5 lessons I learned from making my #OpenToWork video series

This post uses the lessons learned process framework in my book to describe what I learned from producing my #OpenToWork video series.

If you’ve been following me for a while, you will probably know that I recently published a series of videos aimed at helping people who are looking for work in the wake of the impact that COVID19 has had on the world economy, and that I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about learning lessons from experience.

So I thought I’d walk the talk and share with you the lessons I learned from the experience of producing my #OpenToWork video series using the steps in the lessons learned process framework that I describe in my book (Experience, Reflection, Capture, Storage, Retrieval, Application) so that you can see it in action.

A framework of how organisations learn from projects
A framework of how organisations learn from projects
Continue reading “5 lessons I learned from making my #OpenToWork video series”

The value of an outsider’s perspective

Photograph of a large water-filled acrylic sphere sculpture outdoors. Distorted by the sphere is the caption "The value of an outsider’s perspective"

Recently I undertook a series of business planning sessions with business leadership coach Bekka Prideaux, which were aimed at helping me to work out what I want to achieve with my business and how to get it there. During the sessions, Bekka asked many questions – most of them were pretty simple, but required a lot of thought to answer.

What I wasn’t expecting were the insights and challenges that she came up with, along the lines of “have you ever considered doing x?”, or “so why aren’t you doing y yet?”, or “do you think if might be time to do some z?”

I consider myself an expert in my business, but with hindsight some of these were so plain to see that several times I found myself thinking “why didn’t I think of that?!”

Why was that?

Continue reading “The value of an outsider’s perspective”

Sussing out services at PMO Flashmob

A bit about PMO Flashmob

If you work in a PMO in or around London and you haven’t yet heard about PMO Flashmob, then you’re missing out.

No really, you are.

PMO Flashmob is a networking group for PMO people run by Lindsay Scott that has been around for long enough now that it has started forgetting how old it is. Some evenings are seminars where someone stands up and speaks on a topic. Others are far less formal occasions held in the function room or a corner of a pub, where people get together and discuss PMO topics in small groups. Those are my favourites, and the evening I am writing about is one of those.

PMO Services

The evening I attended was in a proper old London boozer, and was all about PMO services. How to define them, what they should be looking at, and so on.

Starting with the difference between a PMO service menu and a PMO service catalogue. Fortunately Stuart Dixon was on hand to explain that to us, waving a freshly-printed proof copy of his comprehensive (700 page!) book “PMO Service Catalogue: An insight into what PMOs do” (this is now on sale at the other end of that hyperlink).

In case you were wondering, a PMO service menu is a simple list of services that the PMO can provide (and that customers can choose from, as is presented in P3O appendix F), whereas a PMO service catalogue contains more detail that makes it more useful (e.g. inputs, outputs, training, costs, etc.)

Stuart Dixon extemporising on PMO services

When PM customers choose a service from a menu, they might pick something like “to update the risk register”, which sounds fairly mundane and not particularly valuable. This can open a conversation with the customer as to why they might want such a service, and exactly what they are expecting to get. It often turns out that what the customer actually wants is help with identifying risks, assessing and categorizing them, devising mitigation, and monitoring to make sure the mitigation is working. What the customer is looking for is a “strap-on brain”, which is far more valuable than merely updating the risk register. In my experience, sometimes they are also looking for a “strap-on conscience”, which in some ways is far more worrying. But I  guess at least it means they are aware that that may be lacking in the project and that there is a need to buy in services to give them that conscience.

After Stuart’s intro, the assembled throng (what is the collective noun for a pub full of PMO people? Please let me know in the comments!) split into groups and had a go at writing some of their own service descriptions, which were then shared with everyone and which I am sure Lindsay will put on the PMO Flashmob web site in due course (link to appear here as and when that happens).


Amongst the points that emerged, the following ones caught my eye/ear:

  • A proposed KPI for project manager effectiveness: the number of escalations (which I took to mean any kind of escalation to a higher authority) arising from a particular PM. This one struck me as a “goldilocks” KPI. To me, too many escalations means the PM is not actually taking responsibility for controlling anything but referring everything upwards for adjudication. Safe, verging on weak. Not enough escalations means the PM has taken corporate strategy into their own hands and is not referring to senior figures in the organisation for direction. Risky, verging on arrogant. Just the right amount of escalations and the PM is dealing with some matters themselves, only escalating the exceptional ones for direction. Nice. How to define “just the right amount”? Will have to think about that – a question for another night!
  • A proposed measure for PMO effectiveness: When push comes to shove, project managers don’t run away from the PMO (for fear of process and retribution); they run towards it (in hope of succour and support).
  • PMOs can offer a “firefighting” or “emergency rescue” service. Some might say the fact that a PMO needs to offer such a service means that The Process has broken down. But real firefighters don’t actually spend much of their time fighting fires. They spend much more of their time educating people in fire safety and fire prevention, so that the actual fire fighting service is needed less and less over time. One of the skills proposed to be a good PMO fire fighter was the ability to be pragmatic and get things done, which sometimes requires “brass neck”. Which got me wondering – how does one measure the brassiness of one’s neck? Hmm…
  • One group talked about the provision of data analytics and dashboards. They highlighted that data needs to be not only clear and visible (in the form of nicely formatted charts), but also intellectually accessible and understandable. This means that the insights gained from the data need to be clearly articulated in a way that has meaning for the target audience.

Plenty to think about as ever, and lots of lovely people. If you work in PMO in or around London, you really do owe it to yourself to come along to one of these evenings. PMO Flashmob comes to other areas too – if you want to see one in your area, then go to the web site and drop a pin on your location of choice.

And as for PMO services, if you need some, why not take a look at ours?

Project Management: It’s all bollocks! (Book Review)

Find out what we think of this short, sharp, sweary(!) introduction to very essentials of project management


  • The aim of this book is “to pick over the sadly inadequate body of knowledge that is project management today, and generally challenge just about everything, eliminating that which you don’t need to bother to learn about, or should already know, leaving you only with the parts that will give you the results you want.”
  • The book is targeted at “…those ‘projects as usual project managers’ who will drive most of the change inside organisations tomorrow and beyond, and who really need help to do that”

Continue reading “Project Management: It’s all bollocks! (Book Review)”

Managing Knowledge in Project Environments (Book Review)

This book presents knowledge management as integral to projects, and explains it using KM principles and fundamentals that apply anywhere. Hidden KM is exposed, myths are debunked and practical guidance explains how to build KM into projects and portfolios.


  • The book aims to illustrate how knowledge management (KM) contributes to successful project work. The authors present KM as an integral part of project work and explain it using KM principles and fundamentals that apply anywhere.
  • Hidden KM is exposed, myths are debunked and practical guidance explains how to build KM into projects and portfolios.
  • The aim is to help project professionals, sponsors, PMO members and others who can make a difference manage knowledge more effectively in project environments. Managing Knowledge in Project Environments offers everyone involved in project work a definitive short guide to the subject.

Continue reading “Managing Knowledge in Project Environments (Book Review)”

IR35 MP and Client Briefing Packs

Download a free, editable slide pack that you can use to brief your MP about IR35

Here at Pragmatic PMO, we’re concerned about the damage that will be done to the UK economy and the contracting sector by the looming roll-out of the off-payroll legislation to the private sector.

It’s important that all contractors make their MPs aware of what’s going on so that the review announced by the Chancellor can be a proper review and not a whitewash.

So we’ve created a slide pack sharing some of the latest developments in an eye-catching format.

We thought it might be helpful to share a generic version of that here for everyone and anyone to use in meeting their MP.

Take it with you; present it on your laptop, PDF it and send it to them so they can follow up on the links. If someone has a clever way of hosting this so we can collaboratively update it as the situation changes and don’t have to send copies everywhere, go for it.

I Ken Burrell and Pragmatic PMO Ltd grant you all free licence to do what you like with it (but please leave in the picture credits 😉)

We also have a version that we have prepared (with a little help from our friends at Growth Through Knowledge) that you can use to explain to Clients why Contractors will walk if they don’t carry out proper, fair, individual assessments.

Project data analytics impact (and promise): hype or reality?

This is the question that the panel set out to answer at the most recent meeting of the Project Data Analytics Meetup, hosted as usual by Martin Paver. I’d like to focus on a few key things that resonated with me during the evening…

This is the question that the panel set out to answer at the most recent meeting of the Project Data Analytics Meetup, hosted as usual by Martin Paver.

I’d like to share with you a few key things that resonated with me during the evening…

Continue reading “Project data analytics impact (and promise): hype or reality?”

The Project Management Office (PMO) as a pop-up shop (Book Review)


  • This book aims to help PMO people to set up and manage a temporary PMO that effectively supports the associated project or programme.
  • The book targets anyone involved in setting up or running a temporary PMO, based on IPMA and P3O.

Continue reading “The Project Management Office (PMO) as a pop-up shop (Book Review)”

5 Lessons I learned writing a book about learning lessons

I recently published my book Learning Lessons from Projects: How it works, why it goes wrong, and how you can do it better.

My former colleague Andrew Fleming commented “Well done on the book. What lessons did you learn from writing it?”

As that’s a really good question, I thought I’d answer it properly in the form of this blog post.

So what did I learn? Here are my top five learning points. Continue reading “5 Lessons I learned writing a book about learning lessons”

Learning lessons from projects

I’ve always had something of a bee in my bonnet about lessons learned.

It saddens me to think that many organisations don’t fully exploit the learning that passes under their noses every day from running projects. I have long thought that there must be something that we in the project management community can do to improve the situation.

So I have written a book, Learning Lessons from Projects: How it works, how it goes wrong, and how you can do it better, and various resources to accompany it.

This book looks at how organisations learn from the experience of running projects, and how this can go wrong. It looks into how failures can creep in at the various stages of the learning process, and offers to project managers and project management office (PMO) people some practical suggestions as to how to make things better.

The book is available exclusively from Amazon in both paperback and Kindle versions:

As part of the writing process, I have:

  • Created three prototypes of lessons learned databases that you can build yourself (in a spreadsheet, in Trello®, and in Microsoft® SharePoint®) with instructions on how to do it yourself.
  • Created a companion web page to host some of the resources I talk about in the book.
  • Proposed a simple video interview format as an alternative to the traditional Lessons Learned report
  • Recorded a series of videos using my proposed format so you can see what they look like, and
  • Made the audio from the interviews available as a podcast that you can download to your mobile device (from your device, just search your favourite podcast directory for Pragmatic PMOCast)

So that you can judge for yourself whether they would be useful.

You can take a sneak peek inside the book using this Kindle previewer:

I hope you find the book interesting, and a useful addition to your PMO bookshelf.

If you’re coming to the end of a project and you want to make sure that your organisation learns from its delivery experience but you’re not sure how, then Pragmatic PMO can help. Why not take a look at our “Learn lessons from your project” service, and if that looks interesting, schedule a free 30-minute consultation to discuss how we can help you?