Project Management Institute

An organizational PM maturity model


by John Schlichter
William R. Duncan, PMP, Contributing Editor

PMI'S MOST WIDELY KNOWN standard, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, was developed to improve the management of a single project. Now a global network is mobilizing under PMI's Standards Program to develop an Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPMMM) to help organizations improve the management of all their projects.

At PMI ’98, members of this network framed the project with provocative questions: How do you create a shared vision that promotes good project management at both the project and organizational levels? How can you help senior management organize around projects, or create a methodical approach to implement project offices? How do you find an objective basis to determine your organization's ability to implement new projects, or gauge a vendor's capability to deliver your projects? Before we can answer these questions, we must establish a common language, overcome misperceptions, and define priorities for model development.

Developing a new standard requires the input of dedicated volunteers.

The Random House College Dictionary defines maturity as “full development or perfected condition.” Maturity in the context of this project implies that organizational project management must be grown. Random House also defines model as “a standard or example for imitation or comparison.”

It is useful to discuss a maturity model in terms of three dimensions. The first represents capabilities or descriptors of maturity, and their interrelationships. What are the capabilities essential to a mature project management organization, and how do they complement or oppose each other? Another dimension describes these capabilities in a progression from a reactionary and less stable state to a more controlled and mature condition. A third dimension represents the measurement vehicle used to evaluate and guide an organization through a series of levels to improved and predictable performance.

These dimensions correspond to three overlapping stages in model development: identifying organizational capabilities, modeling these capabilities into maturity levels, and developing a measurement vehicle.

Capabilities. Our team discussed the model's first dimension: capabilities describing organizational project management maturity. We categorized these into five main groups: project management methodologies and practices; human resource factors; organizational support structure for projects; organizational learning; and alignment of projects to business strategy. These groups decompose into multiple areas, which will be refined with input from sources such as the Software Capability Maturity Model, the Software Process Improvement and Capability dEtermination (SPICE), and relevant ISO standards. We will cull from bodies of knowledge like the PMBOK Guide, the ICB-IPMA Competency Baseline, the APM BoK Review, the Project Management Assessment and Certification Program Europe, and the Australian National Competency Standards for Project Management.

John Schlichter manages and supports project portfolios in the Metamor worldwide PMO. He has served on PMI's Standards Committee. Comments on this column should be directed to

Maturity Levels. Grouped capabilities describe increasingly greater orders of consistency, visibility, and control within the organization. In the lowest level, processes and practices of key capability areas are ad hoc or least defined. Once consistency across capabilities is achieved and quantified, the highest level incorporates intelligent feedback in a continuous improvement process.

Measurement. Prominent models use two prevalent approaches to graduation through levels: hierarchical or staged.

A hierarchical model assigns each major capability to a particular level. It assumes the progression is sequential and that a defined approach to improvement is part of the model. Proponents of hierarchical models argue that they provide clear layers of certification that improve the organization methodically. Some critics of hierarchical models maintain that this sequential progression is not natural, as various levels of maturity exist in each process.

In a staged model the maturity level of each process is indicated in a profile, which allows capability and improvement measurements that enable the implementation of metrics-driven improvement programs. Proponents of staged models argue that competence has multiple points of entry and progression is not necessarily sequential. Critics of staged models maintain that they are continuously moving targets that do not promote consistent progress across the organization.

We hope to incorporate the best of both approaches.

THE FINAL STAGE in developing the model's first iteration will focus on testing and validation, in which we will harness our growing network to benchmark the results of an OPMMM pilot.

Interested in participating in this project, contact John Schlichter at images

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

PM Network February 1999



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