TTE Strategy named HIDDEN CHAMPION 2022 / 23


Pierre Michaels

4 Ways an Activist PMO Helps Create Sustainable Business Value


It doesn’t take a genius to work out that we are living in dynamic times. Social media, big data, smart devices and the Internet of Things are creating completely new conditions as digital transformation takes it course. We exchange information, initiate business transactions and network across the planet in no time at all.

The continuous development of digital technologies is having a lasting impact on our society. As a result, customers and employees alike have adapted their habits and needs. Products and services must be intuitive, highly personalized and immediately available. This way of interacting with the world is a challenge that every company has to face.

As a decision-maker, you are well aware that the acceleration happening everywhere doesn’t stop at change processes. Ten years ago they were static; today an exponential curve can be drawn. This applies both to the time frame in which change takes place and to its scope. It’s paramount that companies discover new ways to think through and further develop business models and products.

Is Your PMO Ready for Strategic Transformation Projects?

In product development, agile methods such as Sprints, Lean and Scrum are already used across-the-board. However, the situation is different when it comes to project management. The PMO (Project Management Office) as an indispensable tool in transformation processes is often still geared towards the pre-digitalized world. It is therefore not surprising that many PMOs mutate into admin monsters in practice.

The sad truth is that most PMOs do not create any real added value. This is not because they are bad per se; they’re just outdated and the world has overtaken them. Conventional PMOs fail because they are too passive, too slow, and too sluggish to be useful in our digital age. What businesses need today is an Activist PMO.

Definition of an Activist PMO: An Activist PMO is an authorized, comprehensive unit that actively implements transformative changes within an organization.

An Activist PMO clearly differs from a standard PMO in its mission and philosophy. The following graphic displays the difference between them:

Active, Indifferent or Catastrophic: The Different Roles of PMOs in Organizations

PMOs can be many things in companies. In the worst case scenario, a PMO is a structure that imposes additional burdens on employees by requiring them to perform meaningless administrative tasks and confusing them with seemingly endless specifications and data. For this reason, the PMO is accepted with gritted teeth or is even boycotted.

In the neutral case, a PMO is just another item ticked off the management’s to-do list; not particularly helpful, but not disruptive either. This is because it has too little power and influence. “PMO? Oh, yes, that still exists!”

In the best case, however, the PMO is a worthwhile and value-adding element in the corporate structure. It enjoys a high level of acceptance, has a lean structure and intervenes in work processes in an active and productive manner. This way, an Activist PMO generates tangible financial and economic benefits for a company. On average, companies with an Activist PMO achieve results 12-13% above their original target. But how is this real added value generated in practice?

1. The Activist PMO Initiates and Accelerates Change

An agile PMO adopts a more strategic approach than a passive PMO. It takes on more responsibility and initiative in change projects. To enable it to do this, the Activist PMO is equipped with more decision-making freedom. This is particularly important as this is the only way to ensure that process dynamics are not constantly slowed down by time-consuming coordination loops.

This doesn’t mean that the Activist PMO acts as a lone ranger. On the contrary, it is closely linked to and coordinates with the management team. Since it enjoys the trust of managers and is committed to their plans, it can relieve the management team by making fast, proactive decisions.

In this role, the PMO acts as a driver of innovation. The goals achieved with and in the projects contribute to the general corporate vision. In short, an Activist PMO makes change processes more dynamic and effective than a conventional PMO.

2. The Activist PMO Establishes a Forward-Looking Approach to Change

The Activist PMO acts as a starting point for all innovation processes. In this function, it has the crucial task of providing all participants with a consistent and clear view of what has happened in the past, what is currently happening and what should be achieved in the future.

This goes beyond the review activities of a conventional PMO. It goes without saying that an Activist PMO also analyzes past projects and produces statistics. But it doesn’t stop there. As an agile unit, it can anticipate future problems and help employees to deal with them. Such a PMO controls change processes with a view to the future, always keeping an eye on social and economic changes.

The concrete benefits? First of all, this results in financial savings, because delays and bottlenecks are expensive. However, the psychological component should not be underestimated either: a positive corporate culture that does not rigidly stick to the old way of doing things combined with a consistent view of the future helps to generate greater levels of productivity and motivation.

3. The Activist PMO Prioritizes and Scrutinizes Content

Much activity and lots of results do not guarantee success. This insight reveals one of the main weaknesses of passive PMOs. They may bring projects to a close and produce impressive figures. However, what they lack is a critical eye for project content and its weighting. In contrast, members of an Activist PMO are usually employees with in-depth technical expertise who not only monitor the project process, but who can also evaluate and further develop the content of the project.

An Activist PMO constantly checks the chosen direction by comparing actions and measures with objectives. It keeps track of all projects and their logical order on the timeline. If necessary, it has the authority to intervene and set new priorities. As mentioned earlier, an Activist PMO has more decision-making power than a conventional PMO. This way, the different endeavors within a change process go hand in hand, meaning that resources are optimally used.

4. The Activist PMO Enshrines New Behavior Patterns

It’s no longer enough to operate a change-averse PMO that, to put it provocatively, drives employees like a herd of sheep. Agile employees are the key to successful transformation processes. However, the emergence of the much-cited startup mindset and employee enablement is no coincidence. After all, it’s the PMO’s task to awaken, promote and cultivate this in its employees.

In this respect, the Activist PMO has an educational mission. It is not only active itself; it also empowers employees to explore new and meaningful patterns of behavior. This includes the use of agile methods such as a customer-centric attitude, a cross-departmental approach, the use of digital tools and the willingness to make mistakes (and learn from them).

By the way: Our approach at TTE enables us to support companies of all sizes and industries in employee enablement, which is a fundamental prerequisite for a successful Activist PMO. 

Moving From a Conventional PMO to an Activist PMO

In times of digital transformation, you face the challenge of successfully implementing transformation processes. You have understood that an Activist PMO is an indispensable tool. But what now?

You may already have a PMO and suspect that is not yet optimally arranged. Don’t worry, by implementing goal-oriented measures you can turn any PMO into an Activist PMO. What you need now is a plan and precise support to make the change as efficient and resource-friendly as possible.

These are your next steps:

  1. Inform yourself and get in touch: A big change sometimes happens with a small click. Contact our Activist PMO experts for more information and personalized advice.
  2. Decide: Make it your priority to get the most of your PMO for your company.
  3. PMO Health Check and Transformation: We put your PMO through its paces to find out its strengths and potential. We then work closely with you and your teams to implement an Activist PMO.

Get in touch! We are happy to support you in making your Project Management Office more effective in order to maximize its strategic added value for your company.

The Team


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