The PMO as Social Pariah: Discuss

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.

A recent column asked the question, "What do project managers really want from a PMO?" To all of those who contributed to the discussion, my sincere thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. In particular, thanks and welcome to all of those who participated for the first time--the discussions are a very real part of what makes this site valuable.
It struck me that the theme of a number of comments was a strong desire for time and space. In essence, the PMO should be a buffer between the projects and--as one writer so aptly put it--the "ivory tower." What is particularly intriguing about this insight is that it echoes what many executives seek from a PMO--a desire for a buffer between them and what the same writer referred to as the "coal face" of the project.
One contributor indicated that a far easier question would have been to ask what executives and business unit leaders seek from the PMO. In large part, this is an easier question--and one that has been asked far more often. What executives are often looking for is the ability to keep the projects at a remove, to distance themselves from the messy day-to-day complexities of project issues and risks, and to make the PMO responsible and accountable for ensuring that "the project stuff" gets done.
The more cynical among us may view this as an effort to distance themselves so that when the project inevitably blows …

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