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Why command and control PMOs are killing project management

Colin Ellis | Oct. 29, 2014
If you are questioning the effectiveness of your PMO, you need to act, says Colin Ellis.

We reduced planning to a painful lesson in policy writing 'it must say this, this, this and this and in this way'. Risk management became, well, risky as we put in complicated matrices and more layers of process to manage the actions.

I'm pretty sure our governance meetings accounted for a 2 per cent destruction of the Amazon rainforest despite the fact that no-one read what we produced until an hour before the meeting.

Nicknames such as the 'Project Police', 'Method Madness Brigade' and 'Project Blockers' were used; as was Captain Pugwash although I never quite got to the bottom of that one.

The intentions were good - a sound framework to enable projects to be delivered on time, on quality and to budget - and yet ironically, our methods were not. Too much time spent on telling the project manager what they should be filling in and inviting myself to meetings that I had no right to attend.

We ended up by telling project managers to forget everything they've learned because 'this is how we manage projects here.' By the book.

Ladies and gentlemen I give you the 'command and control PMO.'

Now, there will no doubt be those who are up in arms about my description of what bad looks like, usually because they recognise that this is exactly what they are doing now and this is my point (finally) or at least one of them.

Command and control PMOs still exist. In great numbers.

The transformation PMO
Command and control ignores the most important part of project management, that is people who deliver projects, not the methods and processes we implement.

Organisations continue to set up command and control PMOs, staffed by hard working people who in general (not a rule) have little in the way of actual project management experience or else have this experience but lack leadership skills.

It's good to remember that not every project manager makes a good PMO manager.

The days of imposing a one-size-fits-all method on a project management function are gone, principally because there are so many of them out there these days -- both waterfall and agile.

Most of them ignore the necessary leadership skills required to get things done well. Even if you do want to introduce good practices into your organisation it has to be done collaboratively with those who will use them and have used them in the past.

Similarly, any good or bad things from previous projects either in your organisation or others should be continuously incorporated into the framework and the PMO should facilitate this to get the best outcome for the organisation.


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