It was interesting; attending a PMO Symposium and lecturing at a local University I was asked the same question in the space of a week – and that question was ‘is there a minimum size for a PMO?’
Thinking across the range of small to medium sized companies then the answer has to be a resounding ‘yes’, partly because if you ‘do’ projects then a PMO is generally a good idea (what we mean by a PMO can mean many things to many organisations of course and we have to take that in to account). But also because if you only ‘do’ a few projects then when one comes along that demands significant investment from an organisation then the cost of failure is greater accordingly. A much larger organisation with a large project portfolio and equally large project community will be able to absorb and manage such a demanding project far more easily (and with reduced impact of failure).
So how small are we talking?
How about ‘one’?
Can the sole project manager also be the whole PMO? Well not really in truth – a sole project manager can’t act like a PMO of many people since they can’t act objectively with regards to their own project performance, they can’t spend time investing in self-development and in method improvements and so on.
So not ‘one’ then.
Can a PMO be implemented in a small company that has limited resources, a small team of project managers only – perhaps two or three?
Well perhaps not a ‘PMO’ as such but certainly a virtual equivalent with shared responsibility of some of the basic PMO functions that could be allocated to the remaining project resources – perhaps one person could focus on the training of project managers, another on method enhancements, and another on community aspects etc. In this way a lot of PMO duties could be delivered to a reasonably high level.
Yes I think a PMO can be applicable to all scales of project business but it might not be a permanent, dedicated unit of course, but more of a ‘part time PMO’.
The biggest risk to such a PMO is the ability to offer the objective insight and support to all project managers, and the business. The smaller the team then the harder it may be to do this in a constructive, non-emotional, positive way – not everyone has the skill to do this and with a close team of peers it isn’t always easy to do (or easy to receive at times).
The buttered cat paradox is a common joke based on the tongue-in-cheek combination of two pieces of wisdom:
Now consider what would happen if the piece of buttered toast was attached, butter side up of course, to the back of a cat and then the cat was dropped from a large height. Some people suggest that the following will occur. As the cat falls towards the ground, it will slow down and start to rotate, eventually reaching a steady state of hovering a short distance from the ground while rotating at high speed as both the buttered side of the toast and the cat’s feet attempt to land on the ground.
This idea appeared on the British panel game QI, as well as talking about the idea, they also brought up other questions regarding the paradox. These included ‘Would it still work if you used margarine?’, ‘Would it still work if you used I Can't Believe It's Not Butter?’, and ‘What if the toast was covered in something that was not butter, but the cat thought it was butter?’, the idea being that it would act like a placebo.
The supposed phenomenon was first observed in the New York Monthly Magazine, which published the following poem in 1835:
I never had a slice of bread,
Particularly large and wide,
That did not fall upon the floor,
And always on the buttered side!
A study by the BBC's television series Q.E.D. found that when toast is thrown in the air, it lands butter-side down just one-half of the time (as would be predicted by chance)] However, several scientific studies have proven that when toast is dropped from a table it does fall butter-side down at least 62% of the time.
Why is this?
Well when toast falls out of a hand, it does so at an angle. The toast then rotates. Given that tables are usually between two to six feet there is enough time for the toast to rotate about one-half of a turn, and so it lands upside down relative to its original position. Since the original position is butter-side up then the toast lands butter-side down.
Now ignoring the paradox and concentrating on the simple piece of buttered toast dropping from your hand you could address this ‘risk’ in two ways. The first being that you rip out all of your kitchen fixings and tables and then re-install new ones that are at least 10 feet off the ground. This will result in any future toast drops have a 50/50 chance of turning sufficiently to end up buttered side up – a saving of 12% of cases using the Q.E.D. experiment results.
But this would be pretty costly and impractical.
Alternatively you could just be more careful when you eat buttered toast. Sit down. Don’t rush. Have the butter and toast on the table together. This would potentially deliver greater end results regarding a significant reduction in dropped buttered toast in the first instance and therefore the percentage of cases where the toast falls buttered side down would be irrelevant. Risk management needs to be relevant, appropriate and reasonable.
Besides, cats hate having toast stuck to their backs!