PMO and PMs: Partnership or Opposition?

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting Inc., an Ontario, Canada-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at andy.jordan@roffensian.com. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

I have mentioned before that I teach project management, and as a result I get exposure to project managers from a lot of different organizations. That shows a lot of differences from one company to another, but it also shows some common themes. One of the things that I have noticed that surprised me was that there didn’t seem to be a lot of love from project managers for their PMOs.

Exploring this in more detail, there seems to be a feeling that the PMO is not there to provide support to PMs and to assist them in managing the project--but rather the PMO is just another control mechanism that “polices” the way that projects are managed, often with the perception by project managers that the PMO is creating barriers to successful project delivery, not removing them.

That got me thinking--what’s going on here? Of course the PMO has responsibility to ensure that projects are managed in accordance with policies and process, but they shouldn’t be perceived as in opposition to the PMs.

The perceived problem
Before we can start exploring solutions, we need to understand what the problem is--or at least what the problem is perceived to be. Project managers see their role as the delivery of their project on time, scope, budget and quality--nothing more complicated than that. It’s easy to understand why that mindset exists--it’s …

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