Establishing a Legal Project Management Office (LPMO)

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Define the Scope of the Legal Project Management Office (LPMO)

What does the “P” stand for in this abbreviation for a Management Office?  Does the LPMO control governance for projects, does it direct strategy under the guidance of the CIO for Legal and Compliance, it may oversee a program of work, or does it operate at an enterprise level?  To define, ask:

1.  Do the key people in my organization agree that an LPMO is required?

a.  Agree on authority of the LPMO.

b.  Articulate the benefits of introducing the LPMO.

2.  Are our processes mature enough for us to capture the value of an LPMO, and to make the long-term commitment required for success?

Establishing a Legal Project Management Office (LPMO)

Establishing an LPMO may start with introducing the concept to the CIO, and to key stakeholders in Legal and Compliance.  A first step in evaluating the maturity of a legal organization in supporting an LPMO may be to conduct a survey or assessment of the current state.  This will establish a baseline within the legal organization that the CIO and top legal executives may use to evaluate where and how best to mature specific legal processes where risk is greatest, or ROI may be realized.

In addition to talent and ability to achieve results identified by an LPMO, the organization needs to have the drive and commitment to introduce the LPMO and support its efforts to integrate across Legal, IT, Records, Compliance and other business units.  If support is not there, then it is time to stope and focus on supporting and managing programs and projects.

Generally, organizational change transitions can either be quick and painful, or slow and relatively painless. Management buy-in is fundamental to success. Both approaches to the speed of change (fast or slow) have pros and cons; we have seen that taking an aggressive approach and ‘pushing hard’ can reap rewards, but requires a strong commitment to succeed.

After completing your project charter, having peer-level reviews and gaining the necessary support and alliances to make it a success, step back and take a good look at the approach and the desired end result.  Depending on your organization size ask yourself if the launch strategy is accepatable.  Whatever your plan, be sure that the C-level executives agree to it for the long term. We suggest that you are conservative in your proposed results and set realistic goals, timelines, savings, productivity improvements, etc.

Look for, achieve and communicate early, quick wins as the LPMO starts to make changes, even if they are minor.  Any positive changes are building blocks which will fuel project momentum and sustain interest.  Do not oversell.

There will be lulls in the project – stick with it.  As with most projects and project teams, there may be initial enthusiasm but as the newness wears off and the work really begins there will be a drop in morale.  As Team Lead, this is the time to step up your game, to drive work efforts and whip up morale and project support.  Keep up the positive vibe.  Setting up an LPMO is a big challenge; it takes time.  The period most likely to require attention is during the lull period between the times during which you’ve completed, documented, and communicated your early wins or short-term goals, and the commencement of achieving the long-term objectives for your LPMO.

If the LPMO is up and working, it is time to declare success.  You have documented processes, common metrics, basic standards, common tools, a central repository, training packages, and are seeing visible improvements in workflow, project estimates, information usage, greater compliance with prescribe procedures, etc.  It is time to reflect – to review project schedules and budget outcomes, project phase as part of governance, lessons shared and learnt, and stakeholders are pleased with results.

Recognize when to decide if the LPMO is “as good as it gets” and is part and parcel of the operation.  If it is then you can declare success, and consider whether to take the next step of advancing the LPMO to the next level.

Implementing a Successful Legal Project Management Office (LPMO)

One of the top differentiators of success is how well an LPMO is embedded within an organization.  These four factors are key in determining the integration level:

1.  Collaboration: The LPMO should encourage collaboration between project professionals and functional departments.

2.  Recognition of Expertise:  Do the project professionals working with the LPMO improve the level of respect project management achieves within the organization?  This should also influence who works in the LPMO.

3.  The Mission is Well Understood:  Do those outside the LPMO know its purpose?

4.  Support from Upper Management:  Is there an executive champion who will not only communicate the mission, but will work to gain engagement from stakeholders?