Project Management

Aligning Your PMO’s Strategy With Your PMO’s Personnel

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Since the name of this blog is Game Theory In Management, and we game theorists can only go so long without a good payoff grid, I think at least some portion of GTIM Nation is expecting one. I’ll oblige, not just to get my payoff grid fix, but because using one will really help illustrate this week’s point (honest!). Previously I’ve written about how typical Project Management Offices (PMOs) will tend to establish themselves, hire talent, issue guidance, and expect the macro organization to, well, start “doing” Project Management. I’ve also pointed out that, as common as this approach is, it’s almost always doomed to fail. A more complete analysis of poor PMO tactics appears in my first book, Things Your PMO Is Doing Wrong (PMI Publishing, 2008), but this blog will address an issue from the proverbial 35,000-foot perspective.

Recall my previously asserted structure, that, when providing virtually any good or service, the providing organization should recognize the axiom “Quality, affordability, availability – pick any two.” Briefly,

  • A quality product available now is likely to be expensive.
  • A quality product that isn’t expensive is likely to have a queue waiting to procure it.
  • If it’s affordable and available right now, it’s not likely to be of high quality.

I strongly believe that this axiom holds sway in the creation and perpetration of the PMO, and the advanced PMO Director will recognize it and plan accordingly. Of course, the newcomers to PMO theory will insist that all three aspects are attainable, and that’s okay. As I will show later in this blog, I’ve been disagreed with before, and they’ve been wrong before.

So, now to my favorite part, the payoff grid. Consider:





High Quality

Scenario A




Scenario B




Scenario C




Scenario Whippersnapper





Scenario A’s PMO strategy is appropriate for those organizations that have a sufficiently robust RFP – to – Proposal – to – Contract Initiation tracking program, so as to give the PMO Director sufficient time to attract or retain the PM talent needed to support the portfolio. When this strategy is implemented without such a capability, the results can be cringe-worthy, as personnel are frantically sought out and just as quickly laid off, leading to frustration on the part of the PMs in the organization as well as mistrust among the PMO’s team members themselves. Infighting ensues, and it doesn’t end well.

Scenario B is common in organizations with a captured clientele. If its PMs cannot resort to hiring outside PM support, or set up shadow PM organizations within the company, they must engage the institutional PMO, and pay whatever rates established. Interestingly, it’s this scenario’s strategy that’s most likely to generate true advancements in the art and science of Project Management, since they retain an advanced capability in something of a secure management environment. Alas, relatively few competitive organizations are set up as to allow this kind of strategy, since contracts tend to be awarded to the lowest bidder.

Scenario C, while appearing to invite scorn from more advanced PM practitioners, is actually quite viable. To those who turn up their noses at the idea that compromise in matters of Project Management is unacceptable, I would like to ask: when was the last time you had fast food? Did you demand Wagyu beef in your drive-through burger? Why not?

Okay, you see my point. There’s a world of projects out there that don’t need a Baseline Change Control Board, or Variance Analysis Thresholds documented in a Project Management Plan. And, of course, I would maintain that there are no projects needing a Risk Management Plan. In organizations that have a large percentage of their project portfolio comprising these kinds of projects, the PMO that can deliver a simple Earned Value Management System, free of the ridiculous “requirements” slathered onto it by those nefarious guidance-generating organizations, will succeed, and in dramatic fashion.

For the Whippersnapper Scenario, where a belief that a quality PM service can be provided immediately and affordably, if only the adequate level of “leadership” (read: fear and intimidation) is used, I have a question: what do you believe you are doing differently? These scenarios will naturally occur from time to time, but never last. Underpaid talent won’t take long to find greener pastures, and a robust training program that introduces fresh replacement talent into the pool isn’t itself cheap.

I’d like to leave GTIM Nation with this thought for the week: take a realistic view of which two of the three elements your PMO seeks to deliver, and work on those strengths while preparing for criticism for the aspect you have made a conscious decision to de-emphasize. Your team will thank you for it. Don’t look back; but, if you are tempted to do so, just set up a quick payoff grid…

Posted on: December 16, 2019 10:24 PM | Permalink

Comments (2)

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Dear Michael
Interesting perspective on the topic
Thanks for sharing

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