For several years now the phrase ‘Zombie PMO’ has been used to describe a PMO organization that is barely alive — more focused on mundane self-serving practices than delivering business value. Be sure that well before the ‘Zombie’ reference was born, this has been a crisis in the PM community. For years we’ve seen PMOs come and go in and out of fashion, not because the concept of a PMO lacked business value, but because those executing the PMO have failed to focus on the business value they should be delivering.
We staunchly support the idea of embracing best-practices, standards, governance, and employing sound methodology. But, without an understanding of how these characteristics should be leveraged to deliver for the business, you run the risk of becoming antiquated, unnecessary, and overhead that the business will either ignore or disband.
One of the critical actions that I would encourage for any PMO leader is to engage in a healthy dialog with the business counterparts and ask them directly what they are looking to achieve. Not surprisingly, I have found in many organizations a huge disconnect between what the PMO thinks its job is and what their business sponsors think their job is.
Much has been written about the tell-tale signs of a Zombie PMO — lack of a PMO strategy, vision, mission — and an equal amount has been written about how to become a relevant player in the eyes of the business. But, just as all organizations are not the same nor should all PMOs be the same. The alignment needs to start with an honest conversation that clearly outlines what a business wants the PMO to achieve for them. Often, the PMO feels they have a monopoly on understanding the value of a PMO function. However, if you adopt this strategy of trying to convince the business that PMO-knows-best, you do so at your own peril.
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