Posted by: ThePMOView | November 15, 2013

A public Thank you

I would really like to thank all the people who have recently expressed an interest in my blog and writings. It is pretty amazing. Between this interest and my current job search, things are really looking up for me.

I would also like to thank Erik Sherman at Inc ( for using my Three Myths article as the basis for his article. I also appreciate his quoting me and mentioning me by name in the article as well. For those that are interested, Erik’s article is located here

Feel free to leave any comments or suggestions as I would definitely be interested in any feedback.

Posted by: ThePMOView | November 13, 2013

Three Myths of Best Practices

One of the key principles of using best practices is that multiple organizations can use them as a reliable way to achieve the best results. Internal and external organizations can apply the same best practices and ‘hopefully’ get the same results.

Some industries, like project management, turn to external organizations, like the Project Management Institute (PMI) that define or have major influence in determining what the best practices in their areas of expertise are.

So why is this a bad idea in many cases?

The PMI determines the best practice standards by looking at the entire field of knowledge, trying to weed out ‘false paths’ and providing what is the current ‘best practice’ to follow. Current thinking is re-evaluated and standards updated as the project management field and world evolve. Following their lead in how to manage projects and project/program management offices (PMOs) allows a standardized way of doing things.

Myth 1: Allows companies to innovate with reduced risks

Many people use best practices as a defense against innovation or change. “’We can’t do it that way because it goes against our best practices.” is a familiar response to a request to do something different. This is because using best practices, especially if suggested by an external non-affiliated body like the PMI, is safe. Doing anything outside of those parameters is considered non-safe, or risky.

Using best practices this way is going against innovation, being a leader, etc. Just because company A did a project that was successful using ‘best practices’, does it really mean that if company B does the same project too using the same practices, it will be as successful?  Of course not.

Myth 2: It is too risky to do something no one else has done before

A real world example of a complete departure from any best practice: Apple changing from a Motorola CPU for their PCs to one from Intel, in 2005:

According to best practice theory, this was not something that should be done. After all a major PC manufacturer had never successfully done anything like this. Since no ‘best practice’ even existed, this was a huge risk. The following chart shows the results of this ‘non-best practice’. 


Source: Gartner, International Data Corporation                                                          Date: 8/24/2012

Between 2000 and 2005 Apple’s market share of PCs increased by only 0.3 percent. In five years! After the switch to Intel, in four years Apple’s share of the PC market doubled. It has continued to increase after that point. An argument could be made that this increase in sales of Apple’s PCs, along with sales of the iPod, is what helped give Apple the resources to develop the iPhone.

Apple is also the only company to successfully change CPUs. The others that tried failed. So best practice principles would dictate this should never be done. Where Apple would be today if best practices had been followed in 2005 is anyone’s guess, but it most likely would not be where they are now. This is a good example of ‘I would rather risk failure than not try to be successful’.

Myth 3: If best practice guidelines are followed then success will automatically follow

Any best practice should be used only if it makes sense for the business needs. If a best practice stifles innovation or delays speed of development, stop using it. Create something unique that will improve/enhance a company’s future. How can a business leap ahead of the competition if the business is using the same best practices as everyone else? The answer is it cannot.

This creates a lot of risk, especially in the Project Management field. If non-standard project practices are used and something goes wrong, then the Project Managers and PMO leaders risk censure and repercussions.  But is not that the real ask of PMs and PMO mangers? To be leaders?  To find the best way to manage a project versus being ‘safe’ by following best practices? Especially if the project would be better off by not following them?

A quote from William G. T. Shedd comes to mind that reflects the dangers of blindly using best practices, A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for,’ To paraphrase, a project manager using best practices is safe, but that is not what Project Managers are for. If Project Managers are not willing to lead, then who else will?

Sponsors look at project managers to get projects done the most efficient way possible. If using best practices can do that, then by all means use them. If they cannot, then the question is do you want to stay in the harbor and be safe or brave the seas and find the rewards that are possible?

Posted by: ThePMOView | September 4, 2013

My own Byline

As you know from my previous post, I am now writing project management articles for My newest article was published today and is located here.

Dice is also kind enough to want me to continue to write articles for them (Yea!) and to help this process, provided me with my very own Byline to write under. Pretty nice huh?

So again, comments on any of this can be left either here or on Dice’s site. I’ll definitely see them either way J.

Posted by: ThePMOView | July 23, 2013

A Reawaking

Well it has been a while since I last posted anything here. Just like many online endeavors, job, family, etc. all interfered with my continuing this effort. So why am I starting up again?

Based on my writings here, and I started discussing writing articles for Dice’s online newsletter. I currently have my first article for Dice published here. My second article is planned to be published on 9/5 and I have a third planned after that.

Rather than copying the same text in both places, Going forward, I will just be providing the links to the articles directly on Dice on this blog. Of course comments of can be left either here or at Dice’s site. I hope you enjoy it.

Posted by: ThePMOView | October 12, 2012


Viewers will notice there has been a gap between my earlier posts and this one. The reason for this is simply due to the nature of blogging. Blogging I realized is not a sprint but a marathon. So what this means is that posting every week, at least in my opinion, has the danger of diluting the quality of both the writing and the topics.

I do enjoy writing about project management and the trials and tribulations of the field. However, this blog started to become more like work versus something that I started out enjoying. I actually thought about just letting the blog die because it became ‘not fun’. To put this into perspective, while the following is several years old, I feel if it was done again today the results would be pretty close to the same.

According to a 2008 survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream — or at least an ambition — unfulfilled. , 5th paragraph

As I would rather not fall into the 95% group, I realized that I needed to get back to the enjoyment of writing versus trying to meet a goal that no one else cared about but me. In order to do that, I stepped back and re-analyzed why I started this blog in the first place. In business terms, I looked at my business needs and re-evaluated what was going on and took a different direction based on that information. So many people, both in business and their personal lives, start off in a particular direction and, when difficulties occur, try to force themselves down the same path because it is the one they are used to. Without taking the time to look around and see if doing something different would be better or easier. Or better AND easier. 🙂 .

Of course many times changing direction or focus is much harder and even painful than trying to keep going in the current direction. So either the pain and/or the difficulty has to reach a point where change is forced rather than planned which, in the majority of cases, does not end well. This explains why 95% of the people who start blogging stop. It was difficult to continue to write when very few people were reading it. Caused pain because no one cared about what they were writing, usually something the blogger is passionate about. So they changed direction by stopping. While a valid decision, this is not what I wanted to do.

So I will continue to post on an irregular basis. Of course if my readership explodes then I will do the same thing as I did here and re-analyze the situation and adjust accordingly.

Posted by: ThePMOView | September 12, 2012

Why do people hate PMOs?

We have discussed learning and how that applies to Project Managers in the last few posts. But this post is going to start looking at projects and PMOs influence on them. I have had the fortune (or misfortune, lol) to work with many different PMOs across a variety of industries. While this may not make me an expert (although I think it does), it does give me a viewpoint that many people in my field do not have.

Of course the message that a PMO is supposed to bring is to improve a company’s responsiveness by streamlining process and to be able to provide clarity on which projects are the most important for the strategic vision of the business. A well run and managed PMO can do this plus a lot more. Unfortunately, the majority of the PMOs I have dealt with are not well run and/or managed.

But you do not have to believe me. A well-documented study in December of 2007 highlights the issue using IT projects ( While the report does not specify which companies had PMOs, it should be safe to assume a lot of them did given their size. This report does not showcase IT projects, much less, PMOs, in a very good light. So why is this?

Many companies think that a PMO is nothing more than a organization holder for PMs. So if a department in a business needs a PM, they request one from the PMO. Furthermore, the PM career path usually goes PM to Program Manager to PMO Manager. A good PM does not necessarily make a good Program Manager nor does a good Program Manager made a good PMO manager.

Just like many other specialized fields in the corporate world, the subtle differences that make someone good at each of these levels are not obvious. To further make it difficult to decide who would be good candidates for these roles, companies tend to use how successful the PM is in completing projects as that is pretty easy to determine. Complete a lot of projects successfully and, voila, you are now a PMO Manager.

This is not to say all PMs are bad regardless of level, it is just that promoting the wrong people because they were successful at one level does not automatically going to make them successful at the next one. This happens in all fields so I am not just picking on PM’s here.

I actually worked in one PMO where the PMO’s performance was so bad; the company actually shut it down. They went back to each PM working in different areas of the company. Needless to say this was an extreme example, but it does highlight that just putting together a bunch of PMs and calling it a PMO does not give much (if any) chance of success.

Posted by: ThePMOView | September 4, 2012

Commentary by Dr. Catherine Lombardozzi

Dr. Catherine Lombardozzi is an expert in the adult education field ( and also happens to be a follower of this blog (which I greatly appreciate). She sent me some very insightful comments about my post last week which I thought were well done. I discussed these with her and she has graciously given me permission to post them here in their entirety.

I thought that it would be better to showcase them as a separate blog post than have them placed in the comments section. This is because I wanted to make them stand out more. So here they are. I hope you find them as interesting as I did.

You seem to be talking about what I referred to as “check the box” thinking. In some sections, you are assuming the best reason for people to pursue education is to make themselves more marketable. I’m afraid that would lead to only cursory learning – enough to pass the test, but not intended to make a difference in one’s actions. That can be a mistake from a marketability perspective – I have seen too many candidates with the credentials but not the experience or results to give me confidence they have the skills.

At times you seem to minimize the value of learning. While you say “all knowledge is useful” you also seem to give lesser value to the pursuit of knowledge to improve competence and skill. In my experience, proven competence and skill, whatever its foundation (education or experience), is more highly valued than any certifications or degrees.

I know there are some people who hold degree as a qualifying or distinguishing factor, but I think many more will look at experience and results first. Perhaps that isn’t true in the PM business.  I’m also aware that when there are many candidates with solid experience and results, holding a degree may become a distinguishing factor.

If you pursue learning for the sake of improving your skill, (not “for knowledge sake”), you should be putting yourself in a more marketable position because your results will be better (assuming the learning activities are of high quality). Myself, I think that a person’s effort toward demonstrating exceptional results will pay off in the long run – and I believe that a good education can be decisive in helping provide the foundation for exceptional performance.

It seems to me that a decision regarding certification or degree should be based on which provides you with the better skill set for exceptional performance.

Best to you – Catherine

Posted by: ThePMOView | August 28, 2012

How we can grow as Project Managers

There is an interesting discussion (as of August 28, 2012) about training on LinkedIn’s PMO forum (of which I am a member). Someone asked about an education program for PMOs (Does anyone knows or recommends a graduate program from an university (Certificate, MSc, MBA with Concentration) focused on PMO ?).

So I thought this would be a good time to republish an article I wrote for the PMI Newsletter for the New York PMI chapter. The New York PMI Chapter is the largest chapter in the US (and maybe the world) with over 10,000 members (at least at the time I was involved with them).

While we are talking about education, one thing that my Masters really helped me with is vastly improving my writing skills. So you can see this difference very clearly in the article below versus what I have been posting on this blog previously. While the article was well received in the newsletter, I do not feel it is up to my current standards. But it will be an interesting read regardlessJ.


How can we grow as Projects Managers?

(Originally published in the PMI New York Chapter Newsletter, 2004)

This is always a good question. Do we expand our knowledge through seminars and training offerings from PMI and their affiliates? Or do we take a longer and more formal path and get a degree in Project Management? Like most questions like this, each path has its positives and negatives. In addition, personal life and work demands also have impact on which path would be the right choice for an individual to make. What this article hopes to do is to outline what options you have to grow and which one might best fit your circumstances.

Let’s start with the PMI as that is the body of knowledge that most PM’s subscribe to. The PMI offers many different classes, both online and classroom and cover many different areas of Project Management. This allows each of us to customize exactly what areas of Project Management we would like to improve on. They are usually short, no more than a week in most cases, so can fit into a busy work and life schedule easier.

These offerings are good for specialized knowledge and preparation for the PMP certification. The difficulty comes in that (except for the PMP certification) all that you receive to show for the effort is continuation education credits and a training certificate. None of those will impress anyone outside the PM community (and maybe not even that). The knowledge you gain will definitely help improve your skills, but unless someone lets you actually use the skills you did gain, the effort has been wasted.

Another down side is that these courses will do very little to improve you marketability in an area where it seems like EVERYONE is now a Project Manager of some kind. You may be able to talk about those areas you just learned about with more knowledge and authority, but if those areas are not of interest to the company at the moment, then, again, your time has not been used well.

My own personal view is that all knowledge is useful. So using these classes just to gain knowledge for knowledge sake is always worthwhile. However, our time available to learn just for learning’s sake is very limited. In college, we could take courses outside of the main area of study, because we were already there learning. So expanding our knowledge was already built into the project plan as it were. Now however, taking time away from work and family just to gain some addition knowledge may not be possible. The bottom line for us to ask ourselves is, can we afford it when there is no immediate gain other than the knowledge itself?

This leads into the second method of expanding our knowledge, acquiring a diploma in Project Management. This can be either an under-graduate degree or an advanced degree. Talk about time sinks! This is the ultimate one. So why bother?

I actually had an interview with a Fortune 100 company for a position in their national PMO. The reason that I did not get the position was because I did not have a Master in Project Management. That was one of the selection criteria for the position. (Of course why they wanted to interview me when I did not have that listed on my resume is still an open question. Did they think I might have forgotten to mention it?)

So this is the main reason, it is an accepted accomplishment everywhere. It will never expire, no continuation education needed to maintain it, and it shows that you are committed to your field. There are several accredited schools that offer degrees in Project Management, both BS and MS. These are also offered in online formats and traditional classroom environments.

But the time involved is considerable to say the least. At least two years in most cases for a Masters. The biggest difference is that this time can be better justified than the other method, because there is an actual gain at the end. The time will be, not just learning, but learning with a purpose. At the end of this path your marketability will be much improved, even more than a PMP certification.

So why wouldn’t everyone want to do this? The rewards are much better than the other way, so it’s a no brainer, right? Well, maybe. This choice involves both time (a lot) and money. The money may not be an issue if your company will pay for tuition, but a lot of companies that do this require you to stay for a period of time afterwards in order for them to reap the rewards of your learning. So all you have done is exchange time for money. This may not be an issue in some cases, if you were planning on staying at your company anyway, for example. The downside is that t has been my experience and for others as well that the company you are working for will not give that much of an increase in salary after you graduate (again this is something that has never made sense to me, but sadly it is the reality).

For those that pay for the education themselves or work for a company that does not require people to stay, an increase in income would be expected. (As a side note, it takes a 20% change in income to change a lifestyle, either positively or negatively). This is why the rewards are better in the long run. So again with our busy schedules, can we fit a two year commitment into something like this? Unfortunately for most of us the answer is no. So we fall back to plan B which gives allows us to fill in the gaps in our knowledge a little at a time.

At this time, to be a recognized professional project manager is a challenge as there seems to be as many project managers as there are used car salesmen. So how do we stand out from the crowd? At this time, the two methods described above are the only choices. So the only question left to you is which one will fit you the best?


Posted by: ThePMOView | August 21, 2012

Some Questions about Risks

I have been absence over the last few weeks due to taking some time off. So now that I am refreshed and back, let’s look at two questions concerning risks as this is one of the key areas for any PMO.

Risk issues are largely static, not changing from year to year, so why do we need any change in the organizational approach to addressing risk?


The traditional risk silos are addressed by specialists who know exactly how to deal with their respective areas of risk.


The issue of risk being static or dynamic is complex due to several issues. In a broad sense, the reason that there is risk is fairly static. However, what changes, and sometimes dynamically, is the mitigation of the risks. If we use a wedding as an example, the risks involve include such things as:

  • Accidents
  • Sickness
  • Vendor no show
  • Weather

    (the above is a partial list from table 20-1, pg 374, Daniels)


These events would be common to almost all weddings. Even an indoor wedding could be impacted by weather events. So the list of major risks for a wedding could be considered static. While the list of risks for a particular wedding can vary, the populations of risk events are pretty well defined for a wedding event.


The above can apply to businesses as well because companies have similar foundations regardless of size or market. They all have Finance, IT, HR, etc. departments that, just like the wedding example, have the same overall list of risks. IT departments are responsible for the company’s data, so they will provide backups and redundancies to mitigate the risk of data lost. There are companies like ‘Iron Mountain [that] provides highly secure facilities for both tape backup and archival purposes.’ (last para,


The perception that risk is ever changing and needs to be actively managed is because the mitigation plan for that risk needs to be tailored for that entity that the risk will affect. So, in most cases it is the mitigation that will be unique, even though the risk itself is well known. Continuing with the wedding day example, mitigating the weather risk will vary greatly depending on the couple involved. Some may provide a covered area in case of rain, change the date based on sites like at weather .com which give you the chance of bad weather and typical temperatures, or many other methods based on the couple’s approach to the wedding.


This is true for business as well. Iron Mountain provides a wide range of services in order to match up with what type of mitigation plan they need. So while the risk of data backup and recovery is a static risk, the mitigation of that risk requires a very varied response as each company has their viewpoint on how the mitigation will work best for them. This is what makes risk management dynamic, not the risks themselves but the mitigation of them.


The above shows how risks are somewhat static and mitigation is not. So how do companies (and couples) determine the correct mitigation plan for identified risks? With a wedding, the easiest solution is to hire a wedding planner. However, while this off loads many of the risks to a third party, similar to Iron Mountain, it opens up another risk if the planner is not a good one. Many organizations recognize this and so have developed associations to set standards and codes for their members to follow in order to reduce that risk. For wedding planners, they have The Association of Bridal Consultants ( to help couples reduce their exposure to a bad planner.


There are numerous other associations that help businesses find qualified individuals (and other firms) to help them formulate strategies and solutions to their problems. For helping with risk management, The Risk Management Association ( provides that framework. While, this can help with the overall methods for risk management that the company wants to implement, it does not provide the expertise to determine the best specific mitigation for that risk for that company. So unfortunately this only provides half of the solution for good mitigation planning.


The specialist approach to each risk mitigation plan is not the best method to use. The best practice guidelines state that Promoting an organizational philosophy and culture that says everybody is a risk manager’ (Treasury Board, Section C) is a key in effective risk management. So this would indicate that everyone throughout the organization should have input to determine what the mitigation plan should be rather than a few specialists.


So a hybrid method is needed. As risks themselves are pretty stable, it is the mitigations that require constant monitoring as things can change the situation. It was sunny this morning and now at the afternoon wedding, it’s raining. So to help with the overall risk management plan, a specialist is needed (wedding planner) from a reputable source (typically an association) for the overall risk management plan. However to come up with the best mitigation plan for a risk, everyone should be involved (family, friends, etc.). People that have a working knowledge of a company’s systems can have knowledge that an outside specialist (wedding planner) would not have. This could make all the difference in a successful mitigation versus a failed one. After all a family friend may have a great location for a wedding complete with a barn big enough for everyone in case the weatherman was wrong.



Daniels, Maggie , Loveless, Carrie, Wedding Planning and Management: Consultancy for Diverse Clients, Butterworth-Heinemann, 2007, ISBN 0750682337, 9780750682336


Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat,

Posted by: ThePMOView | July 22, 2012

Why does not anyone believe me …

… when I know the truth!

According to legend, Cassandra was a woman who Apollo was smitten with. He wanted her to fall in love with him and to help that along; he gave her a gift of being able to foresee the future (a project plan). When she spurned his suit, rather than taking the gift away, he cursed her by letting no one believe what she said was true (the sponsor will not believe that the project will fail, so curses the PM). This eventually drove her mad (PM gets new job). ‘ Today, we call a “Cassandra” someone whose true words are ignored …’ (Fitton).

This is a perfect fit to describe a PM in today’s world. Most of the time, when a PM lays out the plan for a project no one believes anything about it. Some good examples of this are ‘No one believes the end date of a project.’ (Vinson), That issue will not affect us because we do things different here (my personal favorite), and We do not need that many <blank> to do the project. You may fill in the <blank> with whatever favorite item you like. The big three of course are dollars, people, and items, such as servers, cranes, etc.

And like Cassandra, we cry ‘Why do you not believe us! Doom will fall upon your project if you do not listen to us.’ So the lack of belief in our plans has the ability to drive us to madness if we let it. So we too seek ‘…shelter in a temple…’ (Wikipedia) (our homes). While we may not be murdered as she was, we still have to accept, that at times, we will be ‘murdered’ professionally simply because no one believed us in the first place.


Fitton, Laura, (Spring 1998) Cassandra: Cursed Prophetess , Images of Women in the Ancient World: Issues of Interpretation and Identity

Vinson, Jack


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