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Fatal PMO Misconceptions

jan schiller pmo Feb 18, 2021
Why PMOs fail, what a PMO Leader must learn

Despite your best-laid plans, communications and focus on delivering value, misconceptions about your project management office (PMO) can exist about nearly every aspect of the PMO. Don’t let those myths develop; perception is reality.

(Originally published on PMWorld 360 Magazine)


Misconceptions about PMOs abound, so keep an eye out for these:

1.    No news is good news. Receiving feedback about your PMO or hearing people talk about your PMO suggests your PMO is making an impact.

2.    Silence is acceptance. Rarely is this the case, so be sure to start engaging conversations and pay attention to differing points of view. Listening should not be confused with silence.

3.    The PMO’s processes must be complete before the PMO can deliver value. Involve your stakeholders in refining the processes you are asking them to apply before those processes become the basis for evaluating project success. A few impactful processes to start are better than a repository filled with every process.

4.    A big budget indicates a good plan. While big budgets may support a longer schedule or higher quality, a skilled and experienced project manager ensures the budget is effectively utilized.

5.    Auditing results reveals the same things as auditing processes. A process may comply with the highest standards and still produce results that fail to meet expectations, especially when the project’s environment changes while the project is in progress. Distinguish between ‘what’ and ‘how’.

6.    Following a best practice suggests an experienced project manager. Remember the distinction between sharing information and successfully applying that information. The first requires reading and listening; the second requires training.

7.    Project tracking is the same as project management. Managing a project requires a plan that supports predictions and informed decisions.

8.    Project managers must be subject matter experts in their project’s solution space. Project managers must be experts in all things project management. While effectiveness does increase as knowledge grows, a talented project manager can excel without the expertise. Analysts must be subject matter experts.

9.    Anyone using a project management tool is a project manager. A nice Gantt chart or meeting agenda does not necessarily guarantee an experienced project manager created them.

10.  Standardization requires rigor or rigidity. Standards provide a framework for flexibility. A country’s road signs are standardized; how you travel from one point to the next towards your destination is up to you.

11.  Standardized project processes require standardized leadership styles. A great leader adapts to their environment without compromising standards.

12.  Project insight is the same project oversight. Higher quality is delivered with project insight.

13.  The cost of helping a project in need is greater than the financial loss that would be incurred if it continued to flounder or failed. Usually quite remarkably the opposite when the project contributes to a strategy. A myth largely in part to the misplaced notion of sunk costs.

14.  Schedule, scope and budget are all that a project manager needs to manage. There are six other areas that need to be managed, most important of which is the team. People do the work.

15.  PMO success is directly related to the number of advanced services it offers. Only if the basics have been accomplished or have a higher priority than advanced topics.

16.  Proper planning prevents poor performance. Only for those project elements within a project manager’s or organization’s control. This is related to the myth that everything is in control when a project manager is assigned to the project (planning takes time).

17.  A great process applied by talented people produces great results. When you pit people against process, process wins. Regardless of their talent, intentions or initiative, people cannot out-perform bad processes.

18. If I build the PMO, people will come. Creating demand for your PMO’s services requires understanding your stakeholders and a lot of effort executing a thoughtful organizational change plan. Clearly demonstrating the value of those services is paramount.


Identifying misconceptions early and working to change perceptions of your PMO play a very important part in ensuring your PMO is viewed as a valuable and crucial part of your organization. What misconceptions have you worked to correct?