3 PMO Pitfalls That Jeopardize Every Project

For a PMO to successfully execute its mission of helping organizations complete projects on time and budget, PMO leaders need to recognize and avoid three common pitfalls.

By Adam Bookman
Thu, May 27, 2010

CIO — Project management is booming. The Project Management Institute boasts more than a half million members and credential holders in over 180 countries. Project management ranks third on "The Top Five In-Demand Skills" in U.S. News and World Report's University Directory. At the center of all of this project management activity lies the PMO, the project management office. An obscure concept 20 years ago, PMOs are nearly ubiquitous today in a business environment focused on efficiency, standards, metrics, and repeatability.

But all is not well in the PMO world. Resistance to PMOs runs high among line of business project teams. Projects still fail at a worrisome rate. Turnover among project managers remains high, creating inefficiency, and without project team cooperation, the PMO cannot perform its duties. Thus, the mission of the PMO — to deploy a common set of project management processes and governance across the enterprise so that projects succeed on time and on budget — has become jeopardized.

The PMO can be saved, however, provided its leadership recognizes and avoids the following three common pitfalls that dog PMOs and their relationships with business lines and IT.

PMO Pitfall 1: The One-Way Street

Reciprocity is a staple of all human interactions. Offering value for value expected lubricates everything from commerce to marriage to the playground.

How reciprocal is your PMO? They probably ask for a lot: a lot of forms, rules, meetings and deadlines. They expect timely reports and accurate information, all to be delivered by the project team.

But do they report back to the project team with new information that drives better decisions? Do they offer personalized coaching to project team leaders running their projects more effectively? Do they work with the team leaders to make the PMO role understood? Are your PMO heads expected to exhibit skills like leadership, communications, and the ability to influence people?

I have had project managers say to me, "I give the PMO all my information all the time, but I never see it again. I get what the PMO needs, but how does it help me be better at my business?"

Give to get. Return value to your sources. Remember, you have two sets of "customers" — executive management and the project teams.

PMO Pitfall 2: One Size Does Not Fit All

Massive projects are complex and risky, and they must be managed accordingly. When your company is spending $150 million over five years in a competitive race to boldly enter a new business with new technology, you want a PMO that can get its arms around the whole monster. You want detail-focused sticklers who value process as much as outcomes and who recognize the relationship between the two. No shortcuts, no apologies.

Continue Reading

Our Commenting Policies