If you've ever tried to put a project management office together, or worked through the difficulties a new or struggling PMO can face in an organization, you might understand where I'm coming from. Your project management infrastructure needs credibility, visibility and… as much as humanly possible… company-wide acceptance. How does this happen? Does it happen with your PMO director saying so? Or your PMO leader putting out an announcement stating…” Here's your new project management office… now use it!” No… that's not how it ever happens. At least not successfully. It happens with buy-in from someone like your CEO, or your entire C-level team and other senior management.
You need high level acceptance, high-level buy-in to the process, and high-level pressure to the rest of the organization to utilize the project management office's services and personnel to lead those company and corporate client projects in order to gain the enterprise-wide acceptance and usage that is needed in order to remain viable long term. If you don't have that buy-in, it will always be an uphill battle and you will eventually lose. Trust me. I've been there. I've seen it happen more than once in the same organization.
Let's discuss reasons why you need that high-level buy in and how to go about getting it...
Without C-level buy-in, project resources may be hard to acquire. You need a new resource quickly or you need to hang on to a key resource that is being pulled from your project. If your C-level leadership understands the critical nature of the work your team is performing and understands that this change or issue will negatively impact the project and an important corporate client, they likely won't let it happen.
Without C-level buy-in, project funding may not be there. Need more $$ for that important project or it is going to get shut down? That's where your C-level leadership may come in handy. Projects and project funding can't always wait. Customers pull the plug on projects every day and if you can't keep the project going on your side, your project client will move on to your competition. If your CEO buys into the project management process, then they will understand and be sympathetic to the situation…. at least that's the hope.
Without C-level buy-in, corporate wide usage will be impossible. This one happened to a PMO I was a part of. The corporate leadership was not behind the PMO and were ok with groups using their own leadership to take on projects and work with clients. The result? You guessed it. The PMO was dismantled less than a year later. It wasn't effective. Only a few projects were running throughout and everyone's pet project went somewhere else.
Involve C-level leadership in the PM infrastructure planning. Having your C-level leadership involved – at least to some degree – in the planning of the PMO or PM infrastructure builds ownership and accountability… and expectations. The pressure to perform well will be there, but excellence is what we should all be striving for anyway.
Involve C-level leadership in the PMO or PM infrastructure rollout. Your leadership should be the ones making the big PMO rollout announcement. It says to the rest of the organization, “We believe in this and you – as an organization – should, too and you need to utilize it for your project leadership needs.”
Have C-level leadership attend some early PM status meetings with clients. This one may seem small or inconsequential, but it is actually a critical piece to PMO success. It serves two key purposes. It makes the C-level leadership quickly and fully aware of the huge benefit and service and advantage that a good PM leadership and infrastructure brings to their organization… legitimizing it to their corporate clients. And, it makes those important clients feel that much more important every time a C-level is part of their weekly status call. It won't go on forever, but as you are getting the PMO off the ground, it will make a world of difference… and say a lot to the rest of the organization. Actions speak much louder than words.
Summary / call for input
So, is the CEO important to the PMO? And vice-versa? A definite “yes” is my answer. How about you? What do you feel about this situation and is your C-level leadership involved to any degree in your organization's project management activities?