Path To Red

Sabotage The PMO…With Betrayal

All of the PMOs in the meeting room looked anxious. Not me though, I was a perm at the time so I knew getting rid of me would be a little trickier. But my colleagues were all contractors and the team had just been given a task that could get any of them fired. 

The task from the Head of Transformation was to challenge the programme and project managers over poor quality reporting, poor performance, etc. He shouldn’t really have had to tell us to do this, it’s in the job description. 

I was lucky. I was embedded in a programme I’d been warned was in trouble, but found this was due to very unrealistic expectations of the business. A Change Request and a very angry Change Board later and everything was good. I’d built a good relationship with my programme manager based on honesty and competence. One day he even suggested I was the Goose to his Maverick. How he laughed when I reminded him what happened to Goose…

But my colleagues were not so lucky.  Their programme managers certainly knew the project management technical skills, but completely lacked team management or leadership skills. Everything that went wrong was always someone else’s fault. 

The report is rubbish – blame the PMO (even though they’ve been chasing the PMs submission for two days and stayed late the night before waiting for a submission that didn’t arrive until this morning 10 minutes before the meeting).

The RAID doesn’t make sense – blame a project manager (the non-confrontational one). Or the PMO for not spotting the problem (even though they’ve been calling out the problem for weeks). 

The plan is being altered without change control – blame the PMO for not telling the programme manager what change control is (even though the programme manager attends Change Board every fortnight). 

And now my contractor colleagues with their one-day notice periods were being sent to challenge their horrible bosses.  I thought I should get more support for them. 

“Hi, I’m sure the team is willing to go ahead and do as you ask. But they are subject to frequent performance reviews by the very people you’re asking them to challenge. Can you give some assurance that they’ll be protected from vendettas?”

“Absolutely,” the Head smiled.

The team looked relaxed and left the meeting feeling empowered, finally, to get on with the job they knew needed to be done. 


Three weeks later, one PMO had been fired for regular lateness even though she was in the office every day at 7:30 (a full hour before her PM) and another was on her way out for “being difficult”. 

The team stopped challenging.  No improvements in the work were detectable. Replacement PMOs quickly learned about the culture and just kept their heads down.  And as Maverick’s programme came to an end, Goose updated his CV and got a job somewhere he wouldn’t get punished for doing his job properly.  Well, so he thought…

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