I was reading a recent article from The Economist about the recent decline and near death of Kodak. The article is called "The last Kodak moment?" and the subtitle is, "Kodak is at death’s door; Fujifilm, its old rival, is thriving. Why?"
It is an interesting read, especially the comparisons drawn between two organizations with the same core business and different strategies for survival. Fujifilm is alive and well and Kodak isn't, and the reason seems to be the decisions made and the level of urgency with which they addressed the threat to their core business.
Reading the article, I couldn't help but think of the typical PMO, in response to the growing popularity of agile methods. I am not suggesting that agile methods will put the PMO out of business, but it does change the need for the PMO, the role of the PMO, and the role of project managers in the organization. PMOs need to adapt and leverage the new methods and concepts that agile offers. The alternative is to resist change, to justify and focus energy on current methods, and to ultimately become an impediment. Agile enthusiasts know what happens to impediments.
I've recently seen the ugly face of resistance up close. In a recent agile transformation project, the biggest resistance was seen from a PM that had transitioned from the PMO to be a scrum master. Unfortunately for this individual, she continued to focus on the priorities of the PMO (budgets, status reports, and related projects) rather than their new duties of scrum master (coach and facilitate the team). I don't know whether this was a fallback to the familiar and comfortable, hostility toward the agile introduction, or simply a resistance to change. Whatever the cause, the result was an ineffective scrum master who was holding back her team. She became the team's impediment.
Harvard professor John Kotter published a book in 2008 called A Sense of Urgency. You can get a taste of the book from Kotter's 11 minute video interview called The Importance of Urgency. He talks about the rate of change in the world today and the importance of leading change in organizations with a sense of urgency. Organizations that don't change and adapt fall behind.
Kotter also noted a natural tendency for individuals and organizations to become complacent. He suggests that we need to guard against the tendency for complacency. Kotter claims that all organizations are at risk of growing complacent, even those as progressive as Google. Even the largest and technically advanced firms fall prey to complacency.
Is your company, department, or team complacent? Is your PMO complacent? How do you think they would compare to Google or Kodak?
Complacency kills. Be a change agent instead.