Many Project Management Offices (PMOs) spend quite a bit of time deploying common project management practices in their organization and building project management skills in their staff. But is it working? The PMO can validate whether their work is sticking through project assessments.
Project assessments serve two functions.
Checking compliance. They help ensure that project managers are using the new project management processes.
Coaching. Assessments can also be an opportunity for coaching. During the audit, you can help the project manager understand how the processes are applicable to their project.
It is one thing for the PMO to provide training and have all the appropriate processes and templates defined. It is another thing for the new processes to actually be adopted and utilized by the project teams. If you want to change the culture and make sure that the new processes are sticking, you must make sure that the project teams are utilizing them correctly. The purpose of the assessment is to determine how well the project manager and project team are utilizing the project management processes. During the assessment, a member of the PMO asks a series of questions to ensure compliance with the required processes and procedures.
To help reinforce the responsibilities of the managers, the results of the project audit should be documented and sent back to the project manager, as well as the manager of the project manager. In addition, the results are summarized and sent to the PMO sponsor, Steering Committee and other management stakeholders. If a project team is not using the standard processes, the senior managers and the PMO sponsor ultimately need to ask why. This is part of a governance process.
The auditing process can be time-consuming. Just as it is not possible to provide coaching for all projects, it is also not practical to audit all projects. Actually, you don't need to. If you audit a project in a certain department and it comes out pretty well, it is likely that the other projects in that same area will also come out well, since the functional manager is probably helping with the push. On the other hand, if you audit a project and find the standard procedures are not being followed, it is likely a sign that the manager from that area is not being supportive of the methodology, and other projects in that area will probably have problems as well. Raising visibility of the problem projects should bring organizational pressure to make the proper changes.
It would be nice if you could develop a common project management processes, train everyone, and then sit back and let the magic happen. Unfortunately, this rarely happens in a culture change initiative. The PMO must look at this project management implementation in a holistic manner; including validating that things are progressing according to plan. On a project level, this verification includes ongoing project assessments to validate that project teams are utilizing the new methodology as expected. These assessments will point out the overall progress (or lack of progress) that has been made up to that time.