Effect of Organizational Unwritten Rules on PMO Success


By Essam Mohamed Lotffy

Trojan Holding, Abu Dhabi, UAE


Frank R. Parth

Project Auditors, California, USA


Every organization has both a formal structure, shown by the organization chart, and in informal structure that forms the culture of how the organization works. This informal structure, the culture, is created by the unwritten rules of the organization, and it can have a significant impact on the success or failure of any internal project.

PMOs were centralized to service the entire organization and provide added convenience to the project team, PMOs often struggles to gain buy-in from other departments because they often try to do everything at once they launch with too much information, processes, tools and templates without taking into account the cultural changes/factors that may be necessary within the organization to allow for the project management process to be properly followed and supported.

In spite many organizations have learned about the strong benefits of PMOs – the increases in productivity and the financial benefits of being able to more effectively manage the multiple projects within the organization. However, “how” the PMO is implemented is often more important than the “what” it is designed to do. PMOs are often requested by senior management or executives to benefit the overall organization, but they have an impact on the day to day work of lower level employees. Unless the implementation is done correctly, the unwritten rules of the employees can derail the PMO before it has a chance to show any benefits. These unwritten rules form the culture of the organization, and each department and group within the organization has its own unique culture.

Just because upper management sees the long-term benefits of a PMO does not mean that every employee sees the same benefits. Every employee, as well as every manager, interprets changes from their own personal standpoint “What does this mean to me?”. If the personal benefits are not clear and obvious, there will be resistance to the change. While the resistance is personal to each employee, the group’s unwritten rules will have a significant impact on how that resistance is manifested.

What Are The Unwritten Rules?

Many of the beliefs, expectations and values, the “culture” held by an organization are encoded in a set of “Unwritten Rules”. These rules guide behavior and attitudes throughout any organization. It is an aspect that is of special importance to establishment of a PMO. These rules make daily operations more efficient by improving how people interact. However, when changes are required, such as implementing a PMO, they may be beneficial or detrimental, too often the latter.

There is no intent here to decide if a specific Unwritten Rule is “right” or “wrong”. These “Rules” are largely unarticulated and almost never discussed as such. They may even be dutifully followed without conscious awareness that they exist. Nonetheless, Unwritten Rules hold unbelievable power over the workforce, and may be responsible for much of the ineffective behavior we see in organizations.


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About the Authors 

???????????????????????????????Essam Lotffyflag-uae

Abu Dhabi, UAE

Essam Lotffy PMP, CCP is a Construction Manager-MEP at Trojan general contracting in Abu Dhabi, UAE. He received his BSc. degree in Electrical Engineering (Major) and Power Distribution (Minor) through Zagazig University, Zagazig, Egypt since 2001. Pursued and achieved his certificates in Project Management (PMP®) from PMI-USA since 2013, and certificate in Cost Management (CCP®) from AACE International since june-2014. He does claim 13 years extensive hands on experience in various aspects of projects and project management within maintenance, power distribution networks monitoring and supervision and construction projects as well. During his employment tenure with his past employers Suez Canal Electrical Distribution Company, United Engineering & Trading Company – ENTRACO, and TROJAN General Contracting, he has successfully managed various projects, in addition enhancing the process capabilities and organization performance as well. Essam Lotffy is actively pursuing potential opportunities in the project management field, where a room of growth and opportunities for advancement exists. Essam can be contacted at [email protected] or [email protected]

pmwj28-Nov2014-Lotffy-Parth-PARTHFrank Parthflag-usa

California, USA

Frank Parth, MS, MSSM, MBA, PMP is the President of Project Auditors LLC and a past member of PMI’s Board of Directors. Mr. Parth brings 35 years’ experience in project and program management to his teaching and consulting work.

He had a first career designing satellite systems for the US government and in 1993 he set up a consultancy and began consulting in program management and systems engineering. He has created PMOs for several Fortune 1000 companies and for companies internationally. He consults to clients in multiple industry sectors, including telecom, construction, high tech, chemical processing, utilities, government, healthcare, mining, financial services, and aerospace. He is currently supporting Saudi Arabia’s Saline Water Conversion Corporation in improving their project management processes and in developing a PMO.

Mr. Parth teaches project management courses throughout the world. He is a guest lecturer at USC’s Marshall School of Business, the University of California, Irvine, and at the American University of Sharjah (AUS) in the UAE. He is an accomplished international speaker and does pro bono teaching in Vietnam.

He has co-authored or contributed to multiple books on project management and has published numerous papers in project management and systems engineering. He is actively involved with PMI, serving on local and national committees and was PMI’s Project Manager for the Standard for Program Management, 2nd edition published in 2008. Frank can be contacted at [email protected]