Doctor Project Forum – the PMO as Dictator

October 2010

Dear Doctor Project,

My organization has had a PMO in place for about 6 years. There have always been complaints from Program Managers, Project Managers and Sponsors regarding too much process and too many documents to complete. I am in a position to provide some advice to them though I’m not certain they’ll “listen”. Nevertheless, I think I need to try.

Here’s a recent example. We’re in a series of planning sessions for a new project. We’re also working with a vendor. We need to agree on the scope of the project and then create a high-level project plan that will show the interdependencies between us. This process will also generate a Business Case and a Business Requirements Document. The PMO came into one of these meetings and spent considerable time trying to convince us to follow their process and to complete all of their documents. It seems like a lot of work and no one on this team can see any benefit to completing it.

What do you advise I should say to the PMO so they understand that they are not being helpful? I would appreciate any insights you can provide.

What do you advise I should say to the PMO so they understand that they are not being helpful? I would appreciate any insights you can provide.


The Internal Consultant

Dear Internal Consultant,

The 2010 PMO Research report published by Business Improvement Architects indicated that many PMOs act more as a gate-keeper of information than the more important role of coaching and mentoring project managers, program managers, sponsors and project teams. I like to call these “PMOs as Dictators”. Much greater success and acceptance in the organization is derived from “PMO as Facilitator”.

Nevertheless, I’m not entirely certain that your PMO was wrong in requesting your team to follow a process and complete certain documents. I think what was missing is their approach. Why not ask the PMO why they believe this team should follow the process and complete the documents. What will be the benefit to the team? (Not just the PMO). You can also reverse this questions by asking the PMO what they believe will be the consequences to project success by not following process and completing these documents.

In order to reduce resistance the PMO should consider undertaking some research. They can start by meeting with Sponsors, Program Managers, Project Managers and Project Teams. In these meetings they’ll ask them what their issues, concerns and challenges are regarding the on-going management of projects. The PMO should listen carefully and address these. Often the lack of process and documentation creates their problems. This approach will appear as helpful and more representative of a coaching role than a command and control role. The PMO can more easily “sell” their process and documents if they can link them to helping their customers overcome a problem.

Let me know how this approach works.

Yours Sincerely,

Doctor Project

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Michael Stanleigh

Michael Stanleigh, CMC, CSP, CSM is the CEO of Business Improvement Architects. He works with leaders and their teams around the world to improve organizational performance by helping them to define their strategic direction, increase leadership performance, create cultures that drive innovation and improve project and quality management. Michael’s experience spans public and private sector organizations in over 20 different countries. He also delivers presentations to businesses and conferences throughout the world. In addition to his consulting practice and global speaking he has been featured and published in over 500 different magazines and industry publications.

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