I've been managing projects and programs for more than 20 years. I've seen a little bit of everything. I've also had the joy and the pain of implementing three Project Management Offices (PMOs), two in Information Technology Departments and one Enterprise PMO.
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.
- No project sponsor or project charter for the implementation of the PMO
- Failure to define the "P" in PMO (Project Management Office or Program Management Office)
- 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
- Inability of the PMO to deal with institutional politics
- Passive-aggressive behavior of stakeholders
- Communicating to all the stakeholders in the same manner with the same level of detail
- Staffing the PMO with technical project managers that lack leadership and strategic and business management skills
- The PMO requires that ALL project managers to use templates, forms, and prescriptive methods
- The organization only wants window dressing rather than real change
- Showy heroics rather than day-to-day servant leadership
- Changes in executive leadership (a person who does not favor PMOs replaces one who did)
- The lack of project management maturity in its business leaders
- The lack of in-depth project management experience in the PMO
- The lack of collaboration between the PMO and its stakeholders
- The lack of rewards and recognition when good things happen
- The lack of project management training
- The lack of business analysis skills in the PMO
- The lack of periodic assessments of the PMO
- The clashing of beliefs in traditional and agile life cycles
- Functional managers want complete control of the organizational projects that impact them
- Power struggles
- The tendency of the organization to regress to bad behavior
- Embarking on large, complex programs immediately after or during the implementation of the PMO
- The unwillingness of senior management to make the investment of time to improve the project culture over the long haul
- The PMO lacks an understanding the organization's problems
- Poor definition of the PMO success criteria
- The PMO doesn't understand the organization's culture
- The PMO doesn't understand the stakeholder's needs and expectations
- Not implementing the right type of PMO/degree of control (e.g., supportive/low control, controlling/moderate control, directive/high control)
- Thinking that PMOs can only bring value for mammoth programs
- The PMO is bureaucratic
- Failure to highlight early successes
- The PMO loses wind after the initial gains
- The PMO is seen as the process police/box checkers
- Too many meetings with too little to show
- The PMO lacks an understanding of the organization's strategic plan and fails to align itself with the strategy
- Thinking that what worked at one company will work at another company
- Individuals craving the desire for former positions or status before the implementation of the PMO
- Expecting huge results in a short period of time
How About You?
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'd like to recommend the following book from my friend Bill Dow:
Dow, Bill. The PMO Lifecycle: Building, Running, and Shutting Down. US: Dow Publishing LLC.
If you need to develop a PMO project charter, check out my eBook: Start Writing Your Project Charter Today!