There’s a new model on the project management runway and it’s garnering a lot of buzz. It’s called the Project Management Maturity (PMM) model and it measures an organization’s project management maturity. Once the initial level of maturity and areas for improvement are identified, the PMM provides

a roadmap, outlining the necessary steps to take toward project management growth.

There are several flavors of the model floating around, but the most common iteration shows five levels. Labels vary, but for our purposes, let’s number them as follows: Level 1: Ad-hoc; Level 2: Planned; Level 3: Managed; Level 4: Integrated; Level 5: Sustained.

Ad-hoc is the level most organizations fall into. This means project management occurs on a project-by-project basis, in a non-standard manner. Planned means there is some standard for the planning aspect of project management, but that tracking the project is done on a project-by-project basis. Managed indicates there is some normalization of how projects are both planned and tracked. Integrated means there is a method that brings the project management process and data together for all projects in the organization. Sustained means there is a reiterative process that self-corrects, self-improves and is self-sustaining.

There is a lot of activity in the industry at the moment doing PMM assessments, PMM implementation plans and PMM improvement projects. If you’re not yet involved in such an initiative, you can probably expect to be soon.

There’s another interesting component of the PMM model: Most people assume the higher you are on the scale, the better. I’ve been in meetings recently where this five-level chart is put on the wall and a senior executive is informed that an assessment of the organization has determined 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 five is obviously better than one.

In reality, you can make a case for any one of these levels being appropriate for a 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 have to think of the overall return on investment. In some organizations, the difficulty in implementing the culture change required to do EPM outweighs its potential benefits. In others, the shear diversity of the types of projects managed means EPM doesn’t return much investment at all.

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

If you’re in the process of doing a PMM assessment, I encourage you to 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 the benefits are really there.

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