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The PMO – What Does it Stand For?

PMOI have been told by others, both inside and outside the profession and even that ultimate source Wikipedia that it stands for:

  • Programme Management Office
  • Project Management Office
  • Portfolio Management Office

The P can mean different things to different organisations which is what often leads to confusion around what the PMO does or should be going for the organisation.

I want to take a different approach to the concept of PMO. Let’s do out of the box thinking before we dive in. To that end let me suggest at its broadest, PMO is a concept of behaviour that can be expressed in a formula.

P+M=O where the P is people the M is motivation and the O is opportunity.

Yes that is what I truly believe it stands for.

The key predictor for a successful project is the quality and engagement of the people plus the level of motivation or commitment and when both are high we are on our way to an extraordinary opportunity.  We may have to experiment to get the quantities of P and M correct but when we do, the O is outstanding.

I have strong beliefs in how a PMO should be set up to create that opportunity.  The opportunities have to be there for all people/stakeholders so they can answer positively to “What’s in it for me?”.  If I were to summarise this grouping of stakeholders at a high level it would fall into three buckets to me.

In bucket one, you have yourself, in bucket two you have the organisation including the project team and in bucket three the client.  Ideally you’ll focus on bucket three first to understand the real value of the PMO to the people who benefit from it the most. Here is where our opportunities lie, some obvious, others that need unearthing.

Let’s get back to the formula P+M=O.  I have learned over my years that I cannot motivate others, they can only motivate themselves.  I think that is true for all of us, we cannot motivate others.  So how do we get them to self-motivate. That is the tough part!

I think in order to build a PMO that lives up to the formula you need to start with a Vision.  Yes I said the V-word! Overused and sometimes not as well understood as it may be.  But think for a moment what it would be like to have a clear, aspirational vision that drove what you did every day and made a positive difference, for you, for your organisation and your client.  Wouldn’t that be the kind of place, the kind of PMO you would want to work in?

Think about your current PMO today and answer the following questions that help explore P+M=O:

  • What do our customers need from the PMO? (What value or benefit do they gain from the PMO?)
  • What do our customers REALLY need from the PMO? (What REALLY makes a difference to them, say, what top three things)
  • What does our organisation need from the PMO?
  • Is our organisation committed to gaining benefits and value from our PMO?
  • What do we need to change in order to deliver or improve our value and benefits?
  • Are we ready as a PMO team to pursue opportunities that our customers need?

Tough questions, yet without these insights, will the PMO ever be really ready to seize the opportunities that make a real difference to the organisation and our customers?


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About Carl Sergeant

Carl Sergeant
Carl Sergeant, PMP, Senior Instructor, ESI International, brings an entrepreneurial, results-focused viewpoint based on more than three decades of project, programme and portfolio management experience to his ESI client engagements. An internationally respected thought leader, Carl has been recognsed as one of the fifty most powerful and influential project management professionals in the world by the Project Management Institute’s (PMI®) PM Network magazine.

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