The Adaptive PMO

I’ve been hearing the term ‘adaptive PMO’ for a while and wanted to pull some bits together from various places that help us to understand what is meant by that term.

It’s simple really:



Of course the PMO should be changing and flexing to serve the business and the programme and project elements.

It requires a few things – the most important perhaps is understanding how the business is changing, in what direction it’s heading. Then there’s the act of flexing and changing the PMO itself – the who, what, why, where, when and hows come into it.

There’s already a lot of work available for you to read, especially around business agility and principles here at PMO Flashmob.

When I was asked to speak at a conference in Slovenia earlier this year, I was able to pull together many different aspects of a PMO being adaptive – all from the meetups and events we’ve held at PMO Flashmob over the last few years.

I grouped them into three areas:

With approaches, it’s all been about Agile recently – with more and more projects and project teams delivering in the style/mindset/approach/spirit of Agile, that caught a lot of PMOs off guard a bit. Suddenly the business was trying out a different delivery approach and for a lot of PMOs that meant there was some thinking to do around things like governance arrangements; different reporting styles and a whole host of Agile artefacts to get their heads around.

We’ve done a lot of sessions over the years on this subject and also produced the report which has helped people with their thinking.

We’re still coming to terms with Agile and how the PMO can incorporate it alongside more traditional project approaches – what has in effect, become a hybrid approach to delivering projects.

The question is – could we have been better prepared? Rather than reacting to something like this, could we have seen it coming down the line? Could preparations have been made? Stakeholders engaged earlier?

Will we ready for the next thing?

The next grouping was about the PMO as a service provider. The model where the PMO puts the business at the centre and provides services based on what is really needed rather than what best practice tells us a PMO should be.



The service model of a PMO is not just about the services it offers; it’s also about knowing how those services are working and making improvements on what the PMO is providing. The improvements and decisions to stop certain services are all in the spirit of an adaptive PMO.

With the PMO as a Service Provider, we’re back to that adaptive behaviour of thinking first.

If the PMO provides services based on what is really needed rather than what best practice tells us a PMO should be, it stands to reason that understanding what the best practice is first is probably a good step to take.

There are of course loads of services available in best practice manuals – P3O’s are listed here:

And within the newer best practice from AIPMO (Association for International PMOs), it goes one step further to look at how services are designed, piloted, implemented, improved on and even closed down.

Understanding the best practice first enables the PMO to start thinking about what is enough and good enough for their own business and their customers. The PMO Lab series we did recently gets into some of this stuff.

The final grouping was about Tomorrow’s World stuff. There’s been lots of activity around automation technology, AI, Data, all that kind of stuff. What if this stuff was the next Agile?

What if its these kind of things that the business will wake up to tomorrow and want to try out in the business. Will the PMO be prepared? At least to have the conversations and ask the questions of senior stakeholders?

Stand Up for PMO

We had a great session at the Stand Up for PMO event last year in Manchester – next one coming up in Bristol –  where part of the Unconference agenda was about evolving the PMO.

The session from Adam Skinner was a look at how the automated PMO could work in an organisation. Automation that includes good quality data; personalised reporting for stakeholders; insights from predictive analytics; more time released from robotic process automation and ultimately a PMO that utilises both technology and well-cultivated knowledge to provide a totally different service than we are capable of providing today.

The automated PMO is not something that exists years in the future; it’s already starting to happen now.

In the final slide, it’s back to the thinking part.

I think that sums up what is so interesting about PMOs, the intelligence and thinking required to make sure it continues to be fit for purpose. In fact it’s more than being about fit for purpose, it’s about making sure that the PMO helps the business to understand what it’s whole purpose is when it comes to managing change in the organisation. There’s going to be more unpredictability in businesses, more innovation, more change – we would be naive to think that won’t affect the PMO.


About Lindsay Scott

Lindsay is the founder of PMO Flashmob and a Director at PMO Learning - the sister company to PMO Flashmob and the best training company for PMO people in the world! She's also the creator of London's first dedicated PMO Conference; Director of Arras People and PMO enthusiast. Loves dogs and gin.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *