The Role of Diversity in Driving PMO Excellence

In today’s interconnected world, high-performing PMOs have become a pivotal enabler of organizations. As a consequence, PMOs are no longer limited to isolated departments but span organizations, countries, and cultural backgrounds.

This increasing diversity brings its own set of challenges and opportunities. One might wonder: How does diversity impact PMO excellence?

The multifaceted nature of PMOs

Unlike the siloed structures that have been so often discussed, today’s high-performing PMOs operate in intricate networks. Some of these networks are formal purpose-designed networks whereas others as informal networks that are tactical in nature to bypass organizational bottlenecks. As PMOs extend beyond their immediate units to transcend organizational structures so do their services, and in doing so, they reach out to global teams from varied backgrounds. This collaboration requires understanding, adaptability, and the ability for harnessing diverse perspectives for common project, program, portfolio, and organizational goals.

Decoding diversity in PMOs

When we mention diversity in PMOs, we’re looking at a range of factors: gender, age, cultural backgrounds, education, and different experiences. These differences play a key role in improving decision-making, encouraging innovation, and boosting the overall efficiency and effectiveness of PMOs and PPM (project portfolio management). But it’s essential to note that just having diversity isn’t enough; it’s how we recognize and use these varied perspectives that truly matters.

Diversity is the engine of invention. It generates creativity that enriches the world.
Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

Projects in global and local settings

As projects become increasingly international, they mirror the diversity that we find in our flexible operating environment. They can be in New York one month and Zürich the next, each locale bringing its unique challenges and advantages. The team members might be from different continents, speaking different languages, and observing different cultural norms. In such a landscape, understanding and embracing diversity isn’t just a virtue—it’s a necessity.

Link between PMO culture and PMO success

Recent research from Alnuaimi and Joslin (2022) offers insights into the impact of PMO culture on success. Their study employing Cameron and Quinn’s culture model, discerned that clan and market culture types have a significant impact on PMO success. For PMOs supporting revenue-generating projects, a market culture orientation is preferable, while the ones that were internally focused echoed clan culture traits.

For the everyday practitioner, this translates to a nuanced approach. PMO personnel competences aligning with the culture type that correlates with PMO success.

The intersection of culture and diversity

Culture and diversity are deeply interconnected concepts, with each influencing the other. Culture refers to the shared values, traditions, and practices of a group, while diversity is the amalgamation of various such groups in a single environment. As different cultural groups interact, they not only contribute unique perspectives, enriching the prevailing culture, but also face potential challenges arising from cultural misunderstandings. However, when there’s a foundation of mutual respect, this intersection becomes a hotbed for innovation, growth, and harmony. Recognizing the symbiotic relationship between culture and diversity is crucial in today’s globalized world.

Now focusing on the benefits of diversity in PMOs:

  • Innovation and creativity: A diverse team brings varied perspectives, leading to inspiring approaches with impactful outcomes.
  • Competence pool: A global team brings a gamut of competences, each honed in different professional terrains.
  • Stakeholder relations: Diverse teams can connect better with a global clientele, understanding their unique needs.

The ripple effect of diversity is felt beyond immediate project and PMO worlds. It strengthens the company’s brand, lures top talent from diverse backgrounds, and boosts employee satisfaction.

                                                       BCG Innovation survey (2017)

Tackling challenges head-on

However, diversity is not without its challenges. Unconscious biases, cultural misunderstandings, and communication gaps can rear their heads. To truly harness the power of diversity, PMOs must be proactive in the following:

  • Address biases: Regular workshops and training can help in recognizing and addressing unconscious biases.
  • Diverse recruitment: Make efforts to diversify recruitment channels, reaching out to talent from varied backgrounds.
  • Continuous learning: Encourage team members to continually upgrade their cross-cultural competence.

From diversity to PMO performance

But how do you gauge the impact of diversity on PMO performance? Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) tailored to measure diversity’s positive influence on project outcomes can be invaluable. Regular feedback loops ensure that the PMO is on the right track, adapting, and evolving with changing project landscapes.

In our dynamic business environment, diversity is no longer just a buzzword—it’s a strategic imperative. For PMOs, embracing diversity isn’t about ticking off a checklist. It’s about weaving diverse threads into a cohesive tapestry of excellence. As projects expand their horizons, PMOs must be equipped to navigate the benefits and but also the challenges diversity brings. After all, in diversity lies strength, innovation, and the promise of unparalleled excellence. Something we should all strive towards…


Alnuaimi, A., & Joslin, R. (2022). Analyzing the impact of PMO culture on PMO success. The 10th IPMA Research Conference 2022.




    AIPMO is the Association of International Project Management Officers, founded in 2015.

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