top heavy PMO


A common problem in project offices is a lack of experienced senior-level staff, but PMOs can sometimes find themselves heavy on leadership but short on other workers. Rather than being a dream scenario, it can actually have the potential to disrupt existing workflows and hinder the team’s ability to achieve success.

One concern is that the art of leadership brings with it an array of tasks needing to be done. This can leave little time for other day-to-day project activities, from following up on the availability of needed materials to maintaining thorough reference documentation. If the PMO experiences a staffing shakeup or significant reduction that eliminates a number of frontline positions, those who have historically focused on orchestrating the activities of others must now transition into a different set of competencies.

PMOs with an overabundance of top-level staff must quickly change tactics if success is to be achieved. Several strategies can help them do that in the short term, and some can also be leveraged to round out the team’s capabilities in the long term, too.

top heavy PMO

Launch an internship program. Bringing a select group of interns into the mix can be hugely beneficial for everyone involved. Your PMO gains the advantage of high performers with baseline skills who are eager to learn all they can about project management, and the interns get the opportunity to hone their skills and pull knowledge from your team’s senior level leaders.

Adding interns to the project office is a particularly attractive solution for PMOs with lean funding, as the cost to set up and maintain internship programs is often very low. This may also be a good approach if the PMO anticipates only intermittent needs for additional support, or if staffing levels haven’t been guaranteed over the life of a long project. Internship durations can be established to coincide with these variances, giving the project team support when it’s needed and freeing it from expensive labor obligations when it doesn’t.

A strong internship program can also help the PMO maintain a reliable flow of new talent. As interns progress through their educational track, they may eventually choose to join the team on a full time basis.

Partner with a consultancy. It may seem counterintuitive to bring in even more senior level collaborators, but working with an objective outside expert can actually be a very effective way to balance out the team’s existing skills and available resources without stepping on toes or injuring egos. Experienced project management consultants can be useful in developing a new structure for leadership responsibilities and determining how to assign tasks within it. With the consultancy’s help, members of the team will also be better able to redefine their roles—even if it’s only for one specific project—and embrace a revised way of working.

Some consultancies offer staffing programs to provide ongoing support in the form of frontline professionals with good on-the-ground experience. These PMPs can then fill in when the PMO’s internal resources are stretched too thin.

Gain assistance from internal partners. It may be possible to more heavily leverage the organization’s other inside resources on a limited-time basis. Look for ways your team can take advantage of help in administrative and support areas first, as that’s often where leader-heavy project offices need the most assistance. Is the Purchasing team able to facilitate more of the team’s price comparison duties during this project? Can the Legal department take on additional contract oversight in the short term? The organization’s resource levels often prevent this from becoming a viable long-term strategy, but PMOs may be able to gain some needed near-term relief.

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