Workshops are a powerful tool that your project management office (PMO) can run and also facilitate on behalf of the projects you look after. In this and coming blog posts, we’re going to explore everything you need to know about PMO workshops.

A workshop should be used to get a job done. Unlike meetings which can be routine and have general updates, a workshop should help the attendees and organisers make significant progress with their work.

To give you a grounding in project workshops, here we’ll be looking at:

  • What you can expect to achieve in a workshop
  • When to use – and not use – workshops in your projects
  • The characteristics of a successful workshop

Why do I need to use a workshop in projects?

Workshops should be targeted, productive meetings that bring together the right people to achieve a stated objective.

In projects, a workshop can be a standard part of the process, or it can be ad hoc when there is a bottleneck in the work that needs to be done.

You should consider using a workshop for your projects to:

  • Have an open discussion about a step in the project or an issue causing problems
  • Brainstorm ideas and ways forward that may not come out in everyday working
  • Work on a specific problem with experts from across projects and the business
  • Make decisions that may take a long time to get signed off when waiting for all stakeholders
  • Develop solutions collaboratively, bringing in different perspectives

What does a PMO workshop look like?

There are common structures that you can use to achieve the desired outcomes.

Your aim for a workshop is to open discussions, so you need to:

  1. Set out the goal of the workshop and who you need to be there to get it done.
  2. Pick the right location in terms of room size and facilities, e.g. if you’ll need a projector.
  3. Create the agenda and any visual aids you’ll need, such as creatives or timelines to be discussed.
  4. Facilitate the workshop with a meet and greet – if necessary – and lead participants through the talking points, ensuring everyone gets to pitch in.
  5. Record the workshop in a few different ways, so there is a point of reference and decisions are noted properly.
  6. Follow up with any tasks that need to be completed or send out minutes to confirm the work that was done.

When should I use a workshop in my projects?

It’s important to use workshops only when necessary. Many people in large organisations already feel annoyed at the overuse of meetings that could be covered in an email, for example.

Make sure that workshops don’t become routine. You want the attendees to come in with enthusiasm rather than dread!

Use a workshop when you:

  • Want to get a decision hammered out
  • Have a bottleneck or block in your project that needs resolving
  • Need to fix a complex, multidisciplinary problem
  • Want to gather input from a broad group of people quickly

On the flip side, a workshop isn’t for routine processes or to replace the need for structural or procedural change. We’ll cover more about workshop best practices in the coming weeks.

What makes a good workshop?

A good workshop needs to have clear aims and goals. It’s important that you:

  • Plan well to keep the project on track
  • Have all the resources at hand to keep the workshop flowing
  • Has space and time for free and open dialogue
  • Record the process for accountability
  • Confirm the next steps after the meeting when needed

What you need to know about project workshops

Workshops can be a useful tool to get to the crux of an issue and find solutions to issues within projects. We’ve got into some of the top-line details about project workshops, and we’ll look into everything you need to know about project workshops in the coming weeks.