Project Management

Culture Club

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

Since I started writing for gantthead's PMO department, we have spent a lot of time discussing how to define and establish the PMO in an organization. What has emerged from a few recent consulting engagements is an interesting question surrounding the definition of PMOs: Is the nature and structure of the PMO a product of the culture of the organization? In other words, is there a level of pre-determination regarding what a project management office will become within any given organization?

While the question borders on the nature/nurture debate, it is a critical one to understand in planning the structure and services of the PMO, and the relationship it will have with the projects it supports.

Organizational culture is itself a fairly intangible quality. It is a product of the history, industry and leadership of a particular organization. The culture of an organization cannot be dictated, and can be extremely difficult to change--evolution is a long, involved, hands-on process that requires extraordinary executive focus to accomplish. Part of the reason for this is that culture is influenced more by the informal and unofficial channels of storytelling, gossip and myth than it is by strategy, directive or edict.

This begs the question of whether the project culture of a company is separate and distinct or hopelessly intertwined with the overall culture of the larger …

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