PM Earth

A Directive Project Office PMO

27 October 2007

Directive Project Office PMO

A directive PMO is fundamentally different from the other three types of PMOs. General, supportive, and controlling PMOs will not be running any projects, or will run a very few special projects. But a directive PMO runs all, or almost all, of an organization's projects.

There are two common types of directive PMOs:

A directive PMO that simply runs all projects within the organization

A directive PMO that runs all projects that cut across departmental lines, but that allows projects that affect only one department to be run by a project manager in that department

In a directive PMO, the project managers work for the PMO. They are assigned to projects by the PMO and report to the PMO as their direct supervisor. As a result, directive PMO will have a larger staff than a PMO of any other type in an organization of the same size. In addition to teams to provide general, supportive, and controlling services, the directive PMO will also need a staff of project managers to run projects directly.

Project team members, on the other hand, may or may not work for the PMO. The directive PMO can take one of two approaches:


Project team members may work for the PMO itself, in which case the PMO will have a very large staff. This approach is best for organizations that do almost all work as projects.


Project team members may work for different departments, but be assigned to projects either on a temporary, full-time basis or on a part-time basis. This approach is best when an organization does mostly production work, and a minority of total effort within the organization is spent on projects.

It is also possible to combine these two approaches. For example, a project team might be comprised of a project manager from the PMO, internal staff drawn from departments, and specific experts or skilled workers retained by the PMO as employees or contractors.

A directive PMO focuses on:


Ensuring projects deliver acceptable results on time and within budget


Developing and maintaining a staff of project managers sufficient for the work to be done, and also a full staff of project

team members, if they report to the PMO


Reducing cost by centralizing services

The directive services are the activities that perform those three core functions.

The directive PMO also uses general and supportive services. General services are used to:


Ensure communication of key project information through status reporting and updating of project plans


Standardize projects through adoption and maintenance of methodology, standards, processes and tools


Keep technical systems running through maintenance of software, databases, and the knowledge base

The directive PMO uses supportive services to:


Improve and maintain project management capability through training, mentoring, and project support


Reduce the cost of staff retention through professional development

Keep business systems running through staff administration and account management

Publicity for general and supportive services is simplified because, as the direct supervisor of the project managers, the


PMO can simply direct its team members to use the services.

A directive PMO faces a peculiar challenge in operating controlling services. Establishing governance rules is not a problem, but performing assessments, project reviews, and project audits can be. The problem is one of independence.

Because the PMO runs the projects, its controlling activities end up being the PMO evaluating itself. Without independence, bias can enter the evaluation process, invalidating the results of the assessment, review, or audit. Even if the results are not biased, they are suspect, because, in the field of auditing, a lack of independence is an immediate cause for concern.

The directive PMO can address the issue of independence and arrange for proper assessments, reviews, and audits in three different ways:


Maintain a small, independent audit staff. Here, the audit group is within the PMO, but auditors do not work on projects.


The auditors spend all their time on project audits or reviews, or on assessments. In this situation, it may be best if the audit manager reports directly to the PMO steering committee, at least on any issues where the audit results concern the PMO manager.


Develop a system of rotation. This approach, which is widely used among organizations that accept the ISO 9000 series of quality standards, allows an active project manager to audit projects, as long as he is not working on, and has not worked on, the particular projects he is auditing. For example, project managers may be asked to act as auditors on short-term assignment between other projects.


Use an auditing group outside the PMO. The organization may have an Internal Audit department separate from the PMO, or may hire consulting auditors when full independence is needed. Routine reviews and assessments, which require less independence, are performed by a review or quality assurance group within the PMO.

To learn more about the issue of independence, see Reviews and Audits in the advanced learning section of MPOM™.


In the field of Project Management Tools, there is a division of opinion regarding the use of directive PMOs. Some experts believe that the directive PMO is the best solution, and the type of PMO that should either be set up from the beginning or should be the end of the evolutionary line as the PMO grows.

Others hold differently. Their experience indicates that directive PMOs falter because of politics and competition within the organization. Each project success makes the PMO look good, even if the work is done for or by a division outside the PMO. Executives outside the PMO want recognition, therefore they want the project to be managed by someone who reports to them. These executives see the PMO as a threat to their reputation, and try to undercut it by not providing information or resources, or interfering with project schedules.

In choosing whether or not to implement a directive PMO, the PMO sponsor and PMO manager should take a very close look at organizational culture. Only create a directive PMO if the culture will allow and support project success being attributed to the PMO.

The success of a directive PMO is measured directly by project success. In this, it is different from other PMO types. General, supportive, and controlling PMOs only succeed if others use the PMOs methods and succeed. But, in the directive PMO, the PMO is directly responsible for project results, and its benefits can be measured directly.

In summary, a directive PMO:


Has its own staff for customers and tells them to use its methods and services


Directs stakeholders, assigning and supervising their work


Reports project results to executives, showing how capable it is of running projects


Benefits the organization by ensuring that projects get done, delivering acceptable results on time and within budget


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