The Power of Purpose
Why does your PMO exist? (And if it doesn’t yet – why should it?!)
What is its purpose?
Your purpose must be so clear that every member of your PMO (and ideally your client base) should be able to answer this instinctively.
Let’s take a little detour to touch on what a good, clear purpose can help you achieve.
In 2008 a group of friends hanging out in their living room came across 2 numbers that truly shocked them.
- 900 Million people across the world didn’t have access to clean drinking water.
- Globally, countries with plenty of safe drinking water spent over $50 Billion a year on bottled water.
Initially this group of friends found this polarity ridiculous – until they had a bold idea –
‘What if we could connect these two numbers?!’
‘What if we could start a business selling bottled water where 100% of the profits went to connecting these 900 Million people with clean drinking water?’.
And so, ‘Thankyou.’ was born. Despite only having $1000 to their names, this group of friends quickly secured a bottler, packager and distributor. Within 5 years, through sheer public driven momentum, they had grown to 14 products and were stocked in most of Australia’s largest retailers and supermarkets.
Within 10 years they had launched a best selling book based on their own start up story, and had used the book to make an international expansion.
‘Thankyou.’ are clear on their purpose.
“End poverty in this lifetime”.
Without clarity of purpose, these friends would still be sitting in that living room – appalled at the numbers on the TV in front of them.
Finding Your Purpose
How do we get to the heart of your PMO purpose?
By answering 2 simple questions.
- Why do you exist? (i.e., what was the catalyst for the PMO’s creation?), and
- What makes you special? (i.e., what makes your unit different from the rest of the organisation?)
Let’s delve into these.
Why Do You Exist?
Be real here.
Why does your PMO exist? (Or Why is it about to?)
Is it as simple as “the projects are a mess, and the organisation needs some help?” If so, we can put a positive spin on that and arrive with a purpose along the lines of:
“We create clarity across the project portfolio.”
Or perhaps your purpose is to inform key decision makers. If so, then perhaps your PMO purpose is closer to:
“We drive great decisions by ensuring the right information is there at the right time.”
Or maybe your PMO is multi-focused, but it has a strong capability improvement slant. That might look like this:
“We promote great project management through ongoing support and growing organisational change capability.”
Your catalyst needs to be reflected in your purpose. You need to deeply and clearly understand exactly what problem your PMO is trying to solve.
What Makes You Special?
No, I don’t mean that in a ‘we are all unique snowflakes’ type of way.
Rather, what we are looking for is: what exactly is in your PMO’s remit that isn’t in anyone else’s? What is your unique obligation within the organisation?
What may initially seem self-evident often isn’t once you dig into it.
Let’s look at a quick example.
Say your PMO is tasked with overseeing a portfolio of change projects. What exactly is uniquely yours?
Project reporting? – Maybe not. After all, projects are usually reported on by Finance and sometimes even as part of Strategic and Annual reporting processes.
Training and uplift? – Again, maybe not. Learning and Development may well be offering something already.
What about project investment and governance? – Again, possibly not. There may be existing gateway, approval and/or finance allocation processes in place.
To be clear – the intent here isn’t to get into the weeds and have you specifying something like the below:
“So we do project management training… but, not the training that L&D offers, just the training they don’t offer. At the moment that’s training on project gates and how to log an issue and a risk”.
But rather, the question – ‘what makes you special’ is about helping you dial into your purpose.
What will your PMO do better than anyone else in your organisation?
Use that as your starting point.
How To Use Your Purpose
Now, while it may seem self-evident, we don’t often think about how we can best leverage our purpose. It’s either put on a wall and forgotten… or worse, put in a drawer and forgotten. I implore you, don’t just file this away. It’s a crucial tool for your use.
First, your purpose shapes what success looks like for your PMO. It quick-starts your target and goal setting efforts and underpins any strategic planning work you undertake.
Second, and perhaps even more powerfully, it enables you to say ‘No’ to anything not aligned to your purpose. It is difficult to overstate how crucial the ability to say ‘No’ is in the PMO world. The scope of what a PMO can do is so large, and resources are almost always limited.
An absurdly clear purpose helps you set expectations on what you will be excellent at, while ring fencing your scope to avoid the cacophony of distractions on the way.
Avoid The Most Common Trap: A Broad, Meaningless Purpose
A broad purpose usually shows a willingness to do everything for everyone. Avoid this. It will be your undoing.
Successful PMOs know the power of focus. This will make or break your success.
Do a few things well instead of all things poorly. Chances are that you simply aren’t staffed up enough to do it all.