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Expert Talk on Agile PMO with Michael Nir

Today we have done a Expert Talk on Agile PMO with Michael Nir, author of several books:

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Michael Nir has been providing operational, organizational and management training and consulting for over 14 years. He is a certified project management professional and Gestalt process facilitator, offering training, consulting, and solutions development in project and product management, process improvement, leadership, and team building programs

Michael’s professional background includes a significant amount of work in the telecoms, hi-tech, software development, R&D; environments and petrochemical & infrastructure business.
Michael has published several titles in the fields of influencing, teams, leadership and more.

Michael’s background is analytical and technical, however, he has a keen interest in human interactions and behaviors. He holds two engineering degrees from the prestigious Technion Israel Institute of Technology: a Bachelor of civil engineering and a Masters of Industrial engineering. He has balanced his technical side with the extensive study and practice of Gestalt Therapy and “Instrumental Enrichment,” a philosophy of mediated learning. In his consulting and training engagements, Michael combines both the analytical and technical world with his focus on people, delivering unique, and meaningful solutions, and addressing whole systems.

Here you can read the interview:

Q: Michael, what is an Agile PMO?
A: Well, that’s a really thorough question. Although the years, in the last ten to fifteen years we’ve seen a lot of Agile or a lot of PMO implementations, and the interesting thing is that usually they do not provide the value to the organization. They handle methodology, they handle administration, they handle book keeping. They do everything but contribute to the bottom line. And the Agile PMO is how do you take the concepts of Agile that we’ve seen in the last few years emerging and even dominating globally. How do we take this concepts and really become value driven in our project manager offices, and that’s what the Agile PMO is about.

Q: Imagine we’ve got a PMO. How can we do more Agile our PMO?
A: It’s really about seeing what the end goal of our project is. It’s really about adding functionality of project managing office as you go forward and not starting with the wrong direction. Lots of PMOs are starting with the wrong directions. They enforce command and control mechanisms, very robust and heavy waterfall approaches that encumber the project and actually become enemies to the project managers and the program managers instead of helping them, and the PMO at the end of the day is there to help the project and program managers, align them with the portfolios and to that is least interfering way. So that’s how we make them Agile.

Q: There are Agile methodologies, like Scrum, that they don’t have Project Managers. Has the Agile PMO got Project Managers?
A: Well, you know I’ve just written a new book that is as we speak now on Amazon and that’s about agile product owner, and I think as I’m working with clients I see that there’s a big difference between what we like Agile to be and maybe think what it is, and what we hear from a lot of Agile consulting companies about that, and what the company’s needs and I see some dissent, I see some dissatisfaction from companies who are big companies, business companies that are big, ten thousands, five thousands employees and more that try to move for an Agile approach, I would say a pure Scrum approach, and it’s very difficult for them to do that. So, for me when I’m saying Agile it’s really about changing the mind set and thinking about the value and the most flexible way to deliver it instead of encumbering the processes, instead of making them at the project, instead of making all the processes as an obstacle. It’s funny because I don’t really care if you call it a Scrum Master, a Product Owner or a Project Manager. It seems like there is this rift, there is this divide. Either you’re a product owner, or you’re a scrum master, or you’re a project manager. I don’t really care about these definitions, I think what we’ve seen in the least year or two is more and more about, as my good friend Nigel from the UK said: It’s a good, it’s relevant compromises, it’s smart compromises, between the two mechanisms so everything works hand and hand well.

Q: Okay. Imagine we’re working on making more agile our PMO and then how can find out that our PMO is really Agile?
A: Well, that’s a very good question. My perspective is, and that’s true for Agile, that’s true for everything we’re doing. Agile is Lean. Agile is based on Lean Methodology. Agile PMO is based also on lean thinking and from my perspective is: Is what we doing contributing to the bottom line? Are we contributing to our customers? Are we helping our customers grow? Are we benefiting our customer? What is our value added that we’re doing, as we doing our work. I was just running a simulation today, I’m here in Belgrade and it was very interesting to see that the participants had very difficult time understanding between value added and non value added activities. It was interesting to see how people find it difficult to differentiate between what they do that contributes to end customer even if he’s far away down stream and what they do which adds value. For me if PMO does not add value after one year then he is not Agile. It’s really about a PMO being able to provide good and clear directions to the organization. If he doesn’t do that he’s not an Agile PMO, he’s just another paycheck that the company is giving methodologies, more of the same. It’s not being Agile.

Q: What’s your final advise for all our Project Directors about going Agile PMO?
A: This is one of the things I’m kind of discussing at last three chapters in the book and through a very conscience case study about that. I would say that the most important advice is think value all the time. Anything that you do is about value. If you’re putting up a methodology, no matter what it is. It could be a combination of agile waterfall, scrum waterfall, it could be anything. If it does not add value to your organization, if it just creates more tapework, more red tape, then you’re really not doing what you’re supposed to do. And I was having this discussion last week with some PMOs somewhere else and it was interesting to see that their initial immediate response was ”Woah, what do you mean? Our goal is to develop methodologies.” Well, I’m sorry. Developing methodology is not your goal, it’s a mean. You might need a methodology to carry out what you need at the end, but the methodology, PMBOK, CMMI, ASL, these are all means to an end. And if you are not from day one thinking how do I make sure that my PMO delivers value at the end of the day then you’re not being Agile and you’re just wasting resources. So that’s my final advice about that.