Project Management

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Topics: Governance, Organizational Project Management, PMO
Who should be responsible for organizational project management?
I had another discussion with my colleagues, this time about organizational project management. The question that we could not agree upon an answer; "Who should be responsible for organizational project management?"

First, let me establish the context. By way of the term, organizational project management, we were not referring to OPM3, rather we were referring to all of the project management that workplace professionals do that takes place in all of the various business units and departments throughout the entire organization. Some refer to this ubiquitous project management as "informal" project management or "accidental" project management. Whatever the term, surely reasoned professionals can come to agreement that many people (perhaps most) in an organization have some kind of project (or projects) that they manage as part of their normal work mix. One could even posit that it would be more unusual for a workplace professional to not have a project from time to time than it would be to indeed have a project from time to time.

So, in that context, "Who should be responsible for organizational project management?" That is, who is on the hook for some kind of goal, objective, plan, and strategy to ensure that all those managing a project within the organization do so with some level of skill and degree of capability relevant to the needs of the project? We debated the following answers:

  • HR should be responsible as project management is a core skill and strategic organizational competency

  • Functional management should be responsible as the ability to manage a project within the organization is a performance plan expectation

  • The PMO (assuming one exists) should be responsible as it is the organizational unit that possesses the domain knowledge

  • The Project Management Community of Practice (assuming one exists) should be responsible as this is best met by a grass roots approach and a good wiki

  • There is no need to have and hold someone responsible and accountable for organizational project management since project management is intuitive, common sense for the most part, easy to do, and no one ever makes mistakes in the management of their projects (big or small), and the difference between doing a really good job vs a really bad job in managing a project is not that great

Since I was losing the debate with my colleagues (again), I added this last answer which is intentionally satirical and intended to expose the ridiculousness of not taking organizational project management seriously. Anyway, my colleagues maintained that this is a Community of Practice responsibility (or opportunity) and not a management (HR, functional, or PMO) concern. I stood alone in disagreement, but what do you think..?

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Thanks for bringing this interesting topic to the table. I do think OCM is one of the most underestimated topics in a project. When not paid attention to it is the reason projects fail.

The question who should be responsibile is an interesting one. Your remark who should be on the hook, having some kind of objective is the right question to start from. It must be someone who has an interest in the succes of the project and therefore willing to prepare and change the organisation.

In my view this is the owner of the business case. The project is the cost side of the BC and now the benefit side must be managed. Benefits can only be measured when the project is implemented. To have a succesfull implementation you need to prepare the organisation. So the most obvious person to be responsible for OCM is the owner of the BC.

Let me know your thoughts

kr Hans
Hi Mark...good dialogue.

My vote goes to the PMO (assuming it is empowered and effective).

Great question! - The REAL answer is "The Senior Executive / Leadership Team is RESPONSIBLE" but I would answer the question of 'how can they get that to happen?' - If I had my druthers, I would have a PMO whose manager reported to the corporate HR director. If there wasn't a PMO, I am afraid that there won't be any corporate coordination of projects due to the functional managers doing what they typically do best - protect turf. I will open my coat to show you my guns if you want to draw first and we'll do battle on that count - Functional Managers worry about their turf (for the most part) and RARE is the functional manager that has the corporate best interests above their departmental interests. The greater the number of projects, the more a PMO is required. If a PMO exists, it typically has a senior project manager at the helm and they typically do not have the ability to see what the HR director sees corporately UNLESS they sit at the table with the Senior Executive Team. As much as I hate to admit it, HR really CAN be a huge help in coordinating corporate issues IF they are aware of what is going on. They also bring a sense of either 'neutrality' to the issue of project portfolio prioritization with the functional managers. That ' neutrality' is either viewed as "HR is an objective, non-biased entity that will guarantee objectivity in strategic alignment by working with senior executive staff" OR "HR hates everyone - but they hate everyone equally so we're all pretty much out of luck." Either way - HR can keep the functional managers focused on the throat of the HR Director and not each others' throats. HR will however need the technical abilities that a good PMO lead can bring to the table regarding portfolio management and strategic alignment of that portfolio.
Hi Mark,

Great Discussion and good suggestions. I agree that the executive suite should be responsible for achieving the goals and strategy of the organization. Organizational project management is the vehicle to deliver that strategy. A PMO should be chartered and approved by the executive team. For locations to consider the PMO, I think it really depends on your industry. In healthcare, enterprise PMO's would be a good fit under strategic planning. I have heard of instances where the chief quality officer also had an enterprise PMO. I think when you get too far in the weeds of the organizational structure, some effectiveness of a PMO is lost.

Hope this helps,
Re Elyse's response...your reference to "chief quality officer " got my attention. Do u have such a role in your firm?...can u elaborate on the roles and responsibilities?

Guys, thank you for your replies. I am still rubbing my head on this one. And, for someone who has very little hair on top, this is probably not a good thing to do. When I see pictures of folks like Hans, wuth a full head of flowing hair, it really makes me envious. :)

In the recent Gartner Group PPM Summit, I floated this discussion amongst a nuimber of CIOs and PMO managers in attendance and in one of my presentations I also posed it for reflection. The feedback and responses in general were therefold:

  1. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, thought this was a "great" question.

  2. No one, and I do mean no one, had ever thought of the idea that someone should actually be trying to step up to this.

  3. Most of the folks felt that the PMO should take this on, but admittedly did not see their PMO making a priority out of it due to presssing priorities, workload, and resource constraints.

So how..? Geoff, I like your approach and I also agree that HR can and actually does do a good job in these kinds of things. And there is nothing that makes a line executive more irritated, or challenged, than to tell him if he can't or is unable to get something done, then we will give it to HR. I hope we hear and learn more from others..! Thanks.
It is now 2011 - two full years since the great question was posed. Has the Right answer been found? Executed?
I work in a company that has a great IT PMO with a PM community, project selection processes (Governance), and involvement from the Business. We also have a group of people who work on building stores - or remodeling them. That group has their own PM tools and processes - no connection to the IT PMO. Then we also have "everybody else" who works on specific activities that are not processes (if managed, would probably be called projects.)
We have a huge need to establish good Program Management Office processes, skills, and measures. The appetite for getting the work done on time and on budget is high at the Exec level.

What I am looking for today is somebody's story of success in getting the Business side to support and use a Business PMO. I don't think "who owns it" will ever be a standard answer - so long as they have a formally powerful role in the organization.
Hi Mark,

Another late entry for you :-)

I would say that the PMO and the PMO Sponsor should be responsible for this.

The PMO Sponsor should be ultimately responsible for it but the PMO Governs it on behalf of the Sponsor, provides the assurance and training etc too.
Hey Mark!
This is most definitely a PMO concern. If the Org does not have a PMO, management will need to get with the times and design one either a Strong Matrix one or a Weak Matrix one to start. :)

PM Standards is the goal here as well as career development.

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