Waterfall to Agile PMO Transformation Leadership

The Context

Many Mirabilis clients are struggling with transformation from traditional waterfall to Agile PMO governance and programme/project management. Our team includes experts of both methodologies who are contracted to work with Project Management and PMO teams to coach them through the change to Agile ways of working and governance.

This case study focuses on how Mirabilis led the first 8 months of a transition from Waterfall to Agile PMO reporting and governance for an Awarding body, before assisting with the recruitment of, and handing over the reins of running the operation to a newly appointed PMO Director with many years of Agile Experience.

The Client Aims

The client organisation had grown organically in different business units which were run independently. As a result, it had five PMOs including one for each business unit, one in HR/Finance and one in technology. In response to market changes, the client wanted to become more efficient, take a portfolio approach across all business units for projects and programmes, and prioritise and speed up project delivery while retaining strong governance for reporting and managing spend.

This meant the following clear aims for their PMO transition:

  • Creating a framework for one PMO for the whole organisation through consolidation
  • Introducing governance that suited an Agile environment
  • Starting an online playbook for Agile governance
  • Employing someone with Agile governance experience to be their Portfolio and PMO Director

Achieving these objectives through change leadership to ensure buy-in and engagement across the organisation and a seamless handover to the new Director.

The Service Engaged

Mirabilis Management was engaged to lead this change, coaching internal project leads through establishing a case for change, programme design, project management and reporting, organisational design and knowledge transfer.

Waterfall to Agile PMO Transformation  

Mirabilis Management uses both Agile and Waterfall approaches to Programme and Project Leadership and Management depending on the needs of the client. This was critical to this programme as PMO governance was to transform to Agile ways of working while some of the project management in the organisation would remain Waterfall in delivery approach. Understanding and having worked with Waterfall and Agile project management was an important factor, as was the ability of Mirabilis to manage change programmes.

Developing A Case for Change

This involved 1-2-1 key informant interviews with leads of the various business units and the PMOs, running workshops with PMO staff to uncover ‘as-is’ ways of working, build process maps, and match the current state of the PMO landscape with the required ‘to-be’ state involving only one PMO, and identifying what needed to be done to get there.

After a six-week period of working on the case for change, we produced a full report and case for change presentation which was presented to the Board. This was approved and we were asked to design a programme of change to create an Agile PMO, ready for hand-over to a new PMO Director to roll out.

  • Programme Design
    The Mirabilis lead worked with client project leads to design the PMO change programme with 8 workstreams including:
    • Portfolio Review
    • Finance
    • Agile Project Governance and reporting requirements, benefits focus, lean reporting
    • Agile ways of working – PMs and PMO
    • Portfolio tools and management
    • HR- Organisational Design: Design and Roles
    • Skills & Training
    • Change communications.

Each one had a lead from the client business, clear aims and objectives, and project plans which were transferred onto a virtual and physical Kanban for weekly reporting.

  • Programme & Project Management

The programme was managed by the Mirabilis change lead, with weekly reporting to a steering committee to give an overarching view, report on interdependencies and risks/mitigation measures. The workstreams were managed by individual leads reporting progress on Kanban weekly. The Mirabilis Lead also attended the workshops run in each workstream coaching methods of delivery.

  • Implementation and knowledge transfer

The Mirabilis lead, supported the recruitment of the new PMO Director, coached department leads and HR recruiters, and ran workshops with impacted people in the original 5 PMOs to ensure that training was available as the transition to Agile implementation plan started up. The playbook was also initiated. The lead was requested to be available for 2-3 days a week for knowledge transfer to the new Director for one month after arrival.

The outcome of this project was that the case for change was embraced by the organisation which had several sceptical key stakeholders at the start. The first cut portfolio was done and ready for the new Portfolio Director to take over from the workstream lead, the Organisation Design was in a position for the new Director to assess and make final changes once ready, skills and training support was ready to roll out as part of the transition, reporting and ways of working reporting plans were in a shape for the new Director to work with PMO leads on to create an environment which would be suitable for the organisation based on solid understanding of options available for Agile governance. Benefits focus was rolling out in the culture, a playbook had been initiated, and the new Director had a roadmap to work with to take the programme into implementation.