PMO Leaders: Are You Listening to Your Staff?

New research shows a gap between PMO directors and staff. The most recent study carried out by PM Solutions Research, Project Management Skills for Value Delivery, has just been released. As we crunched through the data, a few interesting items concerning the PMO emerged.

“Leaders of the PMO (Director, Manager, Head, etc.)” formed the largest group of respondents to the study by far, at 29 percent. Their impact on the final results of the study was therefore consequential. And, when looking at the skills they thought were most important, their opinions closely tracked the top skills valued by high-performing companies, indicating that PMO leaders are aware of which skills contribute to performance. However, when we compare the leaders’ opinions to those of PMO staff (a smaller group of study participants, at 6 percent), there’s a notable and consistent difference. On all but one skill, PMO staff members provided a lower rating than their bosses.

The skills marked with an asterisk (*) were also the top four most important for high-performing organizations in the study. High performance was determined by participants’ scores on a number of project management performance measures, as shown below. It’s interesting that PMO staff members also scored their organizations lower on every single performance measure in this portion of the study:

Project Management Performance

Extent organization realizes the following results (average rating from 1 to 5, where 1=no extent, 5=very great extent):

It’s not unusual for organizational leaders and executives to hold differing views about what’s most important and how the organization is faring. We saw this play out in our previous study on project manager skills in 2015, as well. And it’s important that PMO leaders do not discount the views of the staff. As the people with more up-close knowledge of schedules, budgets, and quality as projects progress, the staff members may have information that is lacking at the top. In fact, successful PMOs in some of our past research have been those who endeavor to close this information/communications gap, flattening the organization to give more voice to staff members while making sure that leaders are not just hearing what they want to hear.

Many organizations think they have solved this perception gap by implementing various software solutions—chat, scoreboards, dashboards, and so on. But in my experience, these tools are not enough. It’s telling that the most valued skills by high performing organizations fall on the “soft” side of the ledger—the art of project management, not the science—including things like communication skills, team collaboration skills, and being trustworthy. No amount of data automation will replace conversations between the people who perform the work and trusted managers. And that’s a good thing! Trust is something we will not be outsourcing to AI any time soon, if ever.

For more information about this study, see the last several entries on our blogs at and or download the executive summary here.

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