PMO disorder


Some project management teams are highly regimented when it comes to adhering to their organization’s internal processes and protocols. They may have firm hierarchical reporting frameworks and several layers of management to work with on decision-making, budgeting, and other issues. Other PMOs have a little less structure, giving them a more flexible approach to developing strategies, reaching workable solutions, and executing projects.

For those with an aversion to flat organizations or who worry their executive teams don’t provide   enough direction, take heart. It turns out a dash of disorder in the PMO can actually be a good thing. But, like most of life, it’s all about moderation.

The good

An absence of a strict hierarchy can be very empowering to PMPs who might otherwise wither under the thumb of a micro-managing leader. Being expected to make decisions, often quickly and without all the data one would want in front of them, can sometimes push people to higher levels of performance than they would have achieved if there was less pressure moving them forward. The ability to stretch and develop leadership skills is also likely to flourish in a PMO with a fairly flat reporting structure.

With fewer mandated workgroups in the project office and greater flexibility in how connections are made, PMPs may find more efficient ways of working as a team. They’ll have increased opportunities to determine where coordination can be streamlined. Team members may also be more effective in combining their efforts and assigning work to individuals most capable of handling it. This flexibility means the PMO is able to quickly create new channels when issues arise or a new project is added to the roster.

Some companies require additional paperwork (often to compensate for poor inter-department cooperation) or multiple tiers of approvals for hiring and budget requests. When these become excessive, they can interfere with project office activities, particularly when staffing within the PMO is lean. Fewer internal processes stipulated by the organization—some of which have the potential to evolve into unnecessary effort and wasted time—gives the team more opportunity to focus on core activities necessary to move their projects forward.

The bad

When everyone is doing their own thing and activities become disjointed, the entire project office can become extremely inefficient. PMPs may find themselves duplicating each other’s efforts. Critical-path tasks might be dropped because everyone thinks someone else is doing it (and so it never gets done). Stakeholders could be left with a mixed bag of confusing messages if multiple PMPs are handling communication responsibilities without sufficient coordination in the core messaging or timing.

If the various members of the project office don’t adhere to and utilize the same proven project management methodology, it often leads to problems. The potential for processes to become less efficient and for performance to suffer is high. Expectations for how the project should progress likely won’t be uniform across the PMO, project controls won’t match from one area of responsibility to another, and resource management probably won’t transfer cleanly across the various tasks. Successfully executing projects becomes extremely difficult in such a disconnected environment.


Too little structure sometimes leads to budget mayhem. Multiple PMPs drawing from the same bucket of money without a central oversight function—not only to identify potential issues but also to ensure diligent tracking of available and outgoing funds for reporting purposes—may create significant cash flow problems for the PMO and the organization in general. It’s also likely to cause difficulties when trying to gather information to create an initial project budget or when the team must respond to questions about forecasted overages.

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