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  • Writer's pictureBill Holmes

Are you a Chicken or a Pig?

A Pig and a Chicken are walking down the road.

The Chicken says: "Hey Pig, I was thinking we should open a restaurant!"

Pig replies: "Hmmmm, maybe, what would we call it?"

The Chicken responds: "How about 'ham-n-eggs'?"

The Pig thinks for a moment and says: "No thanks. I'd be committed, but you'd only be involved."

I have been sharing that story for years at project kick off meetings to illustrate the levels of commitment in a project. The pig has skin in the game! The chicken does not. And that is a problem.

I have discussed PMO’s at some depth in earlier articles. Click here if you are interested: www.projectmanagementforum.net

The level of commitment and the implications of that are very important when you decide which “type” of Project Management Office (PMO) to deploy

There are three types of PMO’s:

  • Supportive - these provide a reference function. They have the templates, lessons learned, policies, process, etc. When the project is begun, the Project Manager is directed there to research how to run the project.

  • Controlling - all of the above plus they provide human support. They may have experts to assist you in navigating the organizations governance processes, serve as documentation reviewers, and even determine if the project has met the requirements to move forward within their milestones. They may also have to approve your plan, determine if you can deviate from templates within the plan and work with you to determine the overall schedule.

  • Directive - In a Directive PMO, they are responsible for project delivery and serve as a home for the project managers. This has profound implication for the organization as the responsibility for delivery has shifted from the sponsoring organization to the PMO. This also has implications for career paths for the project managers, project selection (do we have a project manager to deliver it?) and C Suite politics.

So which PMO has “skin in the game”? The Directive PMO. However, in my experience most organizations adopt a controlling PMO. And that is a real problem for the Project Manager (PM).

The PM must conduct the day to day activities of delivering the project. The Work Breakdown Structure must be monitored, schedules adjusted, scope controlled, quality and risk addressed, etc. Will the Controlling PMO assist with these day to day activities? In my experience, no. Often the opposite occurs as it imposes additional burden on the PM by requiring adherence to its reporting protocols without regard to the tactical needs of the actual project.

So why do most organizations adopt a Controlling PMO? The simple answer is that it is easier to deploy (no career paths, easily collapsible, etc.) and it provides a certain level of “comfort” to the organization. Reports are standardized and there is a higher level of perceived visibility into the project. And that is all true. It is also true that responsibility for the success or failure of the project still resides with the PM, and the PMO will be clinically document and elevate that. This creates tension that isn’t present in a Directive PMO as they are also accountable for project delivery.

When I am responsible for a project, I choose a pig over a chicken every time!

Side note: I could find no actual source for the "Chicken and Pig" story - if you came up with it, let me know and I'll provide proper attribution!


I am taking a much needed vacation to a tropical beach next week. On the best of weeks my docket is full, but add 4 back to back weeks of travel and it becomes nearly impossible. So I am going to the beach. To relax. And rest. If I follow my normal vacation pattern, I will catch up on my sleep on the first day, be fully rested on the second, and will begin to have this obscene urge to work my Blackberry by the third. But I will try and resist. If I don’t publish a post next week, it is because my common sense won the day!


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