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How to avoid becoming a garbage bin PMO.

What should your PMO be good at in termes of services, activities, tools, templates, training, workshops etc etc. ? And thereby also: What should your PMO stop doing? Is your PMO at the risk of becoming a garbage bin PMO?

I find that many PMO´s are struggling to answer these questions. Or as a matter of fact, most PMOs are only trying to answer the first question. And as they develop their PMO services and activities they forget to answer questions # 2. This lead to the PMO becoming a "Garbage bin PMO" thereby dilluting the effect, respect and impact of the PMO

In 2014 I finalysed a 3 year MBA with the Management Challenge titled:

"How to develop a company specific PMO".

The background for the project was the fact that as many as 50% of PMOs do not survive. Literature studies as well as my MBA research project reveled an average PMO age of as little as approx 3 years.

One of the main conclusion of my study was that a PMOs MUST be tailored to the company and industry in which it operetas. While this may be obvious to many of you, in reality this is NOT done to a very high degree. Across all of the PMOs I investigated in Denmark, only 23% of the activities performed by the PMOs have been tailored to the company and industry. For the remaining 77% of the activities a generic approach has been chosen and often the PMO took on what ever request it got (thereby becoming a garbage bin PMO) and NOT carefully selecting and tailoring the activities to the company.

Examples of tailoring PMO activities:

Specifically this means that too many Project life-cycle gate models are not tailored to the product/company. Too many project management tools are not tailored and adjusted for company specific needs and too much standardization of PM reporting, measuring of effect, templates and documentation are forced on to the business units, which the PMO is trying to serve.

PMO maturity:

Much too often the maturity of the company is NOT taken into consideration when designing the PMO. The reason is that the employees of the PMO are already relatively mature in their project and process mindset and they often see a great need for optimization. This leads to them initiation the implementation of too many PMO activities which the remaining organisation is not able to take on and implement. The organisation as a whole may not have the same level of maturity, and this has to be taken into consideration when designing the PMO

When PMO activities are NOT tailored to the company it makes it difficult for the PMO to create a real effect on the business and to be seen as a relevant business partner for strategy and project execution. This again leeds to the organisation not requesting assistance from the PMO, and whenever there is an organisational change or top management is looking for opportunities to optimize, the PMO may be "killed" or its functions dissolve into other functions of the company.

Going back to my first two questions:

What should your PMO be good at? The answer must be: What are the needs of the business? And can you "translate" this business need to a trilormade PMO activity, then you are on your way to succes.

What should you stop dooing? If you can not convince important managers, that your organisation needs to improve this and that aspect of project execution, forget it and stop spending time on this activity, until you succeed with your communication and change management activities and the organisation is ready to implement the PMO activity.

If you want to see all the conclusions and recommendations from my MBA- project please send me a mail :

PMO greatings

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