10 PMO Problems and How to Manage Them

    2=Planning, 4=Control

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One of my popular blog posts is 40 Reasons PMOs Fail. In this article, we go a step further. I highlight 10 of the 40 PMO problems and provide ways to manage them.

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10 PMO Problems and Solutions

1. No project sponsor or project charter for the implementation of the PMO. 

How to manage:

Typically, a senior leader in your organization must make the decision to implement a PMO. Offer to work with the sponsor to develop a project charter. Engage key stakeholders in the development of the charter.

2. The PMO doesn’t understand the organization’s culture. 

How to manage: 

If you are new to the organization, solicit feedback from key stakeholders using the Delphi method or interviews. What are the beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, and actions of individuals involved in projects? What are the results?

3. The PMO doesn’t understand the stakeholder’s needs and expectations. 

How to manage:

Interview the stakeholders. What are their interests? What does each stakeholder expect from the project? 

4. Failure to place the PMO at the right level of the organization.

How to manage:

If you have input into the early discussions concerning the need and placement of a PMO (e.g., Enterprise PMO, IT PMO), solicit feedback on the primary problems related to project management. Ask stakeholders if they believe the organization would be better served by an enterprise PMO or department PMO and why.

5. Not implementing the right type of PMO/degree of control.

How to manage:

Make sure you have done your homework concerning the organization's culture. Although you may wish to implement a directive/high control PMO, your organization may not be ready for significant change. Perhaps start with a supportive/low control structure. Evaluate and transition the PMO to another structure such as controlling/moderate control or directive model/high control later if needed.

6. Passive-aggressive behavior of stakeholders. 

How to manage:

Identify high-powered, high-influence individuals who have a tendency to undermine initiatives. Invite these stakeholders to your meetings with other influential stakeholders. Ask questions to get everyone involved in the discussions of the role of the PMO.

7. Communicating to all the stakeholders in the same manner with the same level of detail. 

How to manage:

Develop a communication plan based on stakeholder's communication preferences. What do you need to communicate about the PMO? When and where will you communicate? How will you communicate?

8. Staffing of the PMO with technical project managers that lack leadership and strategic and business management skills. 

How to manage:

Determine the types of strategic and business management skills needed by the PMO. Develop job descriptions that include the specific requirements and qualifications for technical, strategic, and business management skills. Recruit and staff accordingly.

9. The lack of project management training. 

How to manage:

Determine the strengths and weaknesses of the organization's project management skills. Develop project management courses accordingly. Consider developing an internal certification program:

  • Project Management 101 (fundamentals of project management)
  • Project Management 201 (more advanced topics)
  • Project Management 301 (preparation for the PMP exam)

Award a project management certification when individuals complete the course series.

10. The clashing of beliefs in traditional and agile life cycles. 

How to manage:

Educate stakeholders on the plan-driven life cycle (e.g., predictive, waterfall) and the change-driven life cycle (e.g., agile, adaptive). Discuss the pros and cons of different life cycles. Define a strategy for how the organization will adopt new life cycles. Periodically evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of the life cycles. Evolve and mature the use of the life cycles.

How About You?

Implementing a PMO is not for the faint-hearted; it is in fact a project. Be sure to identify and evaluate your risks in light of your project objectives. Develop and implement the risk response plans. Periodically review the risks and the effectiveness of the responses.

Need some help with your PMO?

I have implemented three PMOs. I know from experience how difficult it can be to facilitate change within an organization. If you need some help, let's talk. We can begin with a 30-minute discovery call to discuss your needs.

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