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PMO’s – Enabling and Restraining

What has the P3O® (Portfolio, Programme Project Offices) guidance that was published in 2008 by the UK Office of Government Commerce got to do with Yin and Yang?

The Chinese ancients believed that Yin and Yang is the interplay of opposites and stresses the importance of balance. “All things connote the Yin and the Yang, and the Yin and the Yang keep acting upon each other and thus things keep changing and unifying themselves.” The Book of Tao, describes two kinds of energy, two modes of consciousness

Yin Yang
feminine masculine
contractive expansive
conservative demanding
responsive aggressive
cooperative competitive
intuitive rational
synthesizing analytic


Fritjof Capra, physicist and systems theorist, sees Yin and Yang energy as related to two modes of consciousness, two different kinds of knowing.  The rational and the intuitive are complementary modes of functioning of the human mind.

  • Rational thinking is linear, focused and analytic.  Rational knowledge tends to be fragmented.
  • Intuitive knowledge is based on a direct, nonintellectual experience of reality arising in an expanded state of awareness.  It tends to be synthesizing, holistic, and nonlinear.”

P3O suggests using a “Value Matrix” to determine the scope of the support and assurance services that are provided to the organisation. The matrix considers 3 levels of change management that an organisation may experience in handling the management of portfolios, programmes and projects and may prompt a debate with the stakeholders of the P3O model. The catalyst of the debate is the parallel governance opposite activities of “Enabling and Restraining”.

If we recognise the word governance, as to take decisions or to “steer” the dialogue between the PMO and its stakeholders, including Management Boards, Programme and Project managers, customer/ user community, Other Corporate Functions (Audit, Finance, HR and Procurement) and Suppliers (PM’s), Management Boards and their delivery teams could cover the following:

“Enabling” – PMO Ensuring that

  • Right decisions are being taken by the right people, with right level of information
  • Right level detail are captured in plans,
  • Dependency tracking is in place,
  • Examination and escalation of risks, issues and changes is happening, and

“Restraining” – PMO Ensuring that

  • Phase / Stage (Kill – Go/No Go) gates are completed and not passed through without the correct level of authority
  • ‘Management Boards’ reports are provided with accurate and timely progress reports and options

Has the debated started in your organisation when establishing or re-energising your PMO?

Is the debate focused on rational or intuitive thinking?

How will you strike a balance between enabling and restraining?

Share some experiences and best practice, let us know.

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About Graham Shreeve

Graham Shreeve

Graham Shreeve, an instructor with ESI International, has more than 30 years of experience in leadership and senior management. He is an experienced trainer and facilitator, specializing in project and program management that is based upon the practical application of best practice methods (UK Office of Government Commerce) and recognized bodies of knowledge (the Association of Project Management (APM) and the Project Management Institute (PMI®)). He also has facilitated training sessions in planning and control techniques, risk management, benefit management, and stakeholder management.

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