Article: Maturity comes to Project Management

pm_maturity_4001It’s quite the buzz in the project management industry at the moment and it goes by the name of the “Project Management Maturity” model.  If you’re wondering if this is a relative to the IT world’s Capability Maturity Model (CMM), you need wonder no longer it’s a not-so-distant first cousin.


The idea of the PMM is that an organization’s capabilities of managing project management are assessed at a range of different levels.  There are several flavors of the model floating around but the most common iteration shows five different levels at the moment.  Labels vary but for the sake of conversation let’s number them like this: Level 1: Ad-hoc, Level 2: Planned, Level 3: Managed, Level 4, Integrated and Level 5: Sustained.  Ad-hoc is where you’d expect most organizations to be and you’d probably be right.  This means that project management occurs project-by-project in a non-standard manner.  Planned means that there is some standard for the planning aspect of project management at least but that tracking the project is done on a project-by-project  basis.  Managed would indicate that there is some normalization of how projects are both planned and tracked.  Integrated means that there is a method which brings the project management process and data together for all projects in the organization.  Sustained would mean that there is a reiterative process which would self-correct, self-improve and that the process would be self-sustaining.

I bring up the subject for two reasons.  First, there is a lot of activity in the industry at the moment doing PMM assessments, PMM implementation plans and PMM improvement projects.  So, if you’re not yet involved in such an initiative, you might expect to be soon.  The second reason is a little less obvious.  It seems that one automatically accepted aspect of this whole concept is that it is, of course, better to be higher on the scale.  I’ve been in meetings recently where this 5-level chart is put on the wall and a senior executive is informed that an assessment of the organization has determined that it is at, for example,  level 2.5.  You might just as well wave a red flag in front of a bull.  “Why aren’t we at level 5?!” the executive demands.  “I want to see a plan to get us to level 3 as soon as possible!”  Why?  Because 5 is obviously better than 1. 

It’s worthwhile to note that you can make a case for any one of these levels being appropriate for any particular organization.  We spend a lot of time talking to people about enterprise-wide project management in our firm but epm simply isn’t appropriate for some companies. 

You’ve always got to think of the overall return on investment.  In some organizations, the difficulty in implementing the culture change required to do epm outweighs the potential benefits.  In others, the shear diversity of the types of projects managed means that epm doesn’t return much investment at all.

For some of these organizations, being at a level 3, 2, or even 1 will be the most effective choice.

So, if you’re doing a PMM assessment at the moment, by all means, continue.  It’s always good to know where you stand and introspection almost always returns good value.  But, before you jump on the bandwagon to see how high up the PMM ladder you can get, make sure that the benefits are there.