PMO role 3: Performance improvement management

PMO role 3: Performance improvement management

Improving the performance of all involved in a project's delivery is key

Continually improving the performance of all involved in project delivery is a key PMO accountability. This is resource performance management, but with an eye on performance improvement at all times.

A formal, known and appropriate Project Management performance standard should be set whereby the different levels and calibre of project managers can be assessed and performance improvement opportunities identified (and followed through). No project manager is equally skilled in all areas, therefore, each project manager’s strengths and weaknesses should be known and matched to the needs of the projects and the other members of the project leadership team.

The Project Team’s performance needs to be measured. Are they productive? Do they work well together as a team? Where are they strong and weak?

In particular vendors and consultants’ performance needs to be carefully managed. Vendors can often try to sloth-off once the contract of sale has been signed -- they need to be kept to their contract terms at all times. Consultants (and contractors), because they are paid more than internal staff, should deliver more. Are they noticeably more productive? If not, replace them.

A central repository of vendor and consultant performance should be compiled and maintained so that when new contracts are being contemplated, the vendor’s/consultant’s performance track record can be reviewed. I am often amazed as the reuse of consultants with an organization who have manifestly failed on several occasions. The PMO should warn against this by having a vendor/consultant performance evaluation checklist completed by each relevant project team.

The Governance Team’s performance needs to be evaluated. Are they turning up to governance meetings, contributing and leading the project or are they spasmodic attendees, silent and following whatever the project manager suggests? Are they focused on the delivery of the desired business outcomes and benefits, or on being super-project managers? Again, an objective governance score-card is needed so that everyone knows the performance criteria.

The Business’ performance also needs to be tracked. A business case is a ‘contract’ between the governance team and the business -- both sides have obligations to fulfil. Is the business fulfilling its side of the bargain? Is the business making the required staff available when required and for as long as required? Is the business taking up its accountabilities and delivering on time? Many a project fails because of business non-cooperation rather than project team failure. NB Business performance includes the post-project delivery of the outcomes and benefits.

Then there is learning management. Many organizations have some kind of ‘lessons learned’ activity, either within the project of through a post implementation review; but what happens to the results? Learning promulgation is a key PMO role, supporting and further developing the project delivery standards in place to improve the project delivery approaches.

This performance/capability improvement role can be continuous, learning from each project’s lessons, or planned as a quantum leap through a capability-uplift program. More on the latter in a later piece.

Further support and useful tools to help you manage your investments, projects and portfolio are available from

For the previous article in this the series visit "PMO role 2: Standards management".

For the first article in this the series visit "PMO: What’s in a name?".

Jed Simms is CIO magazine's weekly project management columnist. Simms, founder of projects and benefits delivery research firm Capability Management, is also the developer of specialised project management and project governance Web site

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