to see what might be coming down the line. To be a professional PMO means able to use experiences, knowledge and skills to help others where you see they might need it, without waiting to be asked.
4. You understand the boundaries of your role and have a clear grasp when you need to refer to someone else.
Whilst the PMO is there to provide objective, rational and constructive challenge, you know where to draw the line and not overstep the mark. The PMO is there, ultimately, to support not to police or take accountability for something that is not their remit. To be a professional PMO is to recognise when to challenge and when to withdrawn and seek support themselves.
5. You have the relevant skills to carry out your role well.
And that can mean a whole host of skills over and above that of portfolio, programme and project management. That also means skills in working effectively with other people; office based skills in areas such as finance, procurement or HR; it can also mean hands-on PC based skills and business systems. To be a professional PMO is knowing what skills are needed in the organisation and the role being carried out. It also means being able to utilise the right skills in the right situations too.
6. Your attitudes are in line with the profession you belong to.
What is the PMO known for? Being there to support and help delivery teams work better and smarter by removing blockers? To help senior managers make better decisions when they need to? Is it a PMO that says yes or one that says no? To be a professional PMO is to create a persona that is conducive for success in the organisation and evidenced behaviours that support that.
7. You adhere to the code of practice or ethics relevant to your profession.
Codes of conducts; ethics; a moral compass – all those personal beliefs that help guide our behaviours and attitudes where we endeavour to perform a role to the best of our abilities. Project management associations have several codes and the PMO has its own principles. To be a professional PMO is to work with a set of principles, within a wider organisational culture that carries out work ethically and fairly.
8. Your work is not straight forward and will involve making professional judgements where you encounter situations where there are no clear right or wrong answers.
With the breadth and depth of work that the PMO is becoming increasingly involved in, there will be times when the PMO doesn’t have the answers. We saw it with the introduction of Agile delivered projects and how the PMO now has to support hybrid delivery methods within a portfolio. There were no rules, no right or wrong answers. The PMO principles can help guide the PMO in situations like this as it starts to navigate through unchartered waters. To be a professional PMO is to recognise when professional judgement is needed, what it is and how it can be formulated and used.
9. You aim to improve your practice all the time, reflecting on what you are doing and engaging in continuous professional development.
PMOs operate in an environment where change is the norm. There is one thing we can depend on, that the business will always be evolving and changing and that change will be managed through portfolios, programmes and projects. Not only do we need to understand what is changing but also our response to that. PMOs have a duty to be skilled and ready to act. For the people within the PMO that also means being skilled at the level expected of the job. To be a professional PMO is to take development – both self-development and PMO team-development seriously, to be able to provide a first-class PMO service requires skilled staff to do so.
10. You aim to keep up to date with new knowledge and skills in relation to your practice.
It seems to be every few months and there is yet another thing to know about or learn in PMO. Just recently themes and topics around data analysis; automation, coaching, facilitation, service development have all been talked about and discussed. Learning new knowledge is not just about PMO training courses, it’s also about communities of practice and networking like PMO Flashmob, where new knowledge is shared amongst other eager-to-learn practitioners. To be a professional PMO is to not only improve on what they already do but to also learn about emerging skills and knowledge in PMO practices.
You can do just that through PMO Learning – sign up to receive news about PMO knowledge and skills is one quick way to keep up to date.
After reading the ten areas from Bassot, do you think you’re a PMO professional? Which areas struck a cord with you?
Leave a comment below, we’d love to hear your thoughts.
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