Passing the #PMP Exam—Study Group Discussions (Chapter 2—Organizational Structures)

 The purpose of this post is to discuss the different types of organizational structure found in companies and what effect that structure has on project management.

 1. Project manager authority levels in different types of organizational structures

Fig. 1 Project Authority in different types of Organizational Structures

Functional Projectized Matrix Composite
Project Authority Functional Manager Project


Depends on type of matrix Depends on project

 In a functional organization, project authority rests with a functional manager, and in a projectized organization, it rests with a project manager. A matrix organization tries to be somewhere in between these two.

In a strong matrix, the authority is with a project manager, just like in a projectized organization. In a weak matrix, the authority is with a functional manager, just like in a functional organization. And a balanced matrix, the authority over the project is shared by both the functional manager and a project manager.

NOTE: In exam questions, you should assume that “matrix” means “balanced matrix” unless otherwise specified.

 Here’s the spectrum of authority for the different types of organization:

 Fig. 2. Project Manager’s authority over a project (increasing authority to the right)

The last type of organization, a composite organization, is one that changes the authority level of the project manager from project to project. In one project, it might be more like that of projectized organization, and in another project, more like a functional organization.

 2. Advantages and Disadvantages of Organizational Structures

 There are exam questions that discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the various organizational structures from the point of view of project management. Here’s a capsule summary:

 a. Functional: In a functional organization, there may be no formal project manager assigned. The functional manager manages the project, sometimes with the assistance of a project expediter or a project coordinator.

Authority level Organizational level
Project expediter None Staff assistant
Project coordinator Some (> expediter) Staff member

The thing to remember about these two is that for some reason, the definitions are confusing to people. The project expediter has no authority to do anything himself, but he helps coordinate communications. The project coordinator does have the authority to get things done. So many people confuse expediter and coordinator, because a coordinator sounds like he gets things done or expedites them, and an expediter sounds like he coordinates communications. BE AWARE OF THIS and make sure you know which is which!

A functional organization’s main strength is that a functional manager has the resources of its department under his or her control. But getting resources from different departments together and coordinated for the purpose of a single project is more difficult.

 b. Projectized: This would seem to be a project manager’s dream organization because the focus is on project work and not on ongoing processes that functional managers normally take care of.   However, there are some disadvantages namely that when team members complete a project, they have no “home” and will have to find other employment if there is no new project to do. Highly specialized subject matter experts or SMEs are expensive if they go idle, so it can be wasteful on resources if there is no work for them currently on the projects that are in process.

c. Matrix: This tries to get the project manager the control over the organization’s resources like in a functional organization and the communication between departments unlike in a functional organization. However, the advantages it gains by trying to combine these two forms also creates its own disadvantage: an unclear demarcation of authority between the functional manager and the project manager.

A matrix organization can remind one of the definition of a hermaphrodite once coined by Archie Bunker on All in the Family: “It’s a freak! With too much of both and not enough of neither!”

Now the various PMP guides as well the PMBOK® guide itself list up the various advantages and disadvantages of the various forms of organization: functional, projectized, and matrix. In order to organize these, I have put them into categories as listed by the left. Then if the item is an advantage I have it marked in green, and if it is a disadvantage, I have it marked in red.

 Fig. 3. Advantages and disadvantages of various organizational types (by topic)




Career Path

Career path well defined in specialty

Career path in project management


Slow response to client

Quick response to client

Chain of Command

Team members report to one supervisor

Team members report to one PM

More than 1 boss for project teams


Cross-functional communication difficulties

More effective communications

Better horizontal & vertical info

Human Resources

Flexibility in staff use

More effort needed to acquire team


More loyal to specialty than project

Loyalty to the project

FMs have different priorities than PMs


Inefficient project organization

Efficient project organization

Better coordination


Fragmented approach to project

Project is point of emphasis

Careful monitoring of projects required


Easier management of specialists

Lack of specialization in disciplines

PM authority

PM has little or no authority

PM has great deal of authority

Project objectives visible to organization


Similar resources are centralized

Less efficient use of resources

Better firm-wide balanced of resources


Team members maintain a “home”

No “home” when project done


Technological continuity (resources)

Access to reservoir of technical talent

You can see that the advantage of one type of organization is balanced by the disadvantage of another type of organization: for example, with regards to the client, a functional organization has a slow response whereas a matrix organization has a fast response. Why? Because a matrix organization is more client-focused based on specific projects than a functional organization which does not have the client as a focus of activity.   Similarly, an advantage of a functional organization with regards to stability is that team members maintain a home, whereas in a projectized organization, they have no home when a project is done.   This is because there is ongoing operational work to be done in a functional organization even after a project is done, which is NOT true for a projectized organization.

If you look at the advantages and disadvantages in this comparative way ACROSS the organizational types, and then ask yourself WHY this is so, you can figure out a lot of these by logic rather than by trying to use the sheer brute force of memorization.

The last post in this series (tomorrow) will focus on stakeholders, who are they are why do they matter?



Passing the #PMP Exam—Study Group Discussions (Chapter 2—Project phases)

The purpose of this post is to deal with one or two points regarding project phases that may have been left off the discussion from yesterday that covered the differences between a

  • Product life cycle
  • Project life cycle
  • Project management process (i.e., the 5 process groups)

1.  Review of points from previous post

Because the cost of making changes to the project goes up over time, large projects can be broken up into project phases. Most of the time these can be sequential and non-overlapping.

Fig. 1. Non-overlapping project phases

Time Period




Project Phase




However, if you have to accelerate the project’s final outcome, you may try and overlap some of the phases. For example, you may have some individual modules for a software program developed in Phase 1 and then have them debugged in Phase 2, with final testing done in Phase 3.

You may want the debugging process of some of the modules to begin before they are all complete, in which case Phase 2 would start before Phase 1 is done, as in the example below:

Fig. 2. Overlapping project phases

Time Period




Project Phase

← Phase 1 →



←           Phase 2 →



   ← Phase 3 →

2.  Point #1 = compressing phases so that they overlap increases risk (just like with compressing project schedules)

However, one important thing to remember is that overlapping phases like this can increase the risk of having to redo some of the work. This is true within a project itself that so-called schedule compression and overlapping some formerly non-overlapping phases can increase risk, so it’s a point worth remembering, especially when you get to the Time Management chapter 6.

3.  Point #2 = project phase closure treated formally like a project closure

The other important point about the phase is that each phase is a major control point along the way and requires formal approval in order for the next phase to commence. This is why the closing process group under Integration management is called by the PMBOK® Guide “Close Project or Phase” because the same inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs apply to both.

Okay, tomorrow I will cover the topic of different types of organizations from functional, projectized, matrix and composite, and how they affect the balance of power in an organization between ongoing operations and project work. Also, the advantages and disadvantages of each of these will be covered from a project manager’s point of view.

Passing the #PMP Exam—Study Group Discussions (Chapter 2—Product Life Cycle vs. Project Life Cycle)

PMBOK® Guide Chapter 2 deals with taking a project and showing how it is interrelated with the larger environment in which a organization does business. The first topic to be discussed below is the relationship of the product life cycle, the project life cycle, and the project management process.

 1. Overview—definitions

How does the PMBOK® Guide define these terms?



Product life cycle Collection of generally sequential, non-overlapping product phases whose name and number and determined by the manufacturing and control needs of the organization.
Project life cycle Collection of generally sequential project phases whose name and number are determined by the control needs of the organization.
Project management process Collection of five iterative project management process groups that includes inputs, tools & techniques, and outputs.

The first two definitions are taken from the PMBOK® Guide, and the last one is a definition I created extrapolating from other definitions for similar terms.

There are quite a few similarities between the product life cycle and project life cycle definition, so the trick in not confusing them is to a) understand their purpose, and b) focus on the differences.

2. Product life cycle

Product life cycle management says that a product goes through various phases: market introduction, growth, maturity, saturation and decline. These happen one after another, and there is no overlap between them. Since a project creates a unique product, service, or result, you can have a situation where a project exists but there is no product, i.e., in the case where it produces a service or result.

Similarly, there are parts of a product life cycle which may not require a project. Certainly the creation or design of a new product, or perhaps even a new model of an existing product, would require a project. Once the product is being mass produced, however, and the manufacturing becomes a routine part of the operational work of a company, then a project may no longer be necessary.

A product life cycle is sequential and non-overlapping, meaning that they occur like this in a linear fashion:

Fig. 1. Product life cycle

2. Project life cycle

One of the problems in any project, especially a large one, is that the cost of making a change in the project scope increases as time goes on, and not in a linear way. So making a change late in the project has HUGE consequences. To gain control over a large project, it is often divided into phases. These are sequential, but as opposed to a product life cycle, can SOMETIMES overlap. Here’s an example where the phases are sequential and non-overlapping:

Fig. 2. Non-overlapping project phases

Time Period




Project Phase




And here’s a more complicated case where they are overlapping:

Fig. 3. Overlapping project phases

Time Period




Project Phase

← Phase 1 →

←           Phase 2             →
← Phase 3 →

3. Product life cycle ↔ Project life cycle relationship

A product in its single phase of development to market can be split up into several projects, such as the hypothetical example below, EACH of which would go through its own complete process.

Fig. 4. Single phase of a product cycle (market introduction) broken up into several discrete projects.

Note that each of these projects could be combined into one large project with each of these projects now becoming phases, each having a start, beginning, and end.

4. Project management process

One of the differences between the project life cycle and the project management process is a distinction which the Rita Mulcahy book encapsulates as the following, which was very helpful for our group in distinguishing the two.

Project life cycle How you do the work

(i.e., how you split up to do it easier)

Project management process How you manage the work

(what processes do you perform to get it done)

The five processes of the project management process are:

  1. Initiating process group
  2. Planning process group
  3. Executing process group
  4. Monitoring & controlling process group
  5. Closing process group

Although the project always starts with the initiating process group, then goes to the planning group, and ends with the closing process group, the executing, monitoring and closing process and the planning process again can be repeated in a cycle called an iteration as illustrated below:

Fig. 5. Planning, Executing, and Monitoring & Controlling Process Group

If the monitoring shows that the project is off of its schedule or budget, an act of controlling it and steering it back to the project baseline will occur. If it can be done without changing any of the original plans or baseline of the project, then it would go from ACT back to DO. But if the project plans now have to be changed because the change is a substantial one, then the PLAN must be done again in order to reset the baseline. Of course when the final deliverable has been produced, then and only then do you go on to the final process, the closing process.

So it is more proper to say the process groups are iterative than sequential.

In sum, it is important to distinguish between

  • A product life cycle and a project life cycle (always sequential and non-overlapping vs. SOMETIMES sequential and non-overlapping)
  • A product and a project (project can be a product OR a result or service)
  • A project life cycle and a project management process (phase vs. process)

Bill Phillips’ #Transformation Program—Chapter One (The Base and Summit)

Now it’s your turn.

1. Introduction—The Mountain-Climbing Metaphor

Bill Phillips comes from Colorado, so it is no mystery why he chose mountains as his metaphor for the journey you must go on in order to experience Transformation of one’s body.  He talks about how his Dad’s taking his family on mountain climbing treks was his way of transmitting “life lessons” on to them.  This is the reason for the “base and summit” title of this first chapter of his book which outlines the 1st week of the Transformation program.

I’m somewhat envious of his mountain-climbing adventures when he was younger, because I was born in Illinois which is very flat. However, the key life lessons he learned from his trips with his father are applicable to anyone who is undergoing a major personal project:

2. Life Lessons from mountain climbing and their application to Transformation

Life Lesson

Application to Transformation

1 Know your base and summit Admit the reality of where you are, visualize where you want to get to
2 Never climb alone Join a Transformation group for moral support
3 Know that you will face setbacks Do not blame yourself, start seeing mistakes as lessons learned
4 Don’t hold on to fear—let it go Fear should be seen as a traveling companion, and not someone blocking the way
5 Good old-fashioned hard work There is no “magic”, just the miraculous transformation that comes one week at a time

Let me talk a little bit about these “life lessons” that Bill describes briefly in his book and relate my understanding of them from the first time I did the program last fall.

I think the first one, from which he takes the title of the chapter, is very important. If you want to lose weight, you probably already have admitted the reality of your situation to some degree. But you need to explore it in its physical, mental, and emotional ramifications to REALLY tap into your motivations. And visualizing where you are going is VERY important, especially in those times when you face adversity (see lesson 3).

The second lesson is really where Transformation differs from Body for Life, his previous, wildly successful fitness program. There is some point later on in the book where Bill identifies the reason for this program. He was doing comparison of various types of diets and seeing which one did better overall in terms of results. Buried in a footnote was the observation that the one factor that was common among all diets was the fact that those who were in a support group along with the diet experienced significantly greater weight-loss results than those who tried to “go it alone.” Hence, the creation of the online Transformation community.

The third one is the realist portion of the mindset for this type of journey. Yes, focusing on your success is important, but if adversity comes you need to deal with. If something knocks you off your exercise schedule, get back on the horse first and then figure out what went wrong. And don’t make those mistakes that you made something to feel guilty over, but rather see them as lessons learned that will point you further in the direction of your eventual success.

The fourth one is to realize that fear on taking up anything new and challenging is normal. Aristotle once said that the brave man is not the one who doesn’t feel fear; he is the one who feels fear and yet still musters up the courage to go in and fight anyway. Fear has to become something which rather than paralyzes you and prevents you from moving forward into something that is domesticated that ends up accompanying you on your journey, like a rabid wolf that challenged man in his early years who then became his faithful companion.

Finally, old-fashioned work is what will get you there. This is probably one of the things some people don’t want to hear: hey, doc, give me a pill that will cure my ill! But the trick here is to plan the work, and the workouts, and then work the plan. It takes 21 days or 3 weeks to establish a new habit. After 18 weeks of this program, the habit will establish a new you.

3. Base and Summit (challenge exercise)

For those who want to take the Transformation challenge, go to the website and sign up—it’s free!

For the first week, you will be going into analyzing the base (where you are) and the summit (where you want to be in 18 weeks). Here are the elements you need to explore:

Elements Base (now) Summit (18 weeks from now)
Heart and Soul Give 3 heartfelt reasons for making the decision to Transform your health and life Give 3 changes you will have made that show you’re aligned with what’s important to you
Emotions Give 3 most predominant inner feelings you are experiencing related to your health and life Give 3 most predominant inner feelings you will be experiencing related to your health and life
Mindset Give 3 patterns of beliefs which may have limited your ability to change in the past Give 3 new patterns of beliefs which expand your ability to make healthy changes for the better
Body Give 3 objectively verifiable statements which reflect your physical condition Give 3 objectively verifiable statements which will describe the new and improved condition of your body

This is one of these “open mode” exercises where you have to give yourself an hour to do the exercise in such a way as to get to your inner motivations. Once having done that, however, you can refer to this “road map” again and again. I recommend actually printing it out and putting it by your computer, or your refrigerator or if you prefer.

I’m starting the program itself tomorrow. I find that doing the preparation on Sunday, the day which is normally the “day off” in terms of both exercise and diet, is the best way to get all the paperwork done and to have time for these motivational challenge exercises.

I hope that those reading this will realize that they are worth doing something this good for themselves.

Passing the #PMP Exam—Study Group Discussions (Chapter 1—Constraints on a Project)

One concept from PMBOK® Guide Chapter 1 is entitled Introduction is that of constraints on a project.  The reason why I’m including this belatedly in my series of blog posts for chapter 1 is because there seemed to be a difference between the popular notion of a constraint in the world of Project Management today, the definition according to the PMBOK® Guide, and the definition according to some of the PMP Exam prep guides.   This post takes a look at the evolution of the concept of constraints.

1. Original definition of constraints (from 1969)

Dr. Martin Barnes first put forward the idea of an iron triangle of time, cost, and output, which he defined as the “correct scope at the correct quality.”

Fig. 1 Iron triangle of constraints (original concept)

The basic concept behind this schematic was that a change in one of the constraints would affect the other constraints. If you want higher quality, it will take you longer and/or more money to produce the product of the project. Or if you have less time than you thought, you will have to pay more to get it done on time or you may have to sacrifice on quality.

Pretty clear, right? This became known in time as the “triple constraint” of time, cost, and scope. This is the common-sense view of the concept of constraint today in the world of Project Management.

In fact, one of the members of the study group was asked the question “what are the constraints on a project” and she answered back, “time, cost, and scope” and got a lot of positive feedback for knowing the “right” answer.

2. Project Management Institute’s current definition (2011)

Now in chapter 1 of the 4th edition of the PMBOK® Guide, the constraints are unceremoniously listed as the following (on page 6):

  • Scope
  • Quality
  • Schedule
  • Budget
  • Resources and
  • Risk.

If I tried to reproduce the same type of diagram as in Fig. 1, the first approximation would be:

Fig. 2. Project constraints (modern definition)

But wait, I would have to add arrows in between each of the six points, yielding a total of 15 diagonals or relationships between the variables.

Yikes! What has happened to the “simple iron triangle”? It is now the “hopelessly complicated hexagon.”

3. But, wait, there’s more…

Not to be outdone, Rita Mulcahy’s book adds a 7th constraint to the mix, namely, that of “customer satisfaction. Oh, great, now we have a heptagon …

Fig. 3. Project constraints (Rita Mulcahy definition)

This creates a total of 21 relationships between constraints, which I will not add to the above diagram for fear of confusing the reader.   What a mess!  The loss of simplicity from the time of the “iron triangle” description of constraints was lamented in the excellent blog post in the blog Mosaic Projectsby Pat Weaver and Lynda Bourne:

What went wrong?   Well, it’s not the Project Management Institute’s fault for wanting a more complete definition.   Blame it on a paradox of mathematics called …

4. Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem

The problem of the definition of constraints getting a little unwieldy as it tries to be more complete is a concrete example of Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem, which states in the realm of mathematics that:

Any effectively generated theory capable of expressing elementary arithmetic cannot be both consistent and complete.

If you try to limit yourself to just using natural numbers used for counting, the system is consistent in that there is no equation such as 2 + 2 that yields two different answers. However, there are some equations such as 2 – 4 that yield NO answers so it is not complete. So, add the negative numbers, and you’re set, right? 2 – 4 = -2, and it is consistent and complete because there is a right answer and only one right answer. However, this creates new problems in different areas such as x2 = 2 that don’t have answers in this new expanded theory. So it is still not complete. And so forth, and so on, if you add irrational numbers, complex numbers to the mix. There is an essential tension between the completeness and consistency of a theory that is built into the very fabric of mathematics itself.

The early “iron triangle” theory was consistent in that it yielded a very fundamental insight, i.e., you can’t change one constraint without it affecting the others. Hence the popular engineering cliché of “faster, cheaper, better—pick two. ” This is a flippant comment, but it has deadly serious consequences, as the Challenger disaster showed that the government’s insistence to NASA, that it improve on all three elements of schedule, budget, AND quality simultaneously, was disastrously uninformed.

So in a well-meaning update of the constraint theory to make it more complete, it has lost that consistency or coherence it may once have had.

5. All is not Lost

However, if you take the original idea behind the iron triangle, i.e., “changing one constraint changes the others” and apply it to the increasingly long list of constraints, I think you’ll save the baby without having to throw out the bath water (to introduce my own cliché).

In reality, if you consider the laundry list of constraints listed in the PMBOK@ Guide, they sort of map onto the old iron triangle in this way, with the iron triangle definition of constraints on the top, and the new PMBOK@ Guide constraints underneath them.

In the end, our discussion of this in our study session proved that the new definition of constraints, although more complete, was not as consistent or as coherent as the old one.

I can just imagine if the study group member who was asked “what are the constraints of a project?”, instead of the snappy one-liner “time, cost, and scope”, had answered “well, it’s like a 7-sided polygon with 21 relational diagonals.” She would have either gained points for being brilliant or would have engendered an open-mouth stare on the other side of the table. She was better off with the old definition in the interview.

Passing the #PMP Exam—Study Group Discussions (Chapter 2—Project Management Framework Introduction)

PMBOK® Guide Chapter 1 is entitled Introduction and as you would expect, it introduces the concept of the project, distinguishing it from the concept of ongoing operational work. It discusses the two levels of management above project management, program and portfolio management. And it introduces the Project Management Office, which centralizes and coordinates project management.

 Chapter 2 of the PMBOK® Guide is called Framework and it shows:

 i.  the relationship of the project life cycle (how you do the work of the project) to the project process groups (how you manage the work of the project)

ii.  the cost and risk levels associated with different parts of the life cycle;

iii.  how large projects can be broken up into project phases;

iv.  how the question of doing projects vs. operational work is affected by the way the company is organized

v. the advantages and/or disadvantages for project management of various types of company organization (functional, projectized, weak/balanced/strong matrix, composite)

vi.  the different categories of stakeholders and how they can influence a project

All of these topics are ones that led to significant discussions in our study group and which led to questions that were initially missed in our end-of-chapter review questions. I hope that the next series of blog posts based on our study group discussions help to clarify these concepts from Chapter 2 and make you successful in handling questions on the exam that deal with them.

NOTE:   There is one topic from Chapter 1 which I realized I needed to write about only after completing the other posts on that chapter.  That’s because the concept is one that has evolved over time and that is “what are the types of constraint that a project has to take into consideration?”   There used to be three categories, and now there are seven and upwards to be considered.   I will deal with that topic in the post tomorrow (on Saturday 07/07).    

On Sunday, I will have post on the first chapter of the Transformation fitness program by Bill Phillips, and then on Monday 07/09 I will start with the individual topics of Chapter 2 that I list above.  

Passing the #PMP Exam—Study Group Discussions (Chapter 1—Project-Program-Portfolio and What is a PMO?)

I hope this post is helpful to those of you who are either preparing for the PMP exam or contemplate doing so. It comes out of the discussions we had in our study group for the PMP exam prep class held by the local chapter of the Project Management Institute.   We focused on where we were getting practice exam questions wrong.  We know the discussions were helpful to us because after having our discussions on each chapter, our performance on the exam questions improved to our objective of an 80% success rate or higher.

 In this blog post, I discuss the two remaining topics that need to be paid particular attention to when studying the PMBOK® Guide Chapter 1—Introduction. The two topics to be discussed in this post are

  • The Relationships Among Project, Program and Portfolio Management
  • The Project Management Office or PMO

1. Project-Program-Portfolio Levels

We’ve dealt with the definition of a project in the blog post for July 3rd. Here is the definition of a project contrasted with the definitions according to the PMBOK® Guide for a program and a portfolio, which are larger units of management within an organization.

Fig. 1. PMBOK® Guide Definitions of Project, Program, and Portfolio



Project A temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.
Program A group of related projects managed in a coordinated way to obtain benefits and control not available from managing them individually. May include elements of related work outside of the scope of discrete projects in the program.
Portfolio A collection of projects or programs and other work that are grouped together to facilitate effective management of that work to meet strategic business objectives. The projects or programs of the portfolio may not necessarily be interdependent or directly related.

So analyzing the definition of a program, you can see a conceptual scheme of a program that includes, let’s say, three projects and some related work that is outside of the scope of the discrete projects in the program.

Fig. 2. Conceptual diagram of a Program

Now if you go to the definition of a portfolio, you can see a conceptual scheme of a portfolio made up of a project, two programs and some other related work.

Fig. 3. Conceptual diagram of a Portfolio

Hmm … looks very familiar, somewhat like the conceptual scheme of the Program, right? However, here’s the important difference between the two schemes. The projects and related work that are managed as a part of the program are thematically related, indicated in Fig. 2 by all boxes being a shade of blue. The projects and program under the portfolio, on the other hand, may be independent¸ indicated in Fig. 3 by the boxes being different colors. But of course they COULD be interdependent or even directly related.

However, projects in a program CANNOT be independent in the same way. Here’s a summary of the possibilities based on the definitions.

Fig. 4. Summary: Relatedness of program/portfolio components


Directly related/









An example of a program would be the design of an aircraft, with the different projects being the design of the various systems within the aircraft. These would obviously have to be coordinated since they are all parts of the same aircraft, and changes in one system might have an impact on the other systems.

An example of a portfolio with interdependent or directly related components would be the design of a whole series of aircraft, with each program being one of the aircraft. This would be especially true if the various aircraft shared components or even whole sub-systems.

An example of a portfolio with independent components would be an energy company that has facilities that produce energy from various sources including wind, solar, fossil fuels, and nuclear materials. Setting up production of these would be independent because the energy sources would require vastly different methods (or tactics) of production, but they would all be related strategically to company’s objective of profitable energy production.

2. Project Management Organization

When the question in our study group came up of “what is a Project Management Organization,” some of us said it was directly involved in project management, and others said it was NOT directly involved, but played a “supporting role” so to speak. The answer according to the PMBOK® Guide? We were ALL right. How could this be?

Let’s take a look at the definition according to the PMBOK® Guide:

Fig. 5. Definition of Project Management Office or PMO

Project Management Office or PMO An organizational body or entity assigned various responsibilities related to the centralized and coordinated management of those projects under its domain.

The responsibilities of a PMO can range from providing project management support functions to actually being responsible for the direct management of a project.

In other words, there is no one standard for what a PMO can do with regard to the actual management of the project. One company might have it directly manage the project, while another company might have it be more of a supporting role, like being the repository of all documents related to past projects, almost like being a corporate project library (or using other terminology, handling organization process assets).

Another company still might have it provide assistance with specific project management tools, including project management software (or using other terminology, handling environmental enterprise factors).

So the PMBOK® Guide recognizes that any of these possibilities may be true for a particular organization. But in ANY of these cases, it assists the handling of projects for an organization by centralizing their management in some shape or form. To what EXTENT it centralizes it (i.e., the paperwork, the procedures, or the performance) is up to the company.

7 Things I Love about the United States of America on #4thofJuly #USA

1. America is Enlightened

I am proud of the fact that America is the first country that was founded on the principles of Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality that were the product of the Enlightenment. Yes there were some who came to this continent for religious reasons, but the country’s foundation is firmly within the humanistic tradition. The phrase “we hold these truths to be self-evident” was originally supposed to be “we hold these truths to be sacred” but Benjamin Franklin argued for the “self-evident” wording so as to have the Declaration of Independence appeal to EVERYONE, and not just those who believed in a particular religion, or indeed any religion at all.

2. America is Optimistic

Stephen Fry, like Alistair Cooke before him in a different generation, is someone born in Britain who considers America to be his adopted home. One of the reasons why he feels pride in America is that it the national character is so optimistic. He mentions a theory that most Americans are optimistic because it is the optimistic ones that ended up leaving Europe when times got tough, whereas the pessimistic or fatalistic ones ended up staying there. When I heard him mention this theory on an interview with Craig Ferguson on the Late Late Show (see clip below), I realized that his theory actually has some scientific basis as it was mentioned in the book Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters by Matt Ridley. The genetic structure of members of families was compared for those families who had several generations move to America at some point in their history. The ones that were on the American side had higher incidence markers for what might be referred to as the genes controlling “restlessness”, better known as Attention Deficit Disorder.

Here’s the link to the interview:

3. America is Innovative

One of my favorite founding fathers is Benjamin Franklin. I just got done reading the biography of Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson. I think it interesting that he has also produced biographies on a scientist (Albert Einstein), a diplomat (Henry Kissinger), and an inventor (Steve Jobs), whereas Benjamin Franklin was all of those in his lifetime, and more. Benjamin Franklin was not only innovative when it comes to scientific ideas or inventions, but also in terms of social norms as well. He along with George Washington had contemplated the idea of the American Indians joining the United States as a separate state of their own. When he saw a group of African-American children who were educated to be literate in Massachusetts, he became even more anti-slavery than he was before. He probably would have been one of the Founding Fathers who would have been most at home in our technological age of wonders such as the Internet.

4. America is Multicultural and increasingly Multiracial

One of my favorite places to live was on Roosevelt Island in New York, because many of the UN diplomats had residence there. But Roosevelt Island was different from New York in terms of being multicultural and multiracial in terms of degree. The rest of the city is almost like a reflection of the microcosm of the UN, and America as a whole is looking increasing like this as well. For someone who loves foreign languages and learning about the different cultures of the world, this is not threatening, but exhilarating to know that we are made up of the same fabric as the rest of the planet.

To some having the white people lose their “pride of place” in being the most numerous in this country is threatening, but the America I love is the one, like the Statue of Liberty, who welcomes the newcomers.  It’s not a zero-sum game, and the immigrant experience teaching us this time and time again.

5. America is Equal

When I say “equal”, I mean “equal under the law.”  This is the essence of the breakdown of feudalism with its inherent caste system towards a truly democratic society. The worst aspect of the financial crisis of 2008 in my estimation is not the economic inequality it engendered, but the fact that nobody in Wall Street has been prosecuted for fraud, thus giving credence to the idea that there is a separate justice for the elite in this country. Even during the administration of Ronald Reagan, hardly an anti-business president by any means, those who were involved in the Savings and Loan scandal went to jail.  But not this time around.  That is why I see those in Occupy Wall Street as being conservatives in their own way because they want to restore this country to a time and place when committing a crime meant you did time, no matter who you were.

6. America is Federal

The system of concentric government, from the Federal to the State to the Municipal level is an ingenious system, and the contrasts and conflicts between Federal and State governmental powers has a long-running history in our country. From a cultural standpoint, however, I must say that America is so vast that it contains multitudes to borrow the phrase from Walt Whitman. You have so many regional cultures that have their own charm and yet all of us have multiple identities as Californians (or whatever state you’re from) and Americans. This allows us to share a common culture and yet not be homogeneous.

7. America is Progressive

There are some things worth conserving and I have some sense of sympathy for conservatives who want to put the brakes on change out of a sense of caution and a fear of anarchy. However, I do have to say that, as Winston Churchill put it, “Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing…after they have exhausted all other possibilities.” We were the second to the last country in the world to get rid of slavery, but we did finally do it (the last was Turkey, I believe).

The excesses of economic inequality led to periods of reform in which laws and regulations controlling the power of business were enacted. The Progressive movement in this country occurred after the excesses of the Gilded Age in the 19th century, and if history serves as a guide, it will create a backlash against the second Gilded Age in which we are living now.

These are the reasons for which I am grateful to be an American. Many of the things I mentioned now are under threat in this country, such as the American optimism I mention in point number 2.

But if we celebrate the things we love above our country, we will be in a more positive frame of mind to tackle those problems that we do face.    Our country has its faults, but it is lovable despite all its faults for the 7 reasons I mentioned above.

Happy 4th of July!

Passing the #PMP Exam—Study Group Discussions (Chapter 1—What is a Project?)

In this blog post, I discuss the topics that need to be paid particular attention to when studying the PMBOK® Guide Chapter 1—Introduction.  The three topics to be discussed in this and the next few posts are taken from the discussions we had in our PMP exam study group after completing the exam prep course put on by the Orange County Chapter of the Project Management Institute or PMI.

1. Distinction between project and operational work

You wouldn’t think that something as simple as “what is a project?” would cause trouble.   But some exam questions have been known to trip up people on this supposedly simple concept.   Why?  The problem comes from the fact that what is often called a “project” in the real world does not fit the definition of a “project” according to the PMBOK® Guide, but is rather what would be referred to as “operational work” or “ongoing work”.

Here’s the official definition of a “project” according to the 4th edition of the PMBOK® Guide:

Project: A temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.

So a project and operational work are different in this respect:

Duration Result
Project Temporary (starts and ends) Unique product, service, or result
Operational Work Ongoing and/or repetitive Mass production (for example), repetitive work

2. Similarity between project and operational work

The famous cycle of “plan, do, check, act” applies to BOTH project and operational work.

In the world of project management, “plan” is covered by the Planning process group, “do” by the Executing process Group, “check and act” are covered by the Monitor & Control process Group.

To these a project adds to the mix a “start” or Initiating Process Group, and an “end” or Closing Process Group.

3. Why is this distinction and similarity important?

Some exam questions will ask you about a company that decides to treat ongoing or operational work as a “project”. It may give you a scenario and ask you what happens next.

The key here is that many of these questions will put the word “project” in quotes. This should be seen as a signal that “the company SAYS it’s a project, but is it really?”


Here’s an example from a previous company of mine, an insurance company.  Every year towards the end of the fiscal year, all of the outstanding claims had to have reserves that were not too small, and not too large, but just right. The purpose of confirming that the reserves were in this Goldilocks zone was to prepare for any potential audit and demonstrate that we were not under-reserving (and thus going against insurance regulations) or over-reserving (and thus going against tax regulations).


In our company, we referred to this annual confirmation of the reserve calculations as “the reserve project.” It had a beginning and an end, and it produced a result (regulatory compliance). Was it really a project according to the PMBOK® Guide?


No, because it is not a “unique” product, but one that was repeated from year to year. This is important because there was planning as a part of our “reserve project”, but there was no need for, say, a project charter or some of the other essential elements of project management.


The distinction between a project and operational work has ramifications for the way a project is managed within an organization, and also for risk management. Projects, given their nature as producing “unique” or sometimes even brand new products, are inherent more risky than the tried-and-true operational work. That makes them not just different in degree from operational work (adding two additional process groups of Initiating and Closing), but also in kind as well.

Some exam questions recognize that the “real world” terminology with respect to the question “what is a project” is not PMBOK® standard terminology, and try to test to see if you know this difference.

Know it and pass the test!

In the next post after the 4th of July holiday, I will discuss the next subject that needs some attention from Chapter 1: the distinction between a project, program, and portfolio.

Passing the #PMP Exam—Study Group Discussions (introduction)

1. Introduction

In May and June 2012, I attended a class put on by the Project Management Institute or PMI’s Orange County chapter that was designed to prepare its members to pass the test for certification as a Project Management Professional or PMP. It was an intensive, all-day class held on Saturdays and it just recently completed.

During that class, I organized a study group and we discussed each chapter of the Project Management Body of Knowledge or PMBOK® Guide before each weekend of instruction.   The entire class had a study guide called

Achieve PMP Exam Success by Margaret Chu, Diane Altwies, and Janice Preston.

which we used in class to collectively go over the end-of-chapter review questions.  Based on recommendations from those that took the class before and passed the exam, our study group got a more substantial exam guide,

PMP Exam Prep, Seventh Edition: Rita’s Course in a Book for Passing the PMP Exam by Rita Mulcahy.

Other study groups used different books, such as the guide by Kim Heldman or Andy Crowe, but our group just decided to use the Rita Mulcahy book as a supplemental resource based on the personal recommendations we received.

Now the class is over with but people in our study group are now doing a review of the material we covered in class in preparation for taking the actual test. I am happy to say that one of our study group members, Peter, already passed the exam and is now officially a Project Management Professional or PMP!

That is a tremendous encouragement to the rest of us in the study group.  I’m hearing reports back from one or two members of other study groups that they have passed the test as well.

2. Purpose

The purpose of these blog posts is to uncover those subjects we covered during the course of our review which we felt needed more attention paid to them because they were either very complicated or we were getting a lot of practice questions wrong in our end-of-chapter reviews.

NOTE: For tips on HOW to study for the PMP exam, see my blog post

These posts will go over the details of certain concepts presented from the PMBOK® Guide chapters 1-3, Overview, Framework, and Processes, and then the concepts that come from the various knowledge areas presented in chapters 4-12 (Integration, Scope, Time, Cost, Quality, Human Resources, Communications, Risk, Procurement).  There will be a separate discussion of the Professional Responsibility or ethics guidelines recommended by the PMI that is not contained in the PMBOK® Guide itself.

The next blog posts will cover the following topics from Chapter 1—Introduction:

  • Distinction between project and operational work
  • Distinction between project, program, and portfolio
  • Function of a Project Management Office

These posts will not cover EVERYTHING that it is in Chapter 1; however, they cover those topics which caused many of us to miss practice exam questions the first time around and therefore warrant a bit more close attention.