Beware the RIGID PMO

9 03 2009

John Ferry, Jacksonville FL

johnferryProject Management as a discipline has been around for quite a while. One of things that made me successful as a project manager was being able to apply the many tools and techniques that I have learned to the different projects that I have managed. As part of our project management training, we all learn that all projects are different, and that they each demand different efforts to make them successful. Those of us who have been doing this for a while have seen corporate America and the rest of the world begin to embrace project management because of the order that it can bring to the chaos. Successful projects don’t just happen by chance. They are successful because they are planned that way.

Recently, I have found that many corporate PMO’s are establishing rigid project management processes and methodologies in their quest for repeatable processes. (CMM Level certifications are an example of this.) They are attempting to “standardize” (another name for dictate and regulate) how project managers are to manage their projects. They dictate which documents must be created, what steps must be followed, and what audits are to take place, etc. Like most effective tools, the corporate culture tries to dictate how and when they should be used in an organization.

The problem with this approach is it forces project managers to use tools that have little or no value for the project they are being used on. I have discovered over the years,straightjacket1 that one methodology (or process) doesn’t fit all projects. That as a PM you have to be flexible and use the right method, documents, and tools for the project. Some PMO methodologies are so overbearing, that small simple projects become wasteful and time consuming. They perform wasted exercises and create unnecessary documentation, all to satisfy some internal audit criteria. My analogy… “like driving a nail with a sledgehammer.”, it just doesn’t make sense. A good “mature” PMO recognizes that projects come in all sizes and varying complexities, and that it’s appropriate to tailor methodologies and processes to fit the project. That doesn’t mean you toss the whole methodology out the window, but you use the “parts” of it that make sense. The rigid PMO’s inflict unnecessary hardship on their teams, create waste, and squash creativity and talent.

Given the state of the current economy, businesses today can’t afford this kind of waste. They have to operate “lean”. This means that the rigid inflexible PMO methodologies that create a “boatload” of documentation to satisfy some maturity model or internal audit criteria need to be revaluated, and it’s time to do the work (and only the work) that makes sense.



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