Project Management

The PMO Is Not Switzerland

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-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 [email protected]. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

A PMO leader recently complained to me that they felt their job was unfair. They described themselves as always being in the middle, caught between project managers on one side and sponsors and stakeholders on the other.

They felt they were always trying to help those sides find common ground—and seemed to find themselves in a situation where both sides felt they were taking the other side’s position. In short, this PMO leader felt they were in a no-win situation and wanted some guidance on how to escape.

There’s a fundamental problem here, and it’s not that the PMO is being put in an unfair position by the teams and stakeholders. This PMO leader (and I suspect many others) felt that the role of the PMO was to be a peace keeper, to remain neutral and avoid taking sides—to act like Switzerland (to use a common analogy).

Nothing could be further from the truth. If your PMO doesn’t stand for something, if it doesn’t take a position on issues and help to resolve them in favor of that position, then it may as well not exist.

Back to basics
To understand this, we need to go back to the fundamentals, to consider why a PMO exists in the first place. It can’t simply be to provide a reporting or consolidation function, nor can it be just about providing a level of governance for projects.

Those are not sufficiently valuable …

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If we do not succeed, then we run the risk of failure.

- Dan Quayle