Project Management

Does a PMO need a charter? Probably not.

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Uh, wait, what?? Of course it needs a charter, right? Well, maybe not.

If you are setting up a PMO that is meant to be a temporary endeavor with a start, finish, and a unique product, service, deliverable, or outcome created (sound familiar?), then yes, it might need a charter. But you know what it actually is then?

A project charter. A charter for the project and the project team (in this case, also being referred to as a PMO). It’s not really a PMO charter.

Whether you call it a PMO or a project team, if the group is meant to be temporary and serve the goals of one specific project or program, then yes, a charter is necessary…like it would be for any other project.

However, if what you are building is really a PMO that is meant to stick around for a while, it’s an organization, a business unit, a more permanent fixture in the organization. What does an organization need? A business plan, not a charterThanks for taking the time to read this article.

Charter = Temporary Endeavor

Business Plan = Sustainable Business Unit

Why does this matter?

It sets the tone for the entire organization from the beginning. That which we treat as temporary, we will continue to treat as temporary. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. That which we treat as a permanent, sustaining solution to a business goal, we will treat as a permanent fixture to achieving that business goal.

We often don’t realize how much we set the tone when setting up an organization by how we talk about the organization, how we plan for the work we will do and how we will do that work. Why not setup your organization from the beginning as if you already have that support, stature and credibility necessary to drive the organization more swiftly and thoughtfully to its goals?

What if you don’t have the credibility yet to feel comfortable with what you are creating? Shoot, most of us don’t feel comfortable in the beginning. I never did, even when I knew exactly what I needed to do. Why? Because you never really know exactly what needs to get done. We think we know and then along the way some stuff happens and we realize that half our assumptions were wrong. That’s why we always have to be flexible and listen to what our gut, our peers, and our stakeholders are telling us. Be open to the possibility of what if in your solution development.

Act as if...

My coach wrote a great book that I highly recommend to everyone. It’s called Steal the Show, by Michael Port. In this book, he talks about acting “as if” when you don’t yet have the confidence or comfort necessary for you to perform at your best in the role you are trying ot create for yourself. The goal is to give you that confidence by acting as if you already have that  buy in you need. You need to set your intentions and get purposeful about the outcomes you want to create.

This doesn’t mean that you don’t make any effort to build that credibility and needed support along the way, you do, but you have to go into this business of setting up a PMO with the clear intention that you will build that credibility and support.

Design the organization for now...

You won’t know how the organization should look a couple of years from now when you start building because you need to do a lot of listening, surveying, and then planning. But you can start to build where you think it should go, start small, build some key services, etc. Then, as you get input and feedback, you can continue to evolve the organization.

What should the business plan include?

A quick google search of  "business plans" will give you a good idea of what needs to be included, but some basics that you may want to include are:

  • Scope – What areas of the organization will you serve?
  • Services – How will you serve those areas of the organization?
  • Staffing – What staff will you need to do perform these services?
  • Stakeholders – Who will you serve and how will you engage them?

Remember, this business plan won't be static. No organization is. What puts you at a distinct advantage here is that you are good at planning. You can put together a plan in your sleep (and probably do), so don’t let that be an imagined hurdle here.

Start with the end in mind. Don't forget, you are building a sustainable organization and that you need to get buy in quickly. Your very first step is to ask the question Why? Why are you building this organization in the first place? What gap are you filling or business problem are you solving? Once you have the big "why" nailed down, the rest will be a lot easier!

I welcome your feedback and insights. Please leave a comment below.



Posted on: March 05, 2018 07:59 AM | Permalink

Comments (9)

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I would think a charter or business plan is necessary for any department setup or justification, including the PMO. Thanks Laura.

Interesting distinction

Good article Laura.

Good points, Laura.

I agree a PMO as an organizational entity does not need a charter. Projects however need a charter.
Thanks for your contribution Laura

Laura, good thoughts, thanks for putting this down.

I agree a PMO does not need a project charter and that a business plan would be better describing the expected benefits and anticipated costs.

My personal take is that a PMO indeed should need not a project but a program charter, which includes a roadmap and expected benefits rather than specific project deliverables. A program setup would include developing a business case. And a program could include running the PMO once it has established some deliverables (like standards, training, portfolio mgmt).

A charter in both project and program settings for me is the birth certificate and commits the organization to an intention. This is beneficial of you create a PMO.

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