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PMO: Project Mis-Management Office or Project Management Office?

December 29, 2011
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How Project Management Office can go Astray

Many large organizations have embraced the concept of a centralized approach to Project Management, but the downside is that staff become so engrained with bureaucracy that they fail to be nimble. There is a fine line between having resources that assist with project management and having someone that checks blocks and has an opinion. When your PMO becomes a status checker and not a project asset, then it’s time to start over.

Just for clarification a Program Manager truly rolls up all aspects of a large enterprise program that has multiple projects working in tandem.  In this case you need someone at a high level that juggles reports and statuses and balances resources as well as deadlines. A Project Manager is involved at the deck level and understands the complete work breakdown of each aspect of the project.

The PMO is really there to provide a consistent methodology to projects across the organization. It helps manage the resources required to successfully complete your projects. However, if project members don’t have opportunities to voice concerns or actually drive the areas that they are responsible for, it’s more than likely that your PMO is not in touch with the project requirements. If you have a PM that believes that they are just there to edit documents and take notes, then it’s time to assign them to an administrative assistant role (with the commensurate pay reduction).

So how do you strike a balance? Something that is often overlooked when you have a PMO is to conduct yearly audits to make sure that you have met your success metrics and that the PMO customers are satisfied with the outcomes. However, customers are both internal and external. We often look at what we provided to our IT customers, but we fail to audit how effectively the PMO supported the internal technical staff.  How can you make the PMO more effective?


1.  Include a satisfaction survey that is sent to everyone involved in the project.

2.  Your yearly audits should measure not only how the PMO supported the projects, but how the PMO undefineddrove the work.

3.  Use a Project Management Information portal.

4.  The PM is not the decision maker. That’s why you have an Executive Steering Committee.   

Make sure that everyone has visibility and access to a project portal. All too often this is something with limited licenses and only a chosen few can access it. Also, empowering the PM can lead to the creation of a gatekeeper or “Pseudo-Expert.” The PM sits in the driver seat filtering information and the Executive Steering Committee is along for the ride.

One project I was involved in had a PM that kept the Project Plan locked up, showed up to meetings just to get a status check (so they can report on how great the PMO was doing) and justified their existence by attending all project work meetings/calls.

Project Management is more than just showing up to meetings. It’s about applying proven methodologies to a process that will result in a quality outcome.  If your goal is to achieve a milestone and not have quality metrics, then you are just checking the block. Make sure that your PM is properly trained, has the experience, and most importantly, the people skills to lead a team.