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Psst... Your PMO is Becoming Irrelevant


 Two ladies talking about the staff reductions in PMO. 

Although they have evolved over time, project management offices (PMOs) go as far back as the 1800s. The PMOs we would recognize today came about in the 1950s and were largely associated with government projects. While they have changed over time as a result of business demand, their overall mandate has stayed largely the same. PMOs provide governance, transparency, reusability, support, and traceability. [1].

From what I have seen, it was circa 2005-2007 when the lean software development movement really began taking hold in the companies in which I was working. As the lean-agile mindset began to take root, the PMO function began to be seen as an innovation inhibitor by the engineers and architects trying to “move fast and break things.” Project management leaders spent a lot of time cleaning up the things that were broken when people moved fast while constantly having to justify their value to the organization. This is still going on today in Fortune 100 companies. The PMO is often seen as the phase gatekeeper, check-box ticker, or a roadblock to getting things done. These are largely self-inflicted wounds and yesterday’s PMO is on its way out. It is no wonder why your PMO is becoming irrelevant.

In this article we talk about the high-level challenges facing today's PMO teams, what agile businesses need from their PMO and project leaders, and what you as a project management professional can do to stay relevant in 2023 and beyond. Hint: It's not creating another cool status report template.


Today’s Challenges 

As of the writing of this article, there is a war in Ukraine. We, as a nation, are emerging from the pandemic, and the economy is creating jobs at a break-neck pace. Inflation is still not under control. The tech sector is hemorrhaging jobs and shrinking some of the bloat in their R&D budgets. Lastly, the wide-spread adoption of AI tools like ChatGPT make it seem like we are in a Cambrian explosion type event. It is very hard to break clear of the noise and find your true North as a project leader/coach. How do you deliver what the organization needs when the organizations we work for have multiple personality disorder? It is in these times that it's simply in our nature to tend to hold on to what has worked for us in the past. We make yesterday perfect and don't understand why we are losing our effectiveness.


What Businesses Need from Project Leaders

Smart business leaders are focused on developing business agility. Business Agility is the ability to compete and thrive in the digital age by quickly responding to market changes and emerging opportunities with innovative, digitally-enabled business solutions. [3] It really is all about organizations shrinking the time between the generation of a great idea and the generation of value from that great idea.

We can call that "time to value" or TTV. If you are in a PMO and your work does not consistently focus on shrinking the TTV then you will eventually be seen as a hinderance. In most situations, great status report templates don't drive customer value. Working solutions do.


Evolution of the PMO: The Value Management Office

According to Scaled Agile, Inc. the Value Management Office (VMO) is defined as an organizational function responsible for facilitating the Lean Portfolio Management process and for fostering operational excellence and lean governance as part of a Lean-Agile transformation. [4]. In a nutshell, today's business environment continues to be one of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA). The legacy PMO's thought-style is too slow and inflexible to be effective in a VUCA world. When the lean-agile mindset is applied to the legacy PMO it yields a team model that focuses on removing non-value-added activities, and impediments to flow, transparency, clarity and strategic alignment. It results in your organization fielding a VMO.


Final Thoughts: How Do You Stay Relevant? 

So, what can PMO's do to stay relevant in 2023? We have identified 6 ways in which your PMO can refocus toward improving the flow of value through the organization.

Six ways to make your PMO Matter
  • Change how you think - Adopt a lean-agile mindset - This is the biggest change that most of us will struggle with. When we are tasked with creating order out of chaos, we tend to lean towards inspection and checklists. In certain situations (when we understand the solution), these two simple tools significantly improve outcomes and are considered mandatory. When we are working to develop a new solution or adapt to a new problem, we need a more flexible approach that supports iterative development toward delivering what the customer needs. The lean agile mindset focuses on reducing waste, encouraging continuous flow, and embracing agile values.

  • Shrink the time to value for work streams your team supports - Pivot your primary focus away from templates and timesheets and towards shrinking the TTV in your company, department, or team.

  • Understand your organization's value streams - Identifying and agreeing on your organization's value streams is usually easier said than done. It will take a lot of effort and interaction with team members and stakeholders to get it done right. However, it is critical to improve the flow of value through your organization. There are many resources available from Scaled Agile, Inc. to help you on this journey.

  • Be prepared to improvise, overcome and adapt - Change makes us uncomfortable, but it is inevitable. We must welcome it and develop the capacity to sense the changes in our environment and adapt our organizations to the new conditions.

  • Be part of the solution, not part of the problem - In large enterprise organizations, workflow problems are complex, nuanced, and just plain difficult to solve. There are fiefdoms, constant org changes, bad actors, and plenty of normal people just trying to stay employed. If, in that environment, someone accused you of being a great team member, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Simply getting a few people that are interested in working together to do the right thing can go a long way towards improving the organizational flow of value. On a daily basis, commit to doing what's best for your customer, your company, and your team. (If that sentence made you throw up a little bit in your mouth, its probably time for you to find a new job.)

  • Help drive organizational clarity and strategic alignment - In the spirit of being part of the solution rather than the problem, your team should always focus efforts on providing leadership with timely, accurate and flexible visibility into organizational performance. When things are all over the place and everyone is scared to say what's working and what's not, leadership needs visibility into organizational performance. Leaders need to understand if we are heading in the right direction or not. The VMO is uniquely positioned and equipped to provide that visibility so that the organization can adjust as necessary.


In short, times have changed and if your PMO hasn't, it is dated at best, obsolete at worst. Further, it is likely reducing your organization's business agility. Take action now to make the changes necessary to improve your organization's performance. 

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  1. Project Management Office (PMO) -,to%20as%20project%20management%20offices.

  2. The Era of Move Fast and Break things is Over - Harvard Business Review.

  3. Business Agility - Scaled Agile, Inc. - © Scaled Agile, Inc. -

  4. The Value Management Office - © Scaled Agile, Inc. -