Project Management

The Silver Bullet?

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

Well, it's finally happened. The idea of a PMO has become endemic, and the preferred initial answer to the question "How do we improve our project management?" There was a time when this answer was instead conducting some training or installing software. The PMO has become the latest silver bullet. The problem here is that in these instances, it is not going to be any more successful, relevant or useful than training courses or MS Project were.

As a consultant, by far the most common request I now receive is, "We want to set up a PMO. Can you help us?" While I want my answer to the question to always be "yes!", more often than not I'm unsure what is meant by the question, if only because I don't think they know what they mean. As you start to probe for the details of why they want to establish a PMO, a very different reality often emerges.

Most organizations want to be able to manage and deliver their projects more effectively. What is interesting is that rarely does the conversation start with "What will it take to be able to manage my projects better?" Instead, the request starts with the solution.

Lately, that solution has shifted from training or software to setting up a PMO. The problem with this silver bullet approach is that it assumes that because we believe Company XYZ manages their projects well (or at least better than we do) and employs a particular …

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