I've read two pieces of information lately that couldn't be more different, and yet they both got me thinking about the benefits of what I call a "distributed PMO."
First, as I mentioned last week, I had read about Ken Kizer's magnificent transformation of the formerly abysmal Veteran's Health Administration (a poorly run group of hospitals mired in government hierarchy and bureaucracy). He established an network of regional "hubs" (what he called Virtual Integrated Services Networks, or VISNs - pronounced "visions"). Each VISN was itself a network of partnerships, associations, alliances, hospitals, etc. that worked together for the good of the customer.
The VISNs had the benefits of standardized quality with local presence. Decision-making was moved from Washington HQ to the VISNs, who were closer to the action than Washington HQ could ever be.
The role of headquarters became one of support, guiding principles, consulting advise, information services, and change leadership. Headquarters drives behaviors that benefit the overall structure.
Forms and approvals were reduced to a bare minimum. A relentless focus on the customer/patient (one of my battle cries, as most of you know) now guides all decisions and research.
If this isn't a good model for a PMO, I don't know what is. If project managers and functional experts (each who rely on one another for success) operated in various "regions" and/or functions (close to the action), and the PMO's role were to provide (and I repeat from above) support, guiding principles, consulting advise, information services, and change leadership, more PMOs would become a valued and integrated part of their organization.
And if the focus were on reducing forms and bureaucracy, helping project teams be successful, and improving the customer experience (as opposed to an internal focus on merely schedule and budget metrics), PMOs might find themselves more popular as well.
Incidentally, this also happens to mirror the Toyota organizational model.
The idea of a distributed, integrated network isn't unique to business. It even happens in nature (here's where the strange part comes in). I was reading about a giant sea creature, larger than a blue whale, called a Giant Siphonophore
(Praya sp.). The creature (yes, this is true, folks) runs 130 feet long and is actually made up of many other life forms, each having its own specialized role that works to service the whole entity, yet is unable to exist on its own. In other words, the Giant Siphonophore is a "colonial life form." As I read this, I was again reminded of the concept of a virtual, yet integrated network.
Yes, I actually make these odd connections, but ideas can come from anywhere. By the way, the creature can be seen in the IMAX film, The Living Sea
(available on DVD). Here's more info
on the colonial nature of the Giant Siphonophore and it mutually dependent parts. Food for thought.
Labels: action, customer, customer-experience, customer-service, decisions, it-project, leadership, pmo, principles, project-manager, project-schedule, project-teams, service-orientation