The Project Office: Not a Free Lunch

istock_000001077786xsmall.jpgHello PM Bloggers.  I have been away from the site for a few months and I have been playing catch up on all the inputs since then. WOW, there is a lot of wisdom out there.  Reading these blogs is almost equivalent to actually experiencing the trials and tribulations of real world projects.  I think the PMI should award PDUs for reading and participating in this dialog. Where else can you find opinions and exchanges about fast swimming in mud, hollow bunnies, multicolored thinking hats, and puff: a project office in three steps? Great stuff!!! Thanks Kimberly for wringing this exquisite stuff out of us.

As the blogger of the week, I am suppose to blog something sensible and worthy of this fine intellectual community. Let’s see now, how about project offices. Randy does a fine job telling us about how great they are but: :
In my experience, project offices are not a free lunch and can, in fact, be a slippery slope. Every time I see an article or book about project offices, they are offered as the ultimate answer to organizational project objectives, that is, the alignment of business strategy, project expertise and project methodology.  However, I believe project offices can easily impair project endeavors as much or more than they help. The project offices I knew started with the premise that the project and the project managers were out of control and something needed to done to control and standardized the processes. 

The project office often takes the attitude that project managers need to be shown how to do their job better. I can still hear the refrain now, ” The Project Office is here to help you be successful”.  What should have been a resource of mentorship, guidance and methodology somehow turned quickly into a police action seeking out non-compliance to the policies, procedures and plans. Can you think of a quicker way to kill motivation and creativity in an organization that depends upon innovation, speed and agility to remain competitive?

Project offices sometimes add more policies, procedures  and approvals in their attempt to control, align and standardize the project lifecycle.  Establishing a project office in an agile driven project environment can be especially difficult and even detrimental to organizational competitiveness. Establishing a project office is a difficult and multi-step process at best especially in an existing organization.

Of course, some project offices probably work very well, but my experience is many don’t.  I guess what I am saying is don’t go off thinking that project management nirvana is establishing a project office because the literature says so. Make damn sure that establishing a project office will add to your bottom line, is compatible with the culture and that you are capable of building one that will work as intended because this could be one of the most difficult and expensive projects you will ever undertake.  



4 thoughts on “The Project Office: Not a Free Lunch”

  1. User Avatar

    Hi Frank,

    Great article. First I agree that your blog is PDU worthy. Second, your concern that Project Management white papers or bloggers state that PMO’s solve all problems and cure all ills. Not true. The PMI study on multi-project PMO’s suggests that 50% of the PMO’s may be struggling to show value.

    Looking forward to your next blog.

  2. User Avatar

    Great comments Kimberly,

    The project champ should no doubt be the Sponsor. Without her, the project is toast.

    The project Guru becomes a group of Gurus when there are many projects to service. This group of Gurus is directed by management to make the yellow project plan look like the blue project plan and the green project plan so all the project plans look the same for managment to read. That’s whan the group of Gurus becomes know as the Project Management Office or better known as the Project Police.

  3. User Avatar

    Excellent reading your blog, Frank! The whole name “Project Management Office” sounjds weighty and bureaucratic. I think a better model is to have a Project Management Champion (PMC) who helps the rest of the organization, including execs, appreciate and support the project managers. Also could use a Project Management Guru who can facilitate the establishment of sensible processes, coach project managers on applying them, and enable them to keep their skills sharp by sharing best practices and new developments in the field. MUCH more useful! Our language shapes our thinking. Let’s use more constructive terms! – Kimberly

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