Posted by: kerrywills | December 15, 2017

Lightweight PMOs

In the more “agile” world of today it seems that a hefty program management office (PMO) is a thing of the past. A few years ago when running large programs I would have a PMO with a dedicated person for each function (finance, resources, reporting, risks, vendors/contracts, schedule, etc).  I now have a nine figure portfolio and am running it with a four person PMO (two of which are rotational resources out of college). We still manage the same functions listed previously but do it in a much more efficient manner.  As I speak to some of my counterparts they seem to be doing the same thing.

So this leads me to think – are we more mature in our PMO processes and therefore need less people or is the concept of a “lightweight PMO” becoming the expectation? Even in an agile model there is still the need to report on progress, risks, milestones, and status so I don’t think that the function goes away. In fact I think an agile model requires more diligence to manage the many moving parts which is where tools and automation come in. So I do think that a PMO is still a critical function to aggregate information, provide transparency, connect the dots and facilitate the governance of the work.

So I am curious what others think about the current state of PMOs and their future.

Posted by: kerrywills | December 8, 2017

Playing to strengths

For those who read my blog, you know that I coach my son’s basketball teams and often compare that to the work that we do. I just got a new team this year and have exactly ten players which means that I can have two lineups. After a few practices I made my lineups based on the strengths of the players. For example, my first lineup has my son at Point Guard with two other athletic players because I know that Matt (my son) has the ability to pass and find other players. The other lineup has a kid who doesn’t like to pass the ball and takes a lot of shots (many of which he makes). I put the tallest kid that we have on this team so he can get rebounds in case the other kids miss. My thought is to align the players who compliment each other’s styles together to maximize the effectiveness of the team.

I also believe this is important in the work environment. For example, I believe that teams which have “visionary” strategic thinkers need to be balanced with people who can get the work done. Another example is aligning consultative resources with more technical resources who may not be the best at organizing or communicating.  Leaders should seek to understand the strengths of their team members and look to compliment them on teams with the intention of maximizing effectiveness.

Posted by: kerrywills | December 1, 2017

Santa has PM skills!

With the holiday season upon us, the music is everywhere. I was listening to the song “Santa Claus is coming to town” and realized that Santa is actually a fantastic project manager.

1. He’s making a list – This sounds a lot like a project plan of key activities and resources

2.He’s checking it twice – Confirm it for completeness and accuracy. Also checking the plan allows for transparency into progress and insights into risks

 3. He’s gonna find out if you’re naughty or nice – Based on the insights, he can tell if there are naughty items (risks, issues, challenges) or nice ones (items on track)

So clearly he is managing a project plan and using the insights to determine what items to watch out for. Now the “sees you when you are sleeping” part is still sort of creepy….

Posted by: kerrywills | November 24, 2017


I would not classify myself as a “process” person but I do believe strongly in structure, diligence and consistency where appropriate. To that end, I believe that playbooks are a very useful tool when defining a portfolio process or operating model. I am not suggesting to document hundreds of pages of process materials so much as have a structured document which outlines key functions, how they will work, the use of tools and the roles with accountabilities. I see many benefits in doing this…

  • The act of documenting the playbook forces the team to think through the functions and how they will work
  • Documenting roles and accountabilities is important to set and manage expectations of the team
  • There is one place to go to as the handbook for how to operate with the portfolio, program or organization
  • These can be used to share across other programs and organizations to help drive best practices and consistency

Playbooks should be seen as living documents and not a one-time process and so they should be reviewed on a regular basis and updated as needed. The PMO should maintain and update these documents and ensure that they get reviewed on a regular basis to sustain expectations.

Posted by: kerrywills | November 17, 2017

Punctuation matters

This week I received an e-mail that got me all worked up. It was from a partner of mine to the business lead.  Part of the message read below…

“I don’t think that you are critical Kerry and I can handle it and will let you know if there is an escalation…”

I read this as saying that I was not critical to the meeting on the program which I was accountable for, which got me confused (and a little angry).


After a few more back-and-forth messages I realized that the punctuation was wrong and should have read…

“I don’t think that you are critical, Kerry and I can handle it and will let you know if there is an escalation…”

In this version “you” is the business lead and the comma separates it making me and this partner accountable. So here is another example where punctuation matters! To be fair I also should have remembered the Covey “seek first to understand” principle before getting worked up.




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