Project Management

The PMO Cart Is Still Being Put Before the Horse

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.

There are a few themes around PMOs that I have been coming back to for years, and some of my colleagues have got to the point where they just look at me and roll their eyes as if to say, “Not again!”

But I keep singing the same tune because things aren’t changing—or in some cases, they’re getting worse. One such theme that came to mind after a few recent events and conversations was that very basic concept of what a PMO should do. So, let me climb back up on my soapbox and give you the 2021 version of putting the proverbial PMO cart before the horse.

The problem, and why it matters
The fundamental problem hasn’t changed much in the last decade. PMOs are desperate to show that they are bringing value to their employers, so they seek to identify all of the elements of project delivery that require improvement. That may be based on their own observations, on feedback from stakeholders, or from complaints by project managers and teams. The PMO will then prioritize those issues based on its interpretation of where the biggest negative impact is, and develop strategies to address them.

On the face of it, that seems perfectly reasonable, right? But here’s the problem: It’s not up to the PMO to decide what the priorities are. It’s not even up to the PMO to determine whether something is an issue at all.

Think about any …


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"There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself."

- Johann Sebastian Bach