Avoiding Bureaucracy in a PMO control framework

????????????????????????????????????????????I hate bureaucracy! Period! Yet when I tell people I have spent a large part of the last five years running PMO’s for major business change programmes in large Financial Institutions they look at me with a wry smile and say “but aren’t you responsible for creating bureaucracy around those programmes”.

You see people have this perception that PMO’s are bureaucratic and exist to create mindless processes that they inflict on unsuspecting project and programme managers. Don’t get me wrong, some PMOs are like that. But not mine.

You see, I start with the end in mind. And the end objective for my PMOs is to enable my programme and project managers to deliver against their objectives on time and on budget, with no surprises and in way that demonstrates control and gives confidence to the business that we will succeed. Of course things go wrong, mistakes get made and unexpected things happen – we are talking change here after all. But when those things happen we have a clear process to deal with them and regain control. And the business really appreciates that.

Now, you have to get the basics right. For me that means having the right sponsorship and remit. This is the most critical thing. Next is staffing the PMO with the right people – proactive experienced people with at least a smattering of delivery experience mixed with enthusiastic and technology literate less experienced staff is the second key to success. For any team I run, attitude is everything. If I have people with a modicum of aptitude but bags of the right attitude I can teach them any of the skills I need them to acquire.


Key components and infrastructure

So, let’s assume the we have the right remit, sponsorship and people. There are 8 key components to the actual Controls Framework plus some underlying infrastructure. These are:

  • Status reporting
  • Risk, issue, assumption and dependency (RAID) management
  • Planning
  • Resource management
  • Financial management and reporting
  • Change control
  • Communications management
  • Stakeholder engagement


The underlying infrastructure comprises the tools and systems to support the PMO including:

  • Document Library
  • RAID Log repository
  • Change Control Log(s) repository
  • Planning tool(s)

All of these are documented in the PMO Handbook, supported by detailed process descriptions and a Programme Charter or Directive 

Avoiding bureaucracy

Bureaucracy is actually a misused term as it really refers to administration. Some administration is always needed and efficient, effective Reporting levels pyramidadministration is to be admired and strived for. But bureaucracy is usually the term used when administration becomes petty, burdensome and serves no useful purpose. This occurs when processes are set up that do not add value or meet a real need in the business. So as I said earlier start with the end in mind. I liken the control framework for delivering change across the organisation to a pyramid with the Board at the top and individual projects at the bottom.

Providing the assurance function has the ability to drill down the levels of the pyramid to validate that data reported at any level is fully supported by the underlying data and controls, you only need report summary information at any level plus details of issues and risks to be managed or resolved at that level. At each level the staff involved can clearly see the administration is supporting or proving a higher level summarisation. No more, no less.

Such a system requires open and honest reporting, a single golden source of quality data and a strong and experienced assurance function. Nt easy, but it can be achieved.


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  1. […] Avoiding Bureaucracy in a PMO control framework requires a clear rationale for each process and peice of data collected. start with the end in mind.  […]

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