Uniformity of the organizational culture variable and the Project Management Institute (PMI®) Organizational project management maturity model knowledge foundation (OPM3®)



In December of 2003, the Project Management Institute (PMI) published a new project management standard focused on the organizational level. This recently developed standard, the Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3), presents a disciplined and systematic means for organizations to reach a higher level of project maturity based on an extensive array of organizational project management good practices. OPM3 encompasses three general elements: (1) knowledge, stating the content of the standard, (2) assessment, presenting a method with which to appraise the organization against the standard, and (3) improvement, preparing the stage for possible organizational changes. However, this last element of improvement presents a major challenge because people comprise a package of values, preferences, attitudes, and other artifacts, which also form the organizational culture. OPM3 does not currently consider organizational culture as part of the model. This paper explores the opportunity of integrating organizational culture with this de facto standard and investigates any correlations between them. We expect that the resulting wide-ranging picture from the OPM3 assessment, including this organizational culture aspect, will move the organization into a position to prepare a superior strategy, to better understand the organization's current reality as it is described by its people, culture, and structure, and to enhance the improvement element of OPM3.


The Organizational Project Management Maturity Models (OPMs) present a valuable structure that assists organizations in the assessment of their capabilities, strengths, and opportunities and which is geared toward implementing a more effective business strategy. However, planning and developing an effective strategy can be a difficult endeavor. The correct company strategy should incorporate and set the correct direction toward company goals, short- and long-range plans, and an effective management synergy (Judgev, 2002). This planning, synergy, and route can entail a change in the organizational paradigm, a movement of resources from their current states to a more straightforward alignment. Among these organizational resources, people present the major challenge in achieving this new alignment, because they comprise a total package of values, preferences, attitudes, and other artifacts, which also form the organizational culture (Abdul, 2004). It is important to state that the Project Management Institute (PMI®) acknowledges a strong relationship and influence between organizational cultures and projects (Project Management Institute, 2003); nevertheless, this essential element is not currently part of the PMI's Project Management Maturity Model.

PMI, as well as many other quality-driven organizations, encourages the continuous improvement of their standards. As organizations adopt, test, and study the OPM3, improvements in, enhancement of, and dependability of this standard can be expected (PMI, 2003). “Most people would rather live with a problem they can't solve, than accept a solution they can't understand” (Woosley & Swanson, 1975). This quote implies that it is imperative to comprehend, in the most extensive form, the elucidation of a problem before any effort toward implementing a change or a solution can be initiated. In this paper, we explore the opportunity to include this important variable, organizational culture, within OPM3 so that a more comprehensive status of the organization is obtained before any attempt at improvement begins. In addition, because culture improves organizational commitment and consistency of employee behavior, it also provides the appropriate standards that hold an organization together (Robbins, 2003). Therefore, organizational culture should be included as part of an organizational assessment, with the intent of improving organizational areas as significant as project management. For this reason, in this paper we will also explore the expected value of including the organizational culture variable in the OPM3 assessment effort, so that the organization will be better positioned to pursue a more reachable, acceptable route toward organizational maturity. The author suggests that to prepare a superior implementation strategy, including a change of paradigm, the organization must understand its current reality---that is, where the organization stands right now. This “reality check” is described best by its people, culture, and structure and should result in a more effective action plan to transform the organization.


Founded in 1969, PMI is a nonprofit, professional association that is responsible for the development of the Project Management Competency Development Framework published in 2002 (PMI, 2002) and A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK ® Guide) Third edition (PMI, 2004), as well as many other important project management–related standards. Several of these project management standards are intended to address and manage only single projects and their associated good practices. However, in 2003, PMI published the first organizational standard, the Organizational Project Management Maturity Model Knowledge Foundation (OPM3®) (PMI, 2003). The purpose of this new standard was to assist organizations in understanding the project management discipline at the organizational level. This standard guided practitioners of the model through a series of project management good practices to reach a higher level of maturity, which in turn improved the ability of these industries to attain their organizational goals. Two years later, PMI embarked on a new project to provide a second revision of this standard. This innovative effort is an amendment to their assessment tool questions and construction and context techniques, as well as an improvement on the common process methodology of the model. OPM3 practitioners can anticipate a more reasonable interplay between current good practices and the assessment questions, in addition to many other model enhancements that will provide a more solid, simpler standard.

Several suggestions about incorporating the organizational culture aspect into the model were made in the second edition of OPM3. These suggestions were subsumed under the following annotations: consider critical success factors when implementing OPM3 in an organization (i.e., the social dimension of organization design and organizational culture); implementing action plans can or should include an organizational culture perspective; and future enhancements to the model should provide an organizational culture assessment. This paper explores a preliminary effort toward the inclusion of this important variable as part of this organizational project milestone.

Statement of the Opportunity

The essential opportunity addressed by this paper is the exclusion of an important piece of qualitative data from the OPM3 assessments. These qualitative data could help the OPM3 practitioner better understand the organization's current status as part of the PMI OPM3 implementation readiness. Exhibit 1 below describes how the model is composed of three critical elements (PMI, 2003).

The OPM3 Segmented Model





Exhibit 1--The OPM3 Segmented Model

The OPM3 improvement segment allows organizations, based on current results of the assessment process, to decide whether or not to pursue a plan for improvements (PMI, 2003). PMI understands that during the implementation of improvements, many factors may be affected, including organizational structure, leadership, strategy, and the business model (PMI, 2003, p. 41). OPM3, as well as many other organizational improvement models, includes the elements necessary for guiding the construction of an improvement path for organizational change. The planning, development, execution, and implementation of this path will inevitably affect the culture of the organization. Ignoring this fact could present a potential problem to the organization, because culture helps influence the adoption and institutionalization of new paradigms (Frost, 1998). A change to an organization is more likely to be permanent and successful if three conditions are met: (1) the change was effectively understood and communicated to all affected stakeholders and is aligned with the organizational philosophy; (2) the change should be associated with crucial factors and plans of organizational success; and (3) the organizational culture should encourage the transformation (Frost, 1998). The proposition of adding the organizational culture variable as part of the OPM3 assessment will provide business leaders and managers with a valuable mechanism for recognizing and facilitating a change of paradigm at the organizational level.

Solid data analysis is fundamental for the formulation, implementation, and evaluation of any organizational change episode. PMI stated that one of the key benefits of OPM3 is to “assist organizations with prioritizing and planning activities should improvement decisions be made” (PMI, 2008). Better decisions must be made based on the development of better data, information, analyses, and tools. This paper presents an excellent opportunity to enhance the organizational assessment functions of OPM3 so that better improvement plans and decisions can be made. This paper also attempts to lead or motivate other OPM3 practitioners and organizations interested in these project management topics, as well as the project management community at large, to explore additional enhancements to make the model richer, more reliable, and eminently more comprehensible.

Organizational Culture

One element of these models that may have been relegated or not emphasized is organizational culture. Organizational culture has been recognized as a pervasive influence on organizational life. Schein (2004) defines culture as the shared, basic assumptions learned by a group as it solves its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, which have worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, well enough to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems. In terms of organizational culture, many authors agree that a set of shared values and norms actively controls how organizational members interact internally and externally with suppliers, customers, and other groups outside the organization (Jones, 2004).

Organizational culture can play an important role in achieving competitive advantage, increasing organizational effectiveness, and improving competitive position because organizational culture defines and exerts influence on the ways organizational members make decisions and interpret and manage the organization's environment, on how and what they do with information, and on how they behave (Schein, 2004). Although some organizational changes that comprise new work processes and procedures can be introduced over relatively short time frames, organizational culture may also need to change in order to come in line with theses work processes (Price, 2006). Critical to driving successful organizational change is the development of more efficient and effective processes aligned with organizational culture to support the new paradigm introduced by new processes. When processes and organizational culture are aligned and well established, resources tend to operate within a comfort zone. Thus, organizational members acquire greater responsibilities, require some retraining, perform new tasks, and develop new skills and ways of working. In contrast, those operating outside a comfort zone will realize anxiety and stress caused by ill-managed processes that could very well manifest as resistance to change (Price, 2006).

Corporate culture studies conducted by Kotter and Heskett, both from the Harvard Business School, draw the following conclusions:

  1. Culture can have an enormous impact on performance. Companies with cultures that emphasize customers, stockholder and employee communities, and leadership at all levels consistently outperform other companies.
  2. Organizational culture is likely increasing in importance. An increasing rate of change exists in most markets. Ignoring this fact and not making necessary changes will adversely affect organizations.
  3. Cultures that restrain corporate performance can develop easily. Sustained success can promote inflexibility for companies. Such inflexibility can reduce that ability for an organization to adapt to change.
  4. Cultures can be changed, although not easily. Culture changes are complex and time consuming, and they require true leadership (Roberts, 1996).

In order to analyze culture effectively, it must be decomposed to less complex levels. In this way, cultural phenomena become visible to observers, from the tangible, everyday artifacts to the deeply embedded, assumptive essence of culture (Schein, 2004).

The Competing Values Framework

This is a model that defines organizations according to four cultural styles allocated by four dimensions of a table bounded by the extremes of two axes: flexibility and discretion versus stability and control; and internal focus/integration versus external focus/differentiation (Rogers, 1993). The first dimension runs from stability and control to flexibility and discretion. The second dimension reflects the extent to which an organization is focused on either its internal integration or its external differentiation (Cameron & Quinn, 1999). Together these two dimensions form four quadrants, each representing a distinct organizational culture: the clan, adhocracy, market, and hierarchy (Exhibit 2).

The Competing Values Framework

Exhibit 2--The Competing Values Framework

Note. From Diagnosing and Changing Organizational Culture (p. 32), by K. S. Cameron and R. E. Quinn, 1999, Boston: Addison-Wesley. Copyright 1999 by Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc. Adapted with permission.

Clan Culture

The clan culture is characterized by teamwork, employee involvement programs, and a friendly place to work. It is like an extended family. The leaders, or head of the organization, are considered to be mentors and, perhaps, even parent figures. The organization is held together by loyalty or tradition. The organization emphasizes its long-term commitments. Success is defined in terms of sensitivity to customers and concern for people (Cameron & Quinn, 1999).

Adhocracy Culture

The adhocracy culture is characterized by individuality and tends to be a dynamic, entrepreneurial, risk-taking, and creative place to work. The glue that holds the organization together is commitment to experimentation and innovation. The emphasis is on being on “the leading edge.” Readiness for change and meeting new challenges are important. Success is defined by providing unique and new products or services (Cameron & Quinn, 1999).

Market Culture

The market culture is characterized by a results-oriented organization. The leaders are hard drivers, producers, and competitors. They are tough and demanding. The glue that holds the organization together is an emphasis on winning. The long-term concern is on competitive actions and achievement of measurable goals and targets. Success is defined in terms of market share and penetration (Rogers, 1993).

Hierarchy Culture

The hierarchy culture is a formalized and structured place to work. Procedures govern what people do. The leaders pride themselves on being good coordinators and organizers. Maintaining a smooth running organization is important. The long-term concerns are stability, predictability, and efficiency. Formal rules and policies hold the organization together (Rogers, 1993).


Organizational Project Management Maturity Model Knowledge Foundation (OPM3®) is an organizational change model that presents a well-defined structure for continuous improvement that helps organizations adopt, assess, and implement the suggested improvements contained within the model. Saures describes organizational project management maturity as the “organization receptivity to project management” (Skulmoski, 2001). Understanding the culture of organizations and their competencies, skills, and attitudes is critical to weaving successfully and quickly management and employee groups together to maintain and eventually enhance their performance and productivity (Skulmoski, 2001).

Organizational assessment is a process of exploration, analysis, development, and perhaps implementation of significant programs and organizational changes that can influence human performance in organizations (Yauch & Steudel, 2003; Schein, 2004). This methodical process of performance analysis and involvement selection can be applied to individuals, work groups, business units, functional groups, and many other parts of organizations (Schein, 2004). The OPM3 combined with a cultural readiness assessment is of pivotal importance during the beginning of a journey toward maturity. Other project maturity models such as the Project Management Maturity Model (PMMM) already recognize the importance of the culture variable, since it is included as part of the measurement instrument. OPM3 ProductSuite, an enhancement of the PMI OPM3, includes the organizational enablers, a subset of the OPM3 model that relates the model to the organizational structures and processes necessary to support an efficient and effective implementation (PMI/DNV, 2006). This represents a positive step toward the inclusion of organizational culture as part of any organization's maturity model. Several types of organizational cultural assessments exist, including quantitative and qualitative varieties. By adding the organizational culture aspect to the OPM3 and its assessment instrument, it is presumed that a more comprehensive picture will develop, thereby preparing the organization for a less cumbersome organizational change sequence.


Abdul, R. (2004). The influence of organizational culture on attitudes toward organizational change. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 25(1/2), 161-179.

Cameron, K., & Quinn, R. E. (1999). Diagnosing and changing organizational culture. Boston: Addison-Wesley.

Frost, S., & Gillespie, T. (1998). Organizations, Culture, and Teams: Links Toward Genuine Change. New Directions for Institutional Research, 100, 5-15.

Jones, G. (2004). Organizational theory: design and change (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Judgev, J. T. (2002). Project management maturity models: The silver bullets of competitive advantage? Project Management Journal, 33(4), 4-14.

Organizational culture. (2006). Retrieved February 10, 2006, from Collins Dictionary of Sociology Web site: http://www.xreferplus.com/entry/1417295

PMI/DNV. (2006, October 10). OPM3 ProductSuite (OPM3 ProductSuite Assessor Training Material). Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.

Project Management Institute. (2002). Project Management Competency Development Framework. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.

Project Management Institute. (2003). Organizational project management maturity model. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.

Project Management Institute. (2004). A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (3rd ed.). Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.

Project Management Institute. (2006). Maturity: Do or die? PM Network, 20(2), 31-25.

Project Management Institute. (2008). OPM3Online [OPM3 Web Site]. Available from OPM3 Knowledge-Assessment-Improvement, http://opm3online.pmi.org/Default.aspx

Price, A. (2006). A strategic framework for change management. Construction Management and Economics, 24, 237-251.

Roberts, D. (1996). Targeted culture modeling: A new approach to culture assessment and change. Employment Relations Today, 23(2), 7-19.

Robbins, S. (2003). Organizational behavior (10th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Rogers, P. (1993). Competing values instruments for analyzing written and spoken management messages. Human Resource Management, 32(1), 121-142.

Schein, E. H. (2004). Organizational culture and leadership (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Skulmoski, G. (2001). Project maturity and competence interface. Cost Engineering, 43(6), 11-18.

Woosley & Swanson (1975). The Art of Computer Systems Performance Analysis. New York. John Wiley & Sons

Yauch, C. A., & Steudel, H. J. (2003). Complementary use of qualitative and quantitative cultural assessment methods. Organizational Research Methods, 6(4), 465-481.



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