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Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Terminated PMO

Has yet another project management office disappeared in your office? What could have caused its untimely demise? According to Eight to Late author Kailash Awati, this may be a case for none other than Sherlock Holmes himself. Awati has written a new addition to the Holmes story line, and this case deals with terminated PMOs. At the beginning of the story, Homles and Dr. Watson are combing over an office. Homles notes how important it is not to guess about why the PMO failed, but to instead search for the truth and learn from it. Certainly, the project could have failed because processes were not followed or the proper tools were not used, but we must look at each project individually to see what went awry. “I see you are perplexed, Watson. Let me put it another way, a PMO may require that project managers comply with certain process, but it cannot enforce compliance.” “So you think the PMO failed because it could not get project managers to follow processes?” “Yes, Watson. But experience tells me that although that may be a visible symptom, it is not the cause. You’re a doctor so I don’t need to tell you that identifying symptoms is necessary but, to cure the disease, one must find the cause. It is all too easy to label the symptom as the cause – many consultants have done so, and have thus made recommendations that are worse than useless.” “Worse than useless? I don’t understand, Holmes.” “Yes, worse than useless. If organisations focus on curing symptoms rather than causes, they will end up exacerbating the underlying dysfunctions. For example, if a consultant mistakenly labels the fact that project mangers [sic] did not follow processes as the cause, the organisation may put in place procedures that forces managers to comply with processes. That, as you will no doubt appreciate, is doing exactly the wrong thing – it will only make things worse.” Holmes continues by saying that many businesses are indeed businesses and are not the army. By this, he means that you can give a group of people specific directions as to how to complete a successful project, but you cannot force them to follow these directions. While Watson suggests the answer to the mystery is a simple case of “a failure of enforcement and compliance,” Holmes believes the real solution is hidden on “the executive floor.” Once on the executive floor, Holmes points out to the executives and project team members that simply having a process that has worked in the past does not guarantee repeated success. He continues to say that if your company claims to be unique, using standard processes in counterproductive because, by definition, being unique means going against the standard. Indeed, Holmes had cracked the case. “Sir, your PMO failed because it attempted to transplant practices that allegedly worked elsewhere into your unique – dare I say special – organisation.” Hopefully, Awati’s revamping of a classic character will help your company crack the case of your own PMO issues.

About Anne Grybowski

Anne is a former staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success, with a degree in Media Studies from Penn State University.

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