Friday, September 28, 2012

Controlling PMO Cancer

The swarm of project coordinators and the meetings they demanded multiplied at a rate that would make E. coli blush. "Dependency, dependency, we must understand all dependencies!" they shrieked. Spawned by the CIOs need for centralized control - presumably as a means to minimize risk and get visibility - the PMO was in fact undermining progress.

The drag their efforts imposed on people doing real work was frustrating. Worse, it sapped valuable mind share and time. And soaked up budget (hey CFO, are you listening?).

Their methods destroyed accountability, too. This in turn raised the importance of the PMO's existence as a mediator. Who else was going to resolve, through endless meetings, interviews, inspections, PowerPoint, and revised project plans, the missed handoffs resulting from their meddling?

In unleashing this cancer, management failed to realize that the organization - as a complex system - was unmanageable this way. At a tiny fraction of the cost of bloated PMO, superior coordination can be achieved by using an agent model, not a centralized control model. Here's how.

Each team must follow a simple set of rules:
  • Publish your milestones, 
  • Negotiate milestones with your dependencies,
  • Trust the milestones of your dependencies in your own plans, 
  • By all means, make your milestones.
Autonomy, predictability and transparency inoculate against the PMO cancer. And guess where the leaders should focus? Enabling - not mandating, not demanding - predictability and transparency.

If your CIO is diving into the PMO rabbit hole, isn't it time for an intervention?

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