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Back to the Start: The PMO Principles

Back to the Start: The PMO Principles - Marisa Silva - FuturePMO

By Marisa Silva, Wellingtone

How many times have you been asked what does the P in PMO stand for?

Don’t need to count it, I’ll tell you the answer: probably too many times. Is it Project (Management Office), Programme, Portfolio, People?

You name it. Amongst the several variations, my favourite continues to be “P*sses Me Off”, a funny yet scary and though-provoking indicator of the bad reputation PMOs managed to achieve! Jokes aside, it is not uncommon to find people confused by what a PMO is about and how it differs from other functions in project-based organisations.

At Wellingtone, we like Shakespeare (well, some of us more than others!) and, inspired by his work, agree that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, that is, the name is pretty much irrelevant.

Call the PMO whatever you want because what matters the most is what a PMO can do for you.

There are as many flavours of PMOs as there are projects in the world and while some argue that this lack of standardisation can damage the perception of PMOs, we believe that a PMO’s value comes from its adaptability, enabling it to become a fit-for-purpose entity where by only this way can it be a truly appreciated function. We are all in for (PMO) diversity!

However, regardless of their structure, maturity, focus, whether a centralised or decentralised function, with a team of 10 or a team of 1, there are common traits that make a PMO a PMO. Let’s call them principles.

Principles are fundamental truths, like the law of gravity or the fact that Cristiano Ronaldo is the best player in the world (sorry, I’m Portuguese and this is definitely a principle for us). They are part of our nature and define who we are and how we guide our life. If you are familiar with PRINCE2, you certainly remember that this method includes a couple of principles too – it is the following of these principles that define if you are really using PRINCE2 or not. The same logic can be applied to PMO principles: they define if what you have in front of you is indeed a PMO or just something else.

As part of our APM-accredited PMO Practitioner course development, we had the opportunity to validate our thinking about PMO principles with a community of PMO practitioners and were glad to confirm that they all resonated with our delegates. Taking the challenge further, we decided to put these principles to test by inviting recognised PMO thought leaders to write about each of them and bringing the concept to life based on their experience.

Today, I bring you the complete series, look no further!

  • What makes a PMO a PMO? – Emma-Ruth Arnaz-Pemberton
    Emma, Director of Consulting Services at Wellingtone and Chair of the APM PMO SIG, starts the conversation by clarifying what a principle is and introducing the 5 PMO Principles.
  • PMO Principle #1: Instrument of Integration – Elise Stevens
    Elise, a speaker and podcaster on all-things-project-management, from FixMyProjectChaos, discusses how PMOs are radiators and enablers of integration, breaking departmental and knowledge silos, and bringing together people, processes, and functions to make projects work.
  • PMO Principle #2 Single Source of TruthMilvio DiBartolomeo
    Milvio, author and PMO specialist, introduces the second PMO principle which focus on the role of PMOs as the single source of truth in organisations, the engine room that speaks truth to power and where you can find out the status and health of the projects/programme/portfolio.
  • PMO Principle #3: Serving the CustomerLaura Barnard
    Laura, the PMO lady known for helping organizations use PMOs to drive business transformation and deliver high-impact outcomes, writes about the principle of serving the customer and how the different PMO’s customers’ needs and expectations need to be at the centre of everything the PMO does.
  • PMO Principle #4 Enabling CapabilityMilvio DiBartolomeo
    Milvio continues the conversation by discussing the key role of PMOs in enabling organisational project management capability and how this can be achieved in an effective way.
  • PMO Principle #5 Supporting a Learning OrganisationMilvio DiBartolomeo
    You can see that someone is passionate about PMOs when they are not tired of writing about it. Milvio is a clear example of just that and kindly shares his views on the responsibility of PMOs in supporting a learning organisation in this fifth principle and article.

Now close your eyes and think about your PMO (okay, maybe you don’t need to close your eyes for this but bear with me, let’s make a special moment out of it). To a higher or lower extent, you should be adhering to all the 5 principles already – I hope – but can you identify where your strengths and opportunities for improvement are?

Building your mission around the PMO principles is a powerful way to lead a PMO, drive it forward, and even focus on what really matters when things get tough or unclear. Put these on your wall (at work, just to be clear) and make it your manifesto, your ethos.

Don’t read them and forget them.

Make them principles for the PMO to live by and watch your often-challenged PMO become an indispensable valuable business partner.