What makes a PMO an Enabler of Change?

At the last PMO Flashmob we had a Learn and Live session – a PMO Cafe!

World Cafe’s are a way of getting a bunch of people to focus on a particular topic and to talk through what their views and opinions are. One of the menu items was, ‘What makes a PMO an Enabler of Change?’. This question stemmed from the PMO Manifesto which aims to show the PMO as a progressive, proactive function within project management within an organisation.

The PMO will uncover better ways of improving, governing, controlling, and assuring change within an organization, leading by example and helping others to accomplish it.

We wanted to explore the question and see what kind of ideas the group came up with. Incidentally, many of the people who come to the PMO Flashmob are from a wide variety of backgrounds which always makes for an interesting conversation.

What makes a PMO an Enabler of Change?

#1 The level of project management maturity in an organisation

The PMO can only been seen as an Enabler of Change if the organisation allows it to do so. It largely depends on the maturity of a business and it’s project management capability. The higher the maturity, the more likely that the remit of the PMO is there to support change in whatever form it takes, at any level – project, programme or portfolio. P3M3 was mentioned – if you haven’t come across it before, it is worth taking a look, especially if you’re unsure about how mature your organisation is.

In fact the phrase, “Enabler of Change” is opposite to “Restraining Delivery” in the PMO Manifesto and it is indicative of PMOs that are there to look beyond stats reporting and ensuring project managers are following the standards. It is about the functions and services that really add value to the project organisation – like robust forecasting, resource capability planning, interdependency management, reusing organisational and project knowledge to really ‘learn the lessons’ from past implementations. In order to provide services like this, the organisation has to be ready.

#2 Supporting the people with structure

Project management is all about the people (and of course process and tools…) and a PMO that is an enabler of change is about supporting the people who are implementing the changes. The PMO has to have the right processes and tools in place that help, not hinder. The PMO also maintains the vision of the project organisation. If an organisation wants to work in a particular way, the PMO enables that – regardless of what the best practice external to the organisation might say. It is about the PMO instinctively knowing what will work for the people it supports, and this comes from experience.

The PMO also supports the ability of the organisation to integrate the workstreams (especially in a programme setting), avoid silo working and allow the organisation to see the interdependencies, the risks and the bigger picture. The PMO also enables consistent communication and translation, from project to project or from project to programme and portfolio. Who else in the organisation has the ability to see both the detail and helicopter views? Which entity ensures consistency in management information reporting from the bottom to the top of a project organisation?

The PMO has an important role in helping people learn from past experiences. The ‘lessons learnt’ is still a tough nut to crack for many organisations, and believe me, the PMO is still working on a solution that will really work and become embedded within the organisation’s culture. In the meantime, the PMO acts as a ‘dot connector’. From their role as a ‘overviewer’ of project activity, they have seen many more projects in their work than any one project manager. The PMO wants to use these past insights and share what they have seen when it is the right time to use it.

It doesn’t matter how the project organisation is set up or how the people within it want to work. The PMO’s role is there to guide, support and enable the people to deliver as well as they can.

#3 The PMO brand doesn’t enable change but it certainly can stop us

Whilst strictly not answering the question – What makes a PMO an Enabler of Change? one of the main discussion points was the problem PMOs have in the past coming back to bite them.

In the early days a PMO is created, it supports projects and starts becoming a reporting service with a whiff of ‘checklist Charlie’ or ‘PMO police’ about it. Fast forward a few years and the PMO is trying to respond to the changes in an organisation, adjusting the services it offers to bring greater value to the business.

But no one will allow them to forget the past. Re-education and a shrugging off of the ‘PMO police’  is going to take a while. In the meantime the ‘enabler of change’  tag is a long way off, a pipe dream to many.

It’s time for the PMO to think about its brand; what does ‘enabling change’ mean to their specific organisation?, how do the services manifest themselves?, what are the tangible benefits of being a EoC to the projects and the organisation? They need to understand these answers and look inwards and ask honestly, are they up for the job with the current people they have? If not, how do they change? Indeed is the PMO capable of change itself?



The PMO Cafe is not about having all the right answers, for us, it is about having the conversation – starting the discussion and understanding the different challenges the flashmobbers face. It’s also about throwing up the next lot of questions that allow us to take the conversation further.

The answers start coming the deeper we delve into an area – and that’s the beauty of PMO flashmob, there aren’t many places you can be having these conversations in the first place. Join us at a future PMO flashmob and see for yourself.


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.


  1. Good posting Lindsay, however I would challenge you to expand your thinking on the potential strategic value of the PMO well beyond this.

    I consult in Organizational Dynamics & Design and recently finished an engagement for a client where we took a mature PMO, along with OCM, BPM, EA, Service Management and BA Teams and formed a new functional unit based on the Business Relationship Management (BRM) model (Calling it Business Engagement Services). This new unit entirely focuses on “Business Strategy & Outcome Optimization” with the PMO having a role from “Concept through Operationalization”. Everyone focuses on the full lifecycle of strategy and its successful realization (not technology). I could go on in a great more detail, but the notion is that the PMO is more than project resourcing, scheduling and spend management.



  2. Hi Richard, thanks for the comment. Very interesting insight you’ve just shared – I would definitely say that organisation is matured! In my experience though there are LOTS of organisations that would like to get to this but either (a) don’t have the foresight (b) takes too much effort to get there.

    I seem to have a lot of conversations lately about the wonders of portfolio management / portfolio office and how it is the mecca for PMO. In reality they’re still getting to grips with good project delivery or arranging themselves into programmes.

    I would certainly welcome your presence at a future pmo flashmob – perhaps you would be open to leading a session of somekind?

    Thanks again

  3. Hi Lindsay. Your observations jibe with mine. Would be happy to join your “mob”. Let me know more about the next one.

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