PMOs: The “Not So Secret” Secret Sauce to Success

Copyright 9.8.2014: Scientific Cowboys – Authors: Nancy C Everitt, PMP; Nicole S Bond, PMP

Overview: Project Management is a game changer,  often this is one area that benefits from and external perspective and leadership. “A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.” Gen G. S. Patton

-The Editor-


Project Management is a critical success factor of top performing organizations and often a differentiator for effective start ups.

Kenny Rogers song was spot on “…know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em…”

Why? Focus, accountability, ROI.

In many organizations project management is relegated to IT and Construction projects, while other strategic projects are left managed solely by functional ops. This often baffles me when I know that managing the projects in operational departments can be so challenging for the existing staff.

In this article we share 5 Secrets for PMO Success. These secrets coupled with disciplined action can transform an organization committed to change and high performance.


»Secret #1: Recognizing the Need

For any level of PMO success, there must be a leadership champion; preferably this is at the highest level of the organization. Without C Level support, Project Management efforts are doomed.

Best Case: CEO, COO, CFO and other Cs are enraptured with a PMO because they have an organization dedicated to strategic achievement of goals and projects.

Worst Case: One member of the management team or a VP is the Champion and the other leaders are ambivalent or actively under mining success. (Run project manager, run…)


»Secret #2: LEAN…Very Lean

Choose a lean approach. Except for very large organizations, most cannot afford robust PMOs. So create a lean mean project management machine right out of the gate. Look for Project Managers that have mastered Project Management but possess an ability to tailor tools and processes effectively for your organization. Quick, nimble and lean.

At the core,  Lean Project Management focuses on the reduction of waste known as the word “muda” in Japanese. Waste is any activity that consumes resources without adding or creating value for the customer.

Best Case: Your Project Manager understands project management, understands the foundational goals of your organization and tailors tools and techniques to lead your teams to success through accountability.

Worst Case: Your Project Manager is rigid and follows a cookbook approach that alienates your project teams.


»Secret #3: Define Success – Clarity

Ensure that you define success using a SMART definition (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timebound). Without a clear definition of success it’s impossible to evaluate success and failure against your established ROI requirements.

Best Case: Functional and Project Management Leadership clarify metrics and goals to guide a corporate portfolio and projects are rigorously evaluated to optimize organizational investment.

Worst Case: Projects are chartered without regard to organizational value and there is no budget accountability. These are the projects that creep and do not meet their scope, budget and ROI. This scenario is unfortunately a very common scenario.


»Secret #4: Accountability

Accountability…the buck stops here. Often Project Team members have other organizational roles and struggle with priorities. When chartering a Project Team,  the Sponsor and Project Manager need to be able to clearly convey expectations of all team members and what happens with non performance.

Best Case: Clearly communicate internally with functional managers and all agree in advance what resource expectations will be. If someone can’t or won’t perform, remove them from the project team; however ensure that contingency reserves are available to hire the resource needed.

Worst Case: Project Team members are assigned to a team and do not perform. The functional manager is not supportive and there are no additional resources for the project.


» Secret #5: Authority

Okay this is the secret sauce: Authority. Providing your Project Managers with equal to or greater authority than the functional managers ensures that the Project Manager can make the needed decisions and changes necessary to achieve project success. An organization with high Project Management authority is called “projectized”.  While effective, this can be scary for some as the balance of power shifts when an organization recognizes that 90% of all work can be categorized as projects and managed differently.

Best Case: Projectized organization, the PMO Director leads the Portfolio with input from Sr. Management and has the authority to assign and secure the needed resources for project success and remove under performers.

Worst Case: Project Managers are present but not formally recognized within an organization or relegated to IT or Construction for specific projects. These Project Managers are reliant upon a functional manager and have no direct pipeline to Sr. Management.



Project management is a game changer with the right conditions and inputs.

Project management is not an elixir for an under performing organization, and will not transform your team from dysfunction to discipline.

There are some bumps in the road. A good project manager can help the team plan for the bumps, cost the bumps, make contingencies for the bumps and navigate the bumps. Without authority, support and resources this is but a dream.

At the end of the day, an organization that is not documenting their plans and keeping score, will rarely achieve their highest level of performance for the organization.


»Takeaway: What next? As a leader in your organization, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do we recognize Project Management as a tool or a strategy?
  2. Is Project Management given the authority to succeed?
  3. Do we as management support the removal of under performers on projects or enable the behavior?
  4. Does my current team have the necessary skills in Project Management to succeed?
  5. Am I willing to invest in a step wise process to creating a PMO and a process for sustainable success?


TIP: We know this is hard. Feel free to contact the HEOPS Enterprise PMO for a no cost consultation on PMO start up or Project Management refinement in your organization.


About the Authors:

Nancy C. Everitt, MBA is the President and CEO of HEOPS, Inc. and PMO Director Ms. Everitt is lead strategist to Clients’ on the design and fulfillment of patient access solutions such as network development and provider engagement, quality analytics, Medicare Advantage STARS strategy, disruption analysis and mapping. Ms. Everitt has been involved in the strategy of each engagement and provides significant perspective on industry best practice. Questions on this article may be addressed directly to

Nicole  S Bond PMP, is the  Senior Project Manager in the HEOPS Project Management Office (PMO) and works with clients to plan and implement winning Network Development Initiatives and other health plan operations projects. To discuss this article with the author you may contact



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