Last week we chatted to PMO Conference exhibitor, Gower Publishing.They’ve been publishing some of the best project management books in recent years and delegates to the conference will be able to browse many of the titles which are directly relevant to their work. Knowledge is definitely power when it comes to working within the PMO so take a look at how knowledge in the PMO helps to improve project management capability. Here’s the conversation.

“You don’t need me to quote from the Standish Chaos report or any of the other ubiquitous sources of statistics on the shortcomings of projects, or rather, their outcomes. If you are involved in PMOs you will already be painfully aware of the need to improve performance; of the basic fact that a simple PMP or AMP qualification does not mean that the holder can actually run a project or that methodology and process whilst fundamental to managing a project are only loosely connected to project success.

Imagine these two elements of competence and process are the two axes on a graph. How can your PMO develop project managers to fill that big empty space between the X and Y axes?

What kinds of skills are needed?
 You’ll be a better judge than me of the skills that your organisation needs in your project managers; they are dependent on the content of your projects and relate strongly to the culture of your organization.

Let me offer some examples of what’s needed:

  • The ability to cope with uncertainty – which translates into an ability to make sense of different options; to communicate complex and complicated ideas; to adapt behaviour and plans, while keeping a firm eye on the desired final outcome;
  • The self-confidence to act – which you might perhaps best see expressed in the often-quoted prayer of St. Francis of Assisi: “grant me the strength to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”;
  • The self-awareness to understand the impact of what you are doing on others – empathy, communication, imagination are all the staples of effective stakeholder engagement.

What’s the PMO’s role in developing these skills?
 By and large these are not skills that can be acquired simply through training. They are all skills which are learned and which we often associate with experience and with development which suggests that the PMO’s role should involve modelling actions and behaviours for others to follow;

  • coaching and mentoring project managers;
  • facilitating the kind of learning events that enable what Albert Bandura called Social Learning

None of this is necessarily easy. Most project managers are too busy delivering to spend time worrying about their self-awareness, their personal heuristics or on social learning.

What’s the solution? 
If you want to engage your project teams in learning these skills then think about the following question:

What’s my motivation?

There are several motivators that can be useful to you:

  • Status – can you involve more experienced and senior managers in developing their peers? Focus on the status that you might give them as ‘experts’;
  • Reciprocity – we’ve all learned about the value of reciprocity thanks to social media. Think about how you might encourage your project teams to share more; emphasise and celebrate successful knowledge shares;
  • Knowledge self-efficacy – forgive the jargon; this basically implies that you should think about the satisfaction that employees get in a job well-done. It’s a trait that is particularly strong in project managers who are used to delivering against the odds;
  • Support – if you are running learning events, encourage senior managers to get involved; to give up their time and show their commitment to the PMO; make sure that everyone makes time for these kinds of events and line managers don’t just support their staff when they want to take part but actively get involved; helping them to reflect before and after the event.Offering praise or rewards for successful outcomes, again with the support and endorsement of senior managers can help develop a sharing culture;
  • Technology – alongside these longer-term and less tangible motivators, it’s good to give project managers an immediate payoff. That means using technology (whatever you use in terms of intranet, wiki, Sharepoint or other tools) to provide them with instant solutions to immediate problems. Make it easy for them to quiz their colleagues and make any knowledge resources, case examples or other material searchable and findable.”


Thanks to Jonathan Norman for these great insights for PMO professionals.What I love about these insights is the PMO are always looking for ways to improve their services and often something ‘value add’. Thinking about services around coaching, mentoring and facilitating could be just what your PMO needs.


Jonathan is the Publisher for Gower’s project management books programme and the sponsor for the GpmFirst platform.

Gower will be exhibiting books and their new project management knowledge platform, GpmFirst, at the PMO Conference. You can sign in for a month’s free trial at and/or come and talk to us about how the platform can help you and your PMO gain deeper knowledge about PMO and project management.

There’s also a prize draw for all the conference delegates too