Not PMO-In-A-Can

Authors: D. Andrew Buck
Publisher: Createspace

Good title eh? I must admit I was intrigued when I first heard about Andrew’s new book especially when the book is introduced by stating “Many books will speak about “establishing a PMO”, as if an amorphous administrative function revolving around administration, process and tools will add value and automatically improve project performance. Too many organisatons failed with this approach because it didn’t translate to tangible success criteria”.

There is so much in this book that it’s actually hard to describe, the nearest I got to it was a “treasure trove” of PMO information; case studies, Q&As, exercises, website links, diagrams, soft skills, lessons from the trenches and so on. In fact, when reading through this book it felt more like a mentoring exercise or relationship between the author and reader. Buck’s style is very conversational so where he starts with a specific subject or area, for example, communication management, we’re straight into a very readable and entertaining dialogue. Kicking off with the Temperament Indicators (are you a Guardian type like me?), then onto communication across timezones, the communication channels equation, sender/receiver models, communication myths, communication plans, good and bad meeting behaviours, RACI &RAM, Kickoff Meetings, emails (a brilliant section on the ins and out of good email communication, are you aware of the “4 D” approach) and so on. The amount of information, tips, thought provoking comment and opinion is actually quite breathtakingly packed into each chapter.

The book relies heavily on Andrew’s own credentials as a lot of what he talks about and describes are taken directly from his own personal experiences. It’s also quite a difficult book to dip in and out of at first because the chapters and information contained within them feels a little hiddledy¬†¬† piggledy. Once you’ve read it through there are definite pages which will be bookmarked to returned to (PMO metrics, the 12 step program for initiatives…)

So if it’s not a “how to guide” to implementing PMOs, what exactly is it? I found it to be a book that not only gave me a greater insight into how programmes, projects and ultimately PMOs fit into organisations but why they are there in the first place, which ultimately effects how they operate. I believe professionals who work within these disciplines need to have this insight in order to ensure their “functions” deliver what is needed and to ultimately perform their roles to the best of their abilities.

All in all, I loved this book and I loved its different approach to the whole subject of PMO. It’s a recommended read for anyone working in the area of PMO regardless of seniority or experience levels; I certainly learnt a lot, especially how general business management / practice impacts the PMO and how all PMOs need to understand business (not just programme and project management). There’s a nice blend of the hard and soft skills side to PMOs and I think it meets its objectives of; challenge our thinking, challenge our goals, challenge our approach and challenge process vs strategy. As mentioned before; this book feels like a mentor-in-a-pocket and I for one find this an effective way to deliver messages / learnings / information which do indeed challenge the PMO professional. Coming back to the subtitle of the book “Pragmatic Management of Strategic Objectives”, it certainly delivers on the pragmatic front.

– Reviewed by Lindsay Scott – Arras People – March 2010

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