On-Demand Webinar: The VMO – The Secret to Driving a Successful LPM Implementation with Michelle Warner, SPCT

The people who will be a part of the LPM have just finished the workshop, they’re ready to start reviewing Epics and creating Lean Business Cases, but who is responsible for setting up and facilitating the three portfolio meetings? Who is responsible for communicating what’s happening in the LACE to the LPM and visa versa? Who is responsible for connecting the three different dimensions of the Lean Portfolio Management? The Value Management Office could fill this role and much more. However, we have to change the mindset of the VMO from a traditional thinking PMO to one that supports the transition and transformation that will and is occurring.
This webinar covers:
– The VMO can be a partner in the transition and transformation
– The VMO is a critical communication channel between the three dimension of Lean Portfolio Management
– Without a Lean and flow thinking PMO an LPM implementation can be much harder than necessary


0:00 happy to be here um as Julia said my name is Michelle Warner I’m a coach and a mentor at Agile Rising and SPCT and quite pleased to be here.

The three things that I’m going to talk about today are some of the characteristics of a PMO and how that has evolve to a VMO because I think it’s important to understand that Evolution and understand how that fits into the success of LPM.

0:24because that’s also been changing as it

0:25goes along I’m going to talk about three

0:28different experiences that I personally

0:30I had and the impact on the organization

0:32that I was working with at the time and

0:34also at the very end why the VMO is the

0:37secret sauce to setting up a successful

0:40LPM so when we look at this we have to

0:43start off with the pmo and think about

0:47the reason that the pmo was built um so

0:50we have to go back in history just a

0:52little bit not that far but just a

0:53little bit and the traditional pmo was

0:56built to support this this kind of cycle

1:00where this opportunity emerged and then

1:03the opportunity was leveraged and

1:05sometimes especially when we think about

1:07the cycles that it used to be able to

1:09support which was two years and you

1:12think about where we are now can we from

1:14a business perspective still have a

1:17two-year long cycle or is that too

1:22late the pmo is also built to support a

1:24very um the traditional pmo was built to

1:26support a very heavy face gate process

1:30and I worked in one organization where

1:33it was 154 pH gates from the time a

1:37business opportunity emerged through to

1:40when it could actually be released um

1:43from a software cycle development

1:46perspective and that might have worked

1:48in the past but if we’re thinking about

1:51two years from when someone thinks of

1:52something and we can actually put it out

1:55there for the world to look at and

1:57experiment with does it so

2:01work and maybe it’s time to move on and

2:05look at work

2:09differently when we also think about

2:11this traditional pmo and the impact that

2:14it has on the LPM and here’s where I’m

2:16going a little bit into safe I’m diving

2:18down into principle number nine um the

2:21traditional pmo supported a very

2:23centralized decision process right um

2:26centralized control which on the LPM

2:29we’re actually trying to decentralize

2:31decisions we’re trying to make sure that

2:33this the decisions that are made are

2:36actually what decisions can be made at

2:38the art level or even at the team

2:41level it also uh traditional pmo also um

2:46supports very detailed project plans the

2:49concept of there being only one solution

2:51and only one right solution up front and

2:55our experience teaches us that that’s a

2:57very unrealistic expectation

3:00I make that because I make that

3:02statement think about the projects and I

3:04use the word projects very specifically

3:07think about the projects that are six

3:08months that you longer than six months

3:11that you’ve been involved with

3:14and have you ever done one that does not

3:18have a change request on

3:21it most probably the answer is no so

3:25that means that detailed project plans

3:27don’t actually support the concept of

3:29not having

3:30change requests the reality is we are

3:32going to have change requests so let’s

3:35make change requests easier to manage

3:37right um we also um the pmo traditional

3:42pmo approach supports waterfall

3:44milestones and that means that problems

3:46are realized too late I often say an

3:49agile framework does not solve for

3:52everything but what it does do is it

3:54surfaces them up earlier so and when we

3:59think about about the this traditional

4:00pmo approach is a very consistent

4:03predictable process well it makes it

4:06very hard to change to change it makes

4:08it very hard to adjust to changing

4:10market conditions and the changing

4:12market conditions are happening a lot

4:14quicker and they tend to be a lot bigger

4:16now um I don’t know how many people for

4:19example um AI right it seems like it

4:22burst on the scene 4 five months ago

4:24well you’ve had to change a whole bunch

4:26of different things now how do we

4:28incorporate AI into what we

4:30do couple companies knew about it and

4:32have started incorporating into it but

4:34you hear a lot more of oh we didn’t even

4:36know that this was on the horizon kind

4:37of thing and it’s impacting us in a

4:39pretty big way so those are just some of

4:42the things that are keep happening that

4:44seem to take us by

4:46surprise now what is this Evolution that

4:48I’m mentioning about the pmo it really

4:51is a

4:53mindset and I’m going to mention safe

4:55again um when you look at safe 4.0 which

4:58was four years ago or five years ago is

5:00um pmo was mentioned and there was just

5:03one slide on there I think um and then

5:06version 5.to came out um and the apmo

5:10started appearing and you started

5:12reading about it in the industry and in

5:14in literature and now in version six

5:17Auto that’s come out you’ll see that the

5:19VMO in has been mentioned in multiple

5:21places um and also that it has evolved

5:25and the evolution is all about the

5:27mindset it’s about going from this what

5:30is it going to cost what moving

5:33resources and I’m using resources

5:35specifically um to the work um and also

5:38thinking about which projects are going

5:40to bring in the most revenue and and

5:42measuring progress by movement through

5:45these phase Gates and the mindset that

5:47we want to change to especially the last

5:50one is instead of thinking about what is

5:51it going to cost what’s the value that

5:54it’s going to generate and that’s

5:56looking at it differently um we want to

5:58move work to long lasting stable teams

6:01instead of moving resources to the work

6:03um we also want to make sure that

6:06instead of thinking about projects we

6:08think about hey we’ve got these stable

6:11teams what work do we have that we can

6:13shift to these stable

6:15teams and instead of thinking about um

6:19how far we along and we measure it by

6:21face Gates we want this continuous

6:23delivery of value and feedback and that

6:25should actually be how we measure how

6:28far along we are

6:32so mindset change right going from pmo

6:35to VMO and I’ve mentioned VMO but I

6:37haven’t actually defined it so let me

6:40Define what is the VMO and this is a

6:43rough definition we’re going to flush it

6:45out a little bit further um so the VMO

6:47it’s a cross functional and I put

6:49business team in there because quite

6:51often we don’t have it’s not it’s not

6:53development it’s not your traditional

6:54development team but it is a team and

6:57the entire focus of what it’s trying to

7:00do is make sure that it supports

7:04others and supports others in the

7:06continuous delivery of of value it’s

7:09very adaptive the work that comes in

7:11continues to shift and change depending

7:13upon um what phase we’re in in the

7:16implementation and also um if we’re like

7:19if we’re adding new trains in well then

7:21we might be actually spending more time

7:23doing a vssi of value stream

7:26identification sessions or if we’re more

7:28in the

7:31more in the reteaming um because hey

7:33we’ve been doing this for a while we’re

7:35Shifting the way that we’re going to do

7:37we’re actually going to retam and change


7:39Arts then guess what we’re actually

7:42going to be as as the VMO we’re actually

7:45going to be concentrating on that maybe

7:46a bit more supporting that more um but

7:49the whole thing is that it helps to

7:51promote a faster flow of value so how is

7:53it that we can remove some phase Gates

7:56how is it that we can decentralize


8:01right and the main thing that it does

8:03when we’re thinking about all of this is

8:04that it helps to like create this

8:06communication and Alignment in between

8:09the three different um dimensions of the

8:15LPM because when you think about the

8:18three different dimensions that have

8:19been set up and the way especially

8:22version 6.0 works these are um the

8:25strategy and investment you’ve got

8:26different people working in that and

8:28then lean governance you’ve got

8:29different groups working in that and

8:31then the adile portfolio operations

8:32you’ve got different groups well how is

8:34it that they remained aligned to what’s

8:36going on how is it that decisions that

8:39are made within with regard to strategy

8:42investment how does that information

8:44trickle down and trickle down or trickle

8:48across to not just the Arts but the lpms

8:51our business owners um and everybody

8:54that’s working within the framework well

8:56the VMO is responsible for that which is

8:58why I stuck on com in the

9:01middle so going back three

9:05experiences my very first one um this

9:08started off with a traditional pmo and

9:11the lace because at the time it was a

9:13lace and this was back in 2015 this was

9:16my second safe implementation we had

9:18about 750 people in seven Arts um and

9:22the way that the funding had been

9:24allocated was for 5 years so I’m just

9:26giving you some background on there um

9:28and the pmo was assigned to this very


9:31implementation now I had had a very bad

9:35experience with the pmo and I avoided

9:37them like crazy because I had had a very

9:39traditional pmo um

9:42beforehand and I think that as an aside

9:45this also sometimes shows um a very

9:48agilist bias towards the pmo that some

9:50of us have right um but this pmo

9:54actually changed my mind with regard to

9:57this so the pmo lead at the time came by

10:01and said hey um they stopped by my

10:03office and they said let’s go out for

10:05coffee and I did not want to go as I

10:07said I had been avoiding

10:09them but I was curious about it so I

10:12accepted it and she she said hey

10:14Michelle we’re really excited and this

10:16was back in 2015 we’re really excited

10:18about this new way of working and we

10:20want to be involved in working in a new


10:25um and we want to be engaged and we want

10:28to help

10:30so I was like okay hey this is exciting

10:33so how is it that we can get you all

10:34involved so we brainstormed and we

10:37actually asked the pmo team which was a

10:39team of like four people themselves hey

10:42how do you want to do this and we

10:44decided that we were going to do a

10:45leading safe class and then how is it

10:48that based upon the principles and the

10:49understanding of the framework we can

10:52get the pmo involved I think the key to

10:55this was actually asking the pmo

10:59themselves how do you want to do this

11:01after they understood it and they said

11:04you know what this lace thing that we

11:06keep mentioning everywhere we should be

11:09that I’m like that’s great let’s do that

11:13but not just the lace thing but the pmo

11:17is the lace so this was one model which

11:20the pmo was actually the

11:22lace and the characteristics of the

11:26people that were a part of it is they

11:28were actually really excited about the

11:30change and they were willing to engage

11:33with people so they

11:35weren’t like a White Tower pmo they

11:38actually like they were they parti in

11:40the pi planning sessions um they

11:43actually helped to kick kick it off um

11:45and not and the thing that excited me so

11:47much about it is that they were willing

11:48to experiment with with the work the way

11:51that this lace pmo group was actually

11:54working so we we worked as a team we had

11:58um as a scrum team we actually had

12:01different ways of keeping track of the

12:04work that we had to do um it was it was

12:08just really interesting um the the major

12:10thing that they brought into this so so

12:13they were actually a part of the

12:14implementation the major thing that they

12:16brought into it that helped what we were

12:19trying to do so much was that they had

12:21this deep knowledge of how the

12:23organization actually worked um so when

12:26we were trying to figure out hey we need

12:28to actually rent out a conference hall

12:31because we have 750 people that need to

12:33do PI planning together they were like

12:36okay we know how to do the purchase

12:37order for this we know how to make sure

12:39that the work that we’re do that this

12:41rental thing of this conference Hall um

12:43we know how who to go to to make sure

12:46that it gets approved so that helped us

12:48out from an organizational perspective


12:54um when you think about the how this

12:57impacted what we were going to do and

13:01the three dimensions of this um there

13:04were some opportunities that came out

13:06there were some improvements that we

13:08could do um the LPM meetings that we

13:10were having because we were trying to

13:12set up the LPM 750 people seven trains

13:16we desperately needed that connection to

13:19what was happening at the Enterprise


13:22um so we were setting up the LPM

13:26um they were not consistently meeting

13:30and because of that it almost became a

13:33phase gate of itself and the meetings

13:36took hours because the meetings were ad

13:38hoc they weren’t on a Cadence and

13:41sometimes we didn’t have very strong

13:42facilitation for

13:44this we also had issues with um some of

13:49our tools were not set up for Port

13:51portfolio campan so um we had to do

13:54PowerPoint status reports um and that

13:57meant that sometimes some of the latest

13:58greatest information that we had was

14:00actually not available for

14:03decisions unfortunately that impacted

14:07that the pmo was not helping um and they

14:09weren’t being invited to some of the

14:11portfolio events and so sometimes our

14:13Arts were not aware of some of the


14:18made and the pmo did not help in funding

14:21some of the strategy and investment that


14:26there all of this like we had really

14:29good metrics so our agile portfolio

14:31Dimension was strong we had good metrics

14:35um the the art and team backlogs were

14:37known the velocities and cycle times

14:40were known and Pi planning was

14:42absolutely solid but the other two

14:45Dimensions they kind of

14:49struggled so I took these learnings went

14:53on into my second implementation it

14:55wasn’t my second implementation but it’s

14:57the second experience I’m going to talk


14:59and this was in 2019 and this was a very

15:03large Pet Supply and services company we

15:06had two Arts about 250 people and in

15:09this one the lace and the apmo were


15:13separate the previous characteristics

15:15that we had were still all there we had

15:18an enthusiasm we had that mindset shift

15:20for the the the pmo um and we had this

15:24willingness to learn and work in a


15:27way um there was also this connection

15:29into the organization and this is key

15:32because because again this has to be

15:34very important for us um so the apmo um

15:37supported the RTE again during Pi


15:41um and the apmo also dealt with the


15:46um and and that helped because we were

15:49trying to change some of our contract to

15:50make it a little bit more um agile


15:54and when I talk about the the reason why

15:58there were relationship with Executives

16:00became important from the apmo

16:02perspective um because when I was first

16:05brought in about 50% of the SE suite and

16:09the executives had or were in the

16:11process of leaving so that’s a lot of

16:14turnover at that level and um it put the

16:19lace in a position to be able to set up

16:21and start to drive the portfolio um and

16:25start thinking about hey what are the

16:26Strategic themes and okrs that we’re

16:29going to be doing now normally you

16:31expect some of those strategic themes to

16:33be coming that se suite and executive

16:36level but when you have 50% of that

16:40turnover there the lace and the apmo

16:43they kind of stepped in actually it was

16:45the apmo that stepped in and said hey

16:47we’re going to create these so our Arts

16:49know where to go right and it was really

16:53cool because then as the SE suite and

16:56the executives were hired we could

16:58actually share with them this is the

17:00apmo could share with them and say these

17:03are the Strategic themes that we’re

17:06going towards and they kind of went yeah

17:09okay that’s great we’re going to leave

17:10you alone and so we continued doing our

17:12own thing on that until they could kind

17:15of um sort themselves out a little bit

17:17and then start to create strategic

17:19themes and that’s how from the the LPM

17:22perspective um or the APO apmo

17:25perspective we influence the sea Suite

17:28um which is super interesting because

17:29you think about there should be this

17:31influence that should be happening both

17:33ways on that

17:36right the lace actually in this instance

17:40the apmo was responsible for doing a lot

17:42of that strategic stuff while the lace

17:44actually could concentrate on driving

17:47the cultural transformation for the the

17:50portfolio and the work that we were

17:52thinking about

17:55that and when you think about that three

17:59dimensions on that and the way that this

18:00happened um our agile portfolio

18:03operations was was strong um because and

18:07and and the ler of the portfolio setup

18:10the apmo was not involved with that they

18:13were involved in some different part of

18:15it um and the lean

18:17governance was also pretty strong um

18:21what did happen though from an

18:22opportunity perspective is that um we

18:25had these two different groups that were

18:27not always in step with each other and

18:31there were some opportunities that were

18:33created um we did have some

18:35miscommunication that happened um

18:40and I personally found that there was

18:42also a lack of some facilitation skills

18:45um what also happened again happening

18:48that portfolio events were set up at the

18:49last minute um and and some of that

18:53facilitation that we’re asking for did

18:55not happen um

19:00so when we look at that yeah we had two

19:04strong Dimensions

19:05going not as strong as we would have


19:10elsewhere so coming into our third

19:13experience which is um happening in 2022

19:16we actually have a VMO that emerges with

19:18the lace that’s coming out from that and

19:21in this instance the VMO is actually a

19:25larger part and then we have the lace

19:27that’s actually embedded within there um

19:31we when this all kind of happening we

19:33did a complete reboot um we even

19:35retaught the LPM course um and the

19:39current setup that we have right now is

19:41that our VMO has about 12 people on it

19:44and our lace has two people um that are

19:47kind of responsible for the

19:49transformation the characteristics are

19:51are the same as the previous two um one

19:55of the things I want to point out is

19:57that this is not a hierarchy some people

20:00because I got this question before is

20:01like are we thinking that the VMO

20:03dictates what the lace is doing or the

20:05lace dictates with the vmos doing no

20:07absolutely not we work as a team um

20:11there’s no hierarchy in there and we

20:13actually work as a a safe scrum team we

20:17have a backlog that starts with the

20:18features um that’s set up we have a

20:21product manager he’s actually sorry yeah

20:23product manager he’s actually our

20:25sponsor he sets up that feature backlog

20:28that gets facilitated by the VMO um and

20:31so then we have a product owner that

20:33takes that and help with the story

20:34that’s going on with


20:40um all of this helps the the um the the

20:44the VMO helps the lace in the transition

20:46um transition and transformation um and

20:50as I mentioned earlier we’ve had these

20:52issues where we’ve got some changing

20:53priorities that are happening and it

20:55allows us as a team to adapt much

20:58quicker to these changing

21:01priorities um one of the things one of

21:03the responsibilities that the VMO should

21:05be doing is that they should be

21:08facilitating the portfolio meetings um

21:10and we’ve actually been able to

21:11strengthen that and our portfolio

21:13meetings actually get done within an

21:15hour now um as needed right and and but

21:19we have so we have a Cadence um that

21:22gets set up and then the meetings if

21:24there’s nothing new to talk about they

21:25actually get cancelled but that also

21:27means we have full participation because

21:30the meetings are set up and they’re on a

21:33Cadence one of the things that the VMO

21:36is also responsible for now is

21:38understanding the Strategic themes and

21:40helping the leadership group come up

21:42with these strategic themes and the

21:44okrs for all of

21:47that when we think about the way that

21:50this is set up now um some of the

21:52strengths that we have are that we

21:53actually have these strategic themes and

21:55okrs that are set up that support this

21:58organization that has a totality is

22:02about 900 people when we take into

22:06consideration all of the operational

22:08people that are necessary beyond the

22:10development value

22:11streams right

22:14um we also have the as I mentioned

22:18earlier setting up and facilitating all

22:21of the portfolio events we’re starting

22:23to work on now getting those guard rails

22:25set up we’ve got a first draft out there

22:27um that we’re to implement for trains

22:30we’re actually changing the guard rails

22:32based upon the feedback from the trains

22:35the really cool thing for me also is

22:37that we’re starting to influence other

22:39parts of the organization um so we’re

22:41starting to reach into to the agency pmo

22:44and actually saying hey these Bas Gates

22:46they’re not really necessary can we get

22:49rid of some of

22:50them which is really nice because we’re

22:52actually starting to influence and

22:54change the organization’s

22:56pmo all of this of course is to support

22:59that business agility value stream that

23:02we want to do um and and starting to

23:05apply a lean to existing operational

23:06systems so looking into some of the

23:08different missions and how is it that we

23:10can bring some of these different um

23:12lean Concepts into

23:15them and one of the things that we’ve

23:17learned and it’s been such a hard lesson

23:19is that whatever it is that we’re

23:20communicating you know we think about

23:23how is it that we can communicate this



23:29so yeah I know we sent out an email not

23:31sufficient we have um how else can we do

23:35it so we’re putting it up in teams chats

23:37we’re sting out more emails we’re doing

23:40Power hours we’re setting up office

23:42hours and any big change that comes

23:44along we communicate it like seriously

23:4710 times more than what you might think

23:49we need

23:52to so the impacts that we’re kind of

23:54seeing on this one are the um

23:59the the the the facilitation I mean that

24:01for me has been really huge is that

24:04having somebody that we know is actually

24:06supposed to facilitate the LPM and that

24:10is part of their job has helped with

24:12think about value and not just

24:15projects it also helps with um when you

24:18have somebody that that understands that

24:20this is their role is to help facilitate

24:23and actually help manage that portfolio

24:25caman um and and they understand the

24:28concepts of the cone of uncertainty and

24:30design thinking um they really start to

24:33push on when exactly do we need to know

24:36this information we don’t need to know

24:38it all upfront but we do need to know it

24:41before we can actually get past this

24:44this one state within the portfolio

24:46campign and that’s been really big

24:49because especially when you come from

24:51some organizations where they do this

24:52big upfront design now we have a group

24:55of people that have the influence and

24:57have the the knowledge and can talk to

24:59people and say actually we don’t need to

25:01know that

25:02now we don’t need to know that for until

25:05the next month let’s get these this

25:07information so we can make decisions and

25:10that’s helped us because sometimes we

25:11haven’t had capacity to um to pull in

25:14work and we’ve been able to tell that

25:16and say well don’t work on that yet

25:18because we actually don’t have capacity

25:19yet so don’t work on that and then the

25:22information has changed the needs have

25:24actually changed from our customer

25:27through three months ago they were

25:28saying we need this and now they’re

25:30saying actually we don’t need that but

25:31what we need is

25:34this so it’s been it’s been interesting

25:37um and and the big thing is that hey we

25:40we work as I mentioned before as a scrum

25:43or a c ban

25:45team so I know and I’m constantly

25:47thinking about hey what is the thing

25:49that I’m going to change in the next

25:50time the next place where I get to

25:53influence and I actually think that I’m

25:55going to look at this um where I have

25:57two two teams but they have to have some

25:59intersection so not necessarily

26:01embedding one team within another but um

26:04I’d like to experiment with this and say

26:06I’ve got a lace and I’ve got a VMO but

26:09I’ve got to make sure that they actually

26:10chat with each other right um definitely

26:14so clear clear assignment of people

26:17you’re a part of the LPM you’re a part

26:19of the lace you’re a part of the

26:21VMO um I really like the way that this

26:25turned out which is when we had our LPM

26:27course we included um all of the VMO and




26:36Inter inter um changing in there like

26:39when we’re actually going through the

26:40LPM course to say okay now let’s talk

26:42about guardrails let’s come up with a

26:44draft version of guardrails as we go

26:46through it

26:48so setting up the LPM in the lace as

26:52agile teams with a scrum Master with a

26:55um a product owner and actually having

26:58standups or or syns um they don’t have

27:02to be every day our

27:05current VMO um sync takes place three

27:09times a week and we’ve experimented

27:12twice and it just wasn’t enough so we

27:14went back to three times so we we’ve

27:16experimented with the Cadence of that

27:18right making sure that the VMO actually

27:21understands that their responsibilities

27:23are to set up and facilitate the

27:25portfolio events and make sure that

27:27those um four guard rails are set up

27:31right also the VMO is responsible for

27:34the measurement domains so hey how is it

27:37that we’re going to measure our outcomes

27:39how is it that we’re going to measure

27:40our flow how is it that we’re going to

27:41measure the competency of our teams the

27:44VMO is responsible for that so making

27:46sure again that they understand that um

27:50and if there is an Enterprise PML make

27:53sure that we actually involve them also

27:55and start to influence outside of the

28:00portfolio and this one has been a really

28:02big one for me is setting up that

28:04communication strategy and making sure

28:05that we follow it and communicate a

28:07hundred times more than what you think

28:09you might need to I cannot emphasize

28:11that one enough because it’s it’s

28:13surprising to me when I as I’m talking

28:16to team members they’re like oh well we

28:17didn’t even hear about that I was like

28:19it was mentioned here here and here oh

28:21well nope didn’t go to any one of those

28:23three things okay how else then can we

28:26change our communic strategy so that you

28:29know because communication should be

28:31both push and pull right we should be

28:33pushing communication out and but we

28:35also have to set things up where people

28:37pull it in if they need

28:41it so kind of wrapping back to the

28:44beginning and thinking about what is it

28:46that the VMO should do so the P the VMO

28:49should actually support this concept of

28:52hey a business opportunity emerges

28:55through to when it is that we get it out

28:58there and it can be leveraged um and

29:01hopefully get it down to instead of two

29:03years get it down to about 2 to six

29:05months and understanding that the way

29:08that this happens is through

29:09communication and Alignment across those

29:12three dimensions that I mentioned

29:15earlier that’s it that’s my chat said it