Shoulder Struggle

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at markmullaly.com.

I have been engaged in a fascinating internal debate over the last few months or so: Are PMOs accountable to their organizations? And should they be? Looking past the fact that I'm the sort of person that actually does have these sorts of discussions with myself, what is most interesting about the concept of PMO accountability is that there are so many strong arguments both for and against it. In the research that I have conducted I can find no strong support one way or the other.

The question is also interesting from an organizational perspective. Almost every senior management team I have worked with that has implemented a PMO has absolutely viewed its establishment as a means of creating better accountability for project results. In other words, they hold the PMO accountable for whether projects succeed and fail--and their actions often reflect this.

Most PMOs that I have worked with, however, have most often viewed their role as a facilitator to the projects, but with no real accountability for results. Just like a mountain-climbing guide they are there to help, but whether you get to the top or not is pretty much up to you. Most importantly, these different perspectives are being held by staff within the same organization.

Rather than posing an answer to the question--in part because I genuinely haven't found one yet--I thought it would be of greater value to …

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"Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself."

- Chinese Proverb

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