Beyond the 2017 PMI® PMO Symposium®: An Excursion to the Houston Food Bank

This interview with Bob D, took place during the 2017 PMI® PMO Symposium® and was conducted and condensed by Kyle Brownell.

Q. This event focuses on two key topics: Agile transformation and the evolving PMO. Can you speak to the importance of those topics for PMO’s today?

A. From a PMO perspective, the primary message that I had before arriving was that Agile transformation is more focused on PMO’s related to IT, IT projects, and IT Portfolio. Tony Scott started his keynote, Leading Change and Driving Innovation, out this way; however, several of the secondary messages that were presented apply to PMO’s like the one that I’m in, which is more about product development of non-IT products.

I think the ability to recognize that broader application when PMOs learn about Agile is key. So, the event has helped with that. The Agile philosophy, mentality, or direction can be applied to the rest of the organization and not just limited to IT.

Q. You were afforded the opportunity to attend an excursion to the Houston Food Bank. Could you to tell us a little about that trip?

A. Yes, the PMO Symposium regularly has excursions, and the one that I got to go to was to visit the largest food bank in the United States, the Houston Food Bank. Amazingly enough, they provide 83 million meals a year to those in need. It’s both good and bad. It’s good that they’re servicing people directly, through the church, the soup kitchens, and other organizations that are delivering the food, but it’s sad that one of the largest cities in the country has to serve 800,000 people that are at risk of not having enough food or nutrition.

It was very interesting. We actually started the session there by volunteering. We helped with the sorting and cleansing of donations by putting them into the proper places with a really unique conveyor system they have. It’s not belts, but a carousel of shelves that moves around the room. You take boxes on and off that, and when you fill up one of the sorted boxes, you put it back on there. It was all very well organized, which speaks to Project Management professionals that they’ve had as they’ve grown the food bank into what it is today.

We then spent an hour and a half with the director of the food bank hearing about their history and the unique projects and programs that they have in place. The director also shared with us some initiatives that they’re planning and others they are getting rid of because they are just not quite servicing the mission. The food bank is a non-profit, so it’s not about margin. They’re actually pretty much a logistics organization bringing together people with surplus with people in need who can’t afford to get their own food. Overall, it’s working out very well, and they had a couple of very unique programs that I am very interested in. The visit to the Houston Food Bank was a phenomenal experience; I loved it.

Q. Did you have any favorite presentations from the Symposium?

A. I’m looking forward to some of the transformational sessions, one in particular on transforming the workforce into high performance teams with a PMO direction. In my company, we have implemented high performance teams, but in many cases, they aren’t performing as I would have hoped. So, I’m hoping I’ll be able to get some tips to increase our performance.

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