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On Thursday 25th March, we had the opportunity to run an OKR session called Goal Setting for PMO Teams, for the PMO meetup group #PMOFlashmob. Whilst they are more at home in the back room of a bar, the flashmobbers – like many other groups in times of Covid – had moved online. It led to a curious mix, with UK regulars turning up with an alcoholic beverage and banter, whilst for those who joined from further afield (hello Seattle & New Zealand!) it was not even midday.

We all know how to measure projects, but how do we measure whether the PMO is meeting the needs of the organization?

It is a curious thing. PMO people are very good at measuring projects with a combination of leading (logged risks, task completion, Earned Value) and lagging (benefits realization) indicators. But they struggle when it comes to measuring the PMO itself.

This may not be so suprising when we consider the variety of PMOs that exist. When it comes to goal setting for PMO Teams, it is important to take Simon Sinek’s advice and ‘Start with Why’

When goal setting for PMO Teams, start with 'Why'. Success starts with understanding why we do what we do, then bring clear on how we do it, which leads to What we do being aligned to our strategy.

Start with Why

Simon Sinek’s talk ‘Start with Why’ Explores how entrepreneurs often pitch badly because they start their pitch with what they do, rather than WHY they do it. This can happen with PMO goal setting. We jump straight to WHAT people want to measure, and what we are able to measure. But often we realize too late that they are not measuring what matters.

Therefore we’d like to start, not with the WHAT, but with the WHY.  Like enlightened Entrepreneurs, once we have the clarity of purpose and understand WHY our PMO exists and what goals it should be shooting for. Then we can start to be clear on HOW the PMO achieves those goals whilst putting in place the building blocks for success. All of which leads to WHAT we actually do in our day-to-day PMO operation to support projects and the organization.

When it comes to setting PMO goals, it is important that they are aligned with the goals of the business. This alignment needs to be vertical – from the top of the business to the bottom, and back again. But it also needs to align horizontally. The Goals of the PMO need to align with the goals of other departments and silos so that everyone can collaborate to jointly move the organization forwards. It is a lack of horizontal alignment that so often leads to unproductive internal competition and division.

The goals we set need to be business-focused. Project metrics may work well for projects, but enterprise-level PMOs are not projects – they are permenant teams. The goals need to be business-focused, as do the metrics. It is a harsh reality that no matter how much time you spent learning Planned Value (PV), Earned Value (EV) and Actual Cost (AC) calculations for your PMP exam, the business doesn’t really care about them. They want to see business metrics, and they want to understand how your team will be driving the business to achieve its objectives and vision.

Children whispering, 'Let me tell you a secret: Nobody in the business cases about your PMO Metrics'. Children laugh.

OKRs for goal setting

In the presentation for PMOFlashmob, we introduced the OKR method for goal setting. Developed by Andy Grove at Intel, the OKR method has been adoped by silicon valley startups and tech giants such as Google.

With OKRs, there are two compoenent parts to every goal. An Objective statement that is inspirational and clearly articulates the journey we are on. And 3-5 Key Results, the things we will measure to see how far we have got on our journey.

I have spoken about the OKR process elsewhere on this site. There’s a guide over in our Management Models repository that contains real PMO OKR examples. And there is an article all about a journey of discovery through OKRs that starts with Japan bidding to host the 2020 Olympic games (I wonder if Covid was on their risk log?)

OKRs are Progress Driven

The OKR model allows us to define stretching goals for the PMO that are progress-driven. By making our goals stretching, we become more transparent with the rest of the organization. We set ourselves bold goals that speak clearly about the direction we are taking the PMO in. Furthermore, we are honest about how stretching they are and that we may not succeed.

Andy Grove at Intel noted that objectives should be set at a point high enough so that even if an individual pushes himself hard, they would still only have a 50-50 chance of making them. But by setting goals that are progress-driven, rather than milestone driven, then even if we don’t achieve our ambiutious stretching goal, we can be confident that we will still have metrics to show just how far we have come. This is what continuous improvement looks like. By setting progress-driven goals for itself, the PMO is playing a crucial role in incrementally improving the organziation as a whole. Small steps, big outcomes.

Leadership with OKRs

Defining and publishing your PMO goals is a great first step, but don’t stop there. With your PMO OKRs in place, it is time to cascade these. Encourage everyone in the team to define their own OKRs. It is important that they define the OKRs themselves, as let’s face it, you are more likely to buy-in and commit to achieving a goal if you have created it yourself.

Challenge your team to make their OKRs stretching and bold. But in doing so, help them understand that they will not be punished for not achieving 100%. When taking risks, it needs to be safe to fail. When you challenge individuals to define their own OKRs amazing things happen. You start to see their unique perspectives evolve, and you start to see fresh perspectives on how the PMO can support delivery. Some of these ideas may even make you go back and rethink the OKRs you have set at the team level! This kind of empowerment sparks the intrinsic motivation within people and encourages them to play to their strengths.

Of course individuals in your team do not define their OKRs in a bubble, they should stick to the same rules as you have done – and be confident in explaining how their OKRs are vertically and horizonally aligned with the goals of the PMO, the business and their peers. By crafting personal OKRs that are progress-driven, it gives you and your team a great basis for regular one-to-one sessions as you review updated OKR scores and look for ways of ‘turning the dials’ on OKRs together.

Learn with PMOFlashmob

You can find a video of the talk over at the PMOFlashmob site, along with their repositary of previous talks and publications. If you get the opportunity to join one of their live events then you definitely should. They are a great community of PMO people from multiple sectors and at all career levels.

Craft your OKRs with HotPMO

If you want to develop OKRs for your team, or if you want to rollout OKRs within your organization, then get in touch – we’d love to hear from you. And don’t just take our word for how good we are: Check out this customer success story from InniAccounts to learn how OKRs can work as a framework for creative success.

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