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The Secret to Building a World-Class PMO Isn’t What You Think

The current state of PMOs is often a cause for concern, with a disheartening rate of failures. The alarming statistics and countless horror stories leave us wondering why nothing seems to improve. However, amidst these discouraging figures lies a crucial aspect that holds the key to running a world-class PMO—and surprisingly, it is often the simplest to address.

In this enlightening presentation, we invite you to join Bill Dow, an esteemed PMP, PMO and PM expert, a prolific author with seven publications under his belt, and an active PMO Manager overseeing his impressive tenth PMO. Bill will delve into his number one area of focus when it comes to establishing and maintaining a truly exceptional PMO.

Prepare to discover the untapped potential that lies within, as Bill Dow unravels the hidden secrets and unveils the transformative strategies required to propel your PMO to unprecedented heights. Together, we will unlock the door to building a world-class PMO.

If you’re interested in reading some of Bill’s great PMO books – check out Project Management Communication Tools and The PMO Lifecycle: Building, Running, and Shutting Down


Recorded Session

Presentation Deck

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Bill discusses various strategies and programs to enhance the performance and cohesion of a PMO and its team members. Bill emphasises the importance of focusing on people and highlights initiatives such as leadership programs, mentoring programs, buddy systems, skip-level meetings, and offsite events. Additionally, Bill introduces creative practices like the PMO Professional of the Month award, using a trophy to recognise and celebrate team members’ contributions. The overall goal is to foster a positive and collaborative work environment within the PMO.

Top Five Insights

How can we enhance our PMO culture and practices to empower our team members, fostering their growth and development towards achieving world-class PMO status?


There are many reasons why a PMO fails – at the conference, the most significant result was for executive-level stakeholders not being committed to the PMO – which tallies with the research that Bill referenced in the session.

Bill’s argument was often the answer to overcoming failing PMOs is to focus on processes, tools and templates, whilst the most important aspect should be people.

Have you considered a program for PMO leadership? A leadership development program for PMO professionals involves selecting individual contributors from various roles and placing them on the PMO leadership team for six months. During this time, participants attend leadership meetings and gain hands-on experience with the leadership team’s responsibilities.

The program aims to identify individuals interested in advancing their careers within the PMO. It provides a structured path for those aspiring to lead future PMOs. Having used this type of program in the past, Bill stresses the transformative impact of the PMO leadership program, stating that it has changed lives.


Bill mentions two other programs: the PMO mentoring program and the buddy system. The mentoring program pairs a mentor with a mentee for a year, focusing on career growth and development. The buddy system involves pairing individuals in similar roles for mutual support, creating a collaborative environment.

The buddy system is a perfect way to kick-start a new employee into the PMO and should be considered as part of the onboarding process. Apart from the obvious benefits of giving team members a supporting hand as they start their new roles and a sense of belonging to the team – other benefits include a feedback mechanism which enables the PMO to focus on making inductions better – or spotting areas of the PMO work which may need improvement, based on the experiences of a new team member and a fresh perspective.

With buddying systems it can be fairly informal, no need to involve HR and could runs for a set period of time ( four to six months, with flexibility to adjust if needed.)

Heard of Skip Level Meetings? These refer to a “type of organisational communication where a leader or manager meets with employees who are not directly reporting to them in the organisational hierarchy. The term “skip-level” implies that the meeting skips one or more levels of management to facilitate direct communication between higher-level leaders and employees at various levels below them.”

A PMO Manager meets with team members individually every six months with detailed discussions on PMO and individual likes and dislikes and uses the opportunity to talk about career growth plans (a separate communication from performance reviews)

Here’s one thing that – post-pandemic – many PMOs can use to help strengthen their team relationships, help keep motivation at healthy levels and generally take time out from the day-to-day work. Happy hours and offsites don’t need to be expensive. They can be social gatherings over drinks and food, fostering a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere or they can be communities-of-practice days, such as all-day PMO offsites to focus on PMO-related activities, away from day-to-day project work.

If you’re thinking about organising a team away day, there are plenty of ideas on what you can do within the day in our article on Communities of Practice.

This works well for larger PMOs – a PMO Award – Professional of the Month. This recognition program has a trophy passed from one professional to another each month. It may not work for every corporate culture but the bottom line is, people do like to be recognised for their contributions and a ‘pat on the back’ can go a long way to making people feel valued in their PMO team.

Aside from awards or verbal recognition, small gifts (or how about some PMO merchandise!), time awarded to be ‘spent’ on some development activity, parking spot privileges for a month, a Spotify playlist made in their honour, sometimes quirky and fun works just as well!


Bill reminds all of us that it is the people in a PMO team that really makes the difference and throughout the year there are plenty of opportunities to make sure the team are all working together, supporting each other, are happy, motivated and engaged with their work.

The call to action for you is to consider the PMO team you’re working in or leading today – recognising that projects and working in the PMO are not just about tasks; they are about the individuals driving them. The focus should be on understanding, supporting, and celebrating the individuals who help the PMO on the journey to a world-class PMO.

> Connect with Bill Dow


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