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PMO Annual Retrospective 2021

Each year the House of PMO wants to capture how PMO practitioners have got on during the year and also capture what they’re thinking about as we kick off a new year.
The session we hosted at the beginning of 2022 not only brought PMO practitioners together to reflect and chat about their year – sharing their highs and lows. We also used the session to show a few different retrospective exercises that could be picked up and used in your own team retrospectives back in the office.
The session was not recorded – instead, we have the outputs for you to take a look through.
Throughout the session, we used Zoom and Miro. Miro allowed us to use a virtual whiteboard – it was intuitive and people were quick to pick up on how to use it.
In this article, we share the session from start to end.

Kicking Off the Session

We started with an ice-breaker as people wandered into the session. We also wanted something that would allow the participants to start using some of the main functionality of Miro – and those were of course – post-its!


Using the Chat function

We also wanted to make sure that people were aware that we would be using the chat functionality from Zoom so again we used a simple exercise. This is a perfect way to gain input and feedback during a virtual retrospective (or any facilitated session) where you want to avoid groupthink – and also ensure that everyone takes part.
The most common word was ‘exhausting’!


The Timeline for 2021

Using a timeline in a retrospective is a great way for the group to collectively share their insights or feelings at certain times. The timeline can be a week, month or like we used on the session, over the course of a year.
We used the idea from the article Hindsight is 2020: How to Run a Year-in-Review Team Retrospective
We started off by putting world events that had taken place over the course of 2021 – this was helpful in reminding people what happened when – especially things like restrictions and school closures during the ongoing pandemic and even our own milestones at House of PMO.
The participants were then asked to spend about 10 minutes or so adding their coloured post-it notes – green for positive events, red for the negative, yellow for confusing events and any white ones for anything else.
A lesson learnt here for us would have been a little bit of background music as people worked away adding their post-its!

Positive Events

New jobs, big birthdays and births! As well as the work stuff, it’s also about people being able to share the more personal positive stuff.
In terms of work, there were top marks for an internal audit on the PMO. Taking place over the course of five months, one PMO was audited on its standard operating models; the governance in place (PIDs, gateways, change requests, financial tracking etc) With over 100 projects to service, the PMO passed with flying colours.
In another story, we heard about one PMO creating and managing a quarterly change community forum – a great idea that is designed to bring all the different areas of the business together. For example, the community would hear from someone in the finance department talking about what they do for the change community and what they need from the community. They host the meeting for 1.5 hours each quarter for about 60-70 people.

Negative Events

Ongoing lockdowns, missed birthdays and holidays – there was plenty that brought our mood down.
In terms of work, there were a few stories about toxic clients and environments where people are perhaps forgetting that we’re all human at the end of the day and we should treat people with decency.
One thing that stood out was the reprioritisation that lots of PMOs have been working on over the last couple of years. There’s a lot of replanning going on and it’s exhausting. Couple that with reorganisations, it ‘felt relentless’
One thing we can take away from a session like this – when it comes to it, we’re more likely to remember the positive stuff (look how much green covers the board!) maybe as an act of self-preservation more than anything!
That’s why the final part of the exercise is always interesting – the mood line. How did people feel over the course of the year, wobbly lines all over the place?

Mad, Sad and Glad

The next exercise was all about the participants thinking about their own PMOs. In another classic retrospective exercise we looked at Mad – Sad and Glad.
With this session, we heard stories about the ‘toothless PMO’ which has since grown some teeth and some members of staff – a real mad to glad over the course of the year. Perhaps a reminder that things never seem to stay the same for long.
We also heard stories about the need to be together, how working at home all the time doesn’t work – and how slowly but surely the PMOs had started getting back into the office, just to have the guidance change in December. The collaboration role of the PMO has been highly affected by the pandemic – it’s been hard to influence when working virtually and for some, the PMO were easy targets for blame when things weren’t going well.
One good thing about a session like this with like-minded people is that we all understand, we commiserate, we say ‘well done’ and ultimately love to hear how others are getting on.

4Ls – Liked, Learned, Lacked, Longed For

For the final post-it exercise we got people thinking about the bigger picture of PMO – not just their roles or their PMOs – but thoughts about PMO in general.
The 4L is another simple, great exercise to get people thinking in different perspectives. For this exercise we also got people using the emojis so they could support other statements.
There’s a lot to explore here and in the discussions, we had a big healthy chat about Excel (“keeping the Excel spreadsheet as the main tool in PMOs is just promoting the image that PMO is administration”), the tinkering with PowerBI and PowerApps and the continuation of using tools in a virtual world.
On the flip side – the non-technical, there was leadership issues; the confidence in the PMO and what they offer the business; how to use resilience and adaptability.


Outlook for 2022

Our final exercise to finish up was a simple picture upload. A simple picture exercise felt like a good way to bring it to an end, again giving a chance to have a few laughs at what people had chosen.
We managed to do the whole session in about one hour and 30 minutes – giving some time to talk through the post-its and getting people to talk through what their post-its meant.
We’re certainly going to start the tradition of doing an annual retrospective and hope you’ll join us next time.
If you have any thoughts about 2021 that you’d like to share, please leave a comment in the box below.


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