40 Reasons PMOs Fail

I’ve been managing projects and programs for more than 15 years. I’ve seen a little bit of everything. I’ve also had the joy and the pain of implementing two Project Management Offices (PMOs), one in an Information Technology Department and one Enterprise PMO.

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com (edited in Canva)

Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com (edited in Canva)

Through the years, I’ve noted many reasons that PMOs fail or struggle. It’s rarely just one thing; it’s usually a combination of things. Here is a list of causal factors. I hope the list helps you find success.

  1. No project sponsor or project charter for the implementation of the PMO
  2. Failure to define the “P” in PMO (Project Management Office or Program Management Office)
  3. Failure to place the PMO at the right level of the organization (e.g., Enterprise PMO, IT PMO) based on the real problems of the organization
  4. Inability of the PMO to deal with institutional politics
  5. Passive-aggressive behavior of stakeholders
  6. Communicating to all the stakeholders in the same manner with the same level of detail
  7. Staffing of the PMO with technical project managers that lack leadership and strategic and business management skills
  8. The PMO requires that ALL project managers to adopt templates, forms, and strict methods
  9. The organization only wants window dressing rather than real change
  10. Showy Batman heroics of the PMO rather than day-to-day servant leadership
  11. Changes in executive leadership (out goes the individual who supported the PMO and in comes a person who does not favor PMOs)
  12. The lack of project management maturity of its business leaders
  13. The lack of in-depth project management experience in the PMO
  14. The lack of collaboration between the PMO and its stakeholders
  15. The lack of rewards and recognition when good things happen
  16. The lack of project management training
  17. The lack of business analysis skills in the PMO
  18. The lack of periodic assessments of the PMO
  19. The clashing of beliefs in traditional and agile life cycles
  20. Functional managers want complete control of the organizational projects that impact them
  21. Jealousy
  22. Power struggles
  23. The tendency of the organization to regress to bad behavior
  24. Embarking on large, complex programs immediately after or during the implementation of the PMO
  25. The unwillingness of senior management to make the investment of time to improve the project culture over the long haul
  26. The PMO lacks an understanding the organization’s problems
  27. Poor definition of the PMO success criteria
  28. The PMO doesn’t understand the organization’s culture
  29. The PMO doesn’t understand the stakeholder’s needs and expectations
  30. Not implementing the right type of PMO/degree of control (e.g., supportive/low control, controlling/moderate control, directive/high control)
  31. Thinking that PMOs can only bring value for mammoth programs
  32. The PMO is bureaucratic
  33. Failure to highlight early successes
  34. The PMO loses wind after the initial gains
  35. The PMO is seen as the process police/box checkers
  36. Too many meetings with too little to show
  37. The PMO lacks an understanding of the organization’s strategic plan and fails to align itself with the strategy
  38. Thinking that what worked at one company will work at another company
  39. Individuals craving the desire for former positions or status before the implementation of the PMO
  40. Expecting huge results in a short period of time

Homework

Are you planning to implement a PMO? Take the time to review this list; use it as a checklist in your planning and implementation. If you’ve already implemented a PMO, review the list to see where you might need to make some changes in your approach. I would love to hear about your success and pain points. Best wishes!

Question: What would you add to this list?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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4 thoughts on “40 Reasons PMOs Fail

  1. With respect, although there’s some accuracy in the text, this is whining. Pointing these out doesn’t achieve much. Each should come with a strategy to tackle.

    • As I mentioned in the article, my intent is to help individuals be successful; the list is to be used like a checklist. Are there a few of these items that you would like for me to respond with a strategy?