The Labyrinth of Superabundance

Puedes leer el artículo en español: «El Laberinto de la Superabundancia»,  publicado en


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How the PMO Can Rescue Companies from Project Chaos

In the contemporary business landscape, organizations face a peculiar and complex problem: the superabundance of projects. This phenomenon not only tests the operational capacity of companies but also obscures the strategic vision necessary to navigate effectively in increasingly competitive and volatile markets.

The simultaneous and excessive presence of initiatives in different execution phases identifies the superabundance of projects. In this environment, teams become overwhelmed, resources are scarce, and, most critically, the strategic focus becomes diluted. Companies with many projects often fall into a vicious cycle where the urgency of deadlines prevails over the importance of objectives. Examples of this phenomenon abound in companies that, driven by their innovative enthusiasm or competitive pressure, multiply initiatives without proper planning or a clear definition of priorities.

This problem is often identified when organizations perceive a stagnation in productivity or even a setback despite the multiplication of their initiatives. Ongoing projects don’t seem to converge toward strategic objectives, and teams, despite working hard, fail to generate the expected value. In this scenario, it is common to observe increased stress and demotivation levels among employees, who are overloaded with tasks and pressured to meet often unrealistic deadlines.

In the tech sector, for instance, it’s common for companies to embark on multiple development and innovation projects simultaneously. This superabundance often leads to internal competition for resources and talent, dilution of responsibility, and ultimately, loss of opportunities due to the inability to execute effectively and timely. The result is an inflated project portfolio, where many of them, even if completed, do not deliver the expected value or become obsolete before implementation.

In light of this, the Project Management Office (PMO) emerges as an essential strategic tool. A robust and well-implemented PMO identifies and prioritizes projects aligned with the organization’s strategic objectives and efficiently and effectively allocates resources. Through the PMO, organizations can regain control of their portfolio, eliminating redundant or non-strategic projects and focusing on key initiatives that generate sustainable value.

The PMO also acts as a facilitator of communication and transparency between departments and teams. In an environment saturated with projects, information can become scattered and lost, leading to uninformed and uncoordinated decisions. The PMO centralizes and clarifies data, offering a comprehensive and coherent view of all ongoing initiatives and allowing decision-making based on precise and relevant information.

In conclusion, the superabundance of projects is a problem affecting a wide spectrum of organizations today. Its early identification and proper management, supported by a strategically aligned PMO, are essential to ensure companies’ viability, competitiveness, and sustainability in the complex contemporary market.


Is Your Organization Overwhelmed with Initiatives?

Michael D. Watkins, a renowned author and expert on organizational transitions and leadership, addresses this issue in his article «Too Many Projects» published by Harvard Business Publishing. Watkins delves into the symptoms of initiative overload.

One of the primary steps in addressing initiative overload is understanding and acknowledging its existence. Watkins suggests asking the following reframed questions to determine if an organization is taking on too many initiatives:

  • Do leadership discussions often center around reducing new initiatives?
  • Are projects frequently initiated in reaction to new internal or external demands?
  • Is a large portion of work centered around starting and sustaining initiatives?
  • Is there resistance to slowing down or halting ongoing initiatives?
  • Are past projects frequently carried forward without reevaluation of their current relevance or effectiveness?
  • Is there an absence of a centralized body that scrutinizes all ongoing initiatives?
  • Are there no standardized procedures for evaluating the impact and determining the priority of initiatives?
  • Do initiatives often commence even when resources are overstretched?
  • Are several initiatives launched at the same time?
  • Are staff often burdened with new projects without concluding previous ones?
  • Is there often a lack of coordination across different departments when starting initiatives?
  • Are projects initiated without a comprehensive analysis of sustained support necessities?
  • Are projects started without a defined business justification?
  • Do projects begin without clear success indicators?
  • Are projects introduced without outlining a termination process?
  • Is the success of a project mainly judged by the individuals who initiated it?
  • Does the prevailing quantity of initiatives hamper productivity and the prioritization process?

If an organization answers ‘yes’ to more than four of the above questions, there’s a significant chance they are grappling with initiative overload.


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A PMO’s Guide for Engage Initiative Overload

Preemptive action is the most efficient way to prevent initiative overload: rigorously reviewing potential initiatives, understanding their time and resource implications, and evaluating their genuine necessity.

For instance, consider a global IT company keen on keeping pace with technological advancements. They’re faced with myriad project proposals: a new cloud service, an AI-powered customer interface, a cybersecurity enhancement project, and an overhaul of their internal communications systems. While each project seems promising, taking on all simultaneously could lead to resource drains and a dilution of focus.

Here, Watkins presents a proactive approach that would involve:

Full Initiative Count:

The company first needs to have a bird’s-eye view of all ongoing initiatives. This will help understand where the resources are currently invested and if there’s room for more.

Thorough Initiative Evaluation:

Each proposed project must be dissected to understand its business justification, budget implications, manpower requirements, and potential business impact. For instance, while the AI-powered customer interface might seem like a groundbreaking project, does the company have the AI expertise? If not, the costs to train or hire could be prohibitive.

Establish Integrated Priorities:

Engaging top leadership to set priorities is essential. If the feedback from the sales department suggests that clients are more interested in enhanced cybersecurity, then that project might take precedence over others. Honest feedback from different departments will clarify what’s urgently needed versus what’s nice.

Implement a Sunset Clause:

Every project, once approved, should have a defined lifecycle. If the internal communications system overhaul is predicted to have a two-year technological lifespan before it becomes obsolete, then that should be the project’s sunset date. This ensures resources aren’t squandered on outdated projects.

Yearly Re-evaluation:

By revisiting each initiative annually, the company ensures it’s continually aligned with the evolving business landscape. If, after a year, the cloud service project isn’t delivering the expected ROI, it might be time to pivot or halt further resource allocation.

Clear Communication:

The organizational morale must understand that halting or pivoting away from an initiative doesn’t mean it was ill-conceived. In our dynamic business environment, the agility to change direction based on feedback and results is a strength, not a failure.

For companies already in the throes of initiative chaos, recognizing the power of strategic restraint can carve a clear path ahead. As echoed by visionaries like Steve Jobs, sometimes the strength of an organization is reflected not just in the initiatives it undertakes but in the potential projects it gracefully declines. This focus enables organizations to harness their energy more efficiently, intensify employee engagement, and excel in areas that align with their core objectives.


Conclusion: The role of the PMO in navigating the chaos

The labyrinth of initiative superabundance poses significant challenges for organizations, leading to inefficiencies, wasted resources, and employee burnout. Watkins’ insights shine a light on this pressing issue, emphasizing the pivotal role of the PMO in navigating the chaos. By identifying initiative overload and implementing strategic solutions, companies can optimize productivity, foster innovation, and harness their resources more judiciously.

Discerning what truly matters and aligning initiatives with organizational goals becomes the key to sustainable success in a world of endless possibilities.

The role of the PMO in navigating the chaos

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