PMO Adaptation for Business Agility in Uncertain Times

PMO Adaptation for Business Agility in Uncertain Times

In uncertain times, the adaptability of PMO and project management practices is critical for maintaining business agility. Change is on the increase and coming in hard and fast from a variety of directions. A term to describe the environment we are experiencing is VUCA. This stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. It is more challenging than ever to plan for what might happen next, as curved balls sweep in from the side and unexpectedly complicate matters. Organizations have to adapt quickly to survive. But what do they need to do? Does it impact PMO, and if so, how can it adapt to best support the business?

PMO Adaptation in Uncertain Times: Organizational Responses

Faced with a business landscape of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, organizations need to reorient themselves. New threats that were unlikely to have been conceived in the past are being introduced with some regularity. Businesses that operate on an old-fashioned model will be unlikely to respond sufficiently and rapidly to the threats’ intensity. Instead of acting like the past bureaucratic, slow-moving machine, organizations must become nimbler and ready to react quickly to change. Doing so will give them a much greater chance of surviving the array of ever-changing challenges faced.

How organizations must adapt are manifold. These include looking for opportunities to minimize waste, reduce handovers, increase transparency, empower people, and of course, cut out needless bureaucracy. This is likely to require a cultural change in some cases to adjust effectively to the new “way things work around here” for them. The organization will best retain its relevance in the market by optimizing its operating models. This will likely involve restructuring, introducing new frameworks, tools, processes, roles, and responsibilities. Team members must also redefine themselves as teams change and adapt to help the organization do what it needs to adjust and survive. Teams from software development to HR to Finance to Marketing must all change across the entire value stream, right up to the CXO office.

PMO Adaptation in Uncertain Times: The Impact on Project Management Practices

Just like every other team in the organization, it affects PMO as well. The PMO might be hit the hardest in some ways since it works on projects for all other business areas. Projects must be delivered faster, and priorities are continually changing, as the organization identifies the best way to adapt to the shape of the business environment. There might have been a five-year plan in the past, with the PMO knowing the way in advance what it would be working on in the coming months. There is likely to be less certainty now. This has significant ramifications for project management practice. This is because activities like planning, project management and managing project change must be performed faster and more efficiently than in the past.

Embracing Change and Agility for PMO Adaptation

The PMO needs to adapt so that it can offer versatility to the business in the face of these fast changing times. In the first instance, the PMO and all team members within will need to develop a passion for change. The culture of the team needs to be one of embracing change and positivity towards the volatility faced. After all, it does offer tremendous opportunity to be involved in some very exciting projects, in a fast-moving environment. Helping the team members to see the opportunities, rather than grumbling about the speed of change will make all the difference as the PMO works to adapt to better support the organization.

Incorporating Agile Methodologies and Streamlining Processes

Another helpful approach for those PMOs not already using it is to bring in Agile project management. This helps the organization to reduce the planning time needed and to move faster to deliver projects. It is quite significantly different from the Waterfall methodology of the past. Agile project management works in iterations, or short development cycles. Each iteration is considered by the project team and the key project stakeholders, such as the business owner. Once the review is over, it is time to determine the next stages of the project. This allows the project management team to respond quickly to issues as they arise. While this may make you worried about change management, actually putting in place the right change at the right time saves money and the agile approach is much better for helping projects to stay on time and to budget.

This aside, leadership in the PMO needs to get the team onboard to look at everything they do and assess its purpose in the brave new world. Ask the tough questions: Why are we doing this? Do we still need to? Can we drop it? In many cases, processes develop over time. Sometimes it can get to the point where no one even really knows why something is being done any more. Sometimes dropping these types of processes and activities is necessary. Do your due diligence to make sure there will not be any damage caused. Then cut these tasks to focus on what must be done instead. If it is genuinely not a need, then dump it, fast. You simply will not have time for it in the future.


To survive and thrive in a business environment that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, organizations must adapt, and fast. No more five year plans and the bureaucracy of the past. Every single business function is impacted. Teams must move faster and prioritize more effectively. For the PMO, this means adapting how projects are delivered. This is to ensure that this is efficient and that continual change can be responded very rapidly. It requires a long hard look at what team members do and dropping what is no longer necessary. It also means taking on board an agile mindset and a passion for change.

Until next time, you are up to date.

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