Project management office as community of practices

Ralf Müller, Professor, Umeå University and BI Norwegian Business School

Johannes Glückler, Professor, University of Heidelberg


This paper aims at exploring project management offices (PMOs) through community of practice theory. Preliminary results from a national healthcare case study are used to confirm the legitimacy of this approach. Today's knowledge-based economy calls for mechanisms to share knowledge. This is particularly true in the context of internationalization of business, where services or products are developed, managed, or supported in multiple countries. This is also true for national companies that compete in a global market. The issue of making more with less is at stake in order to reuse good practices, support innovative practice, and prevent the reinvention of the wheel. For project-based organizations, this represents a major challenge, because of their temporality. This article proposes a framework to explore the learning mechanisms put in place within PMOs’ communities of practice. Members of these communities are at the heart of the learning process. They are proud of what they know and enthusiastic to share in their practice. Learning from such a community requires that the practice be embedded in the community. The originality of this research is that it sheds light on PMOs in a new theoretical perspective, based upon the community of practice theory within the field of knowledge management.


Knowledge management is recognized as an important issue for organizations to succeed in a highly competitive environment. Today's knowledge-based economy calls for mechanisms to share knowledge. This is particularly true in the context of internationalization of business, where services or products are developed, managed, or supported in multiple countries. This is also true for national companies that compete in a global market. The issue of making more with less is at stake in order to reuse good practices, support innovative practice, and prevent the reinvention of the wheel (Glückler, 2008). For project-based organizations, this represents a major challenge, because projects are temporary organizations (Lundin & Söderholm, 1995). Moreover, projects and project management have come to play a central role in international economic growth (Bredillet, Yatim, & Ruiz, 2010); therefore, project-based organizations should be highly concerned about knowledge management. One promising approach is to explore the role of project management offices (PMOs) and communities of PMOs as a locus of learning.

From the project management literature, knowledge management has been the object of several research projects, but none has directly explored PMOs under this perspective. Current research addresses knowledge management at two levels of analysis: project and organizational levels. Research undertaken at the project level has explored, as the main issue, the transfer of knowledge from one project to the other. Different perspectives have been taken, among others: post-project reviews (Williams, 2007), social practices (Bresnen, Edelman, Newell, Scarbrough, & Swan, 2003; Sense & Badham, 2008), and quality management (Kotnour, 2000). Although this research contributes to better understanding knowledge management at the project level, the focus of this paper is on the organizational level. Looking at this level, Bredillet (2004) proposed an overview on knowledge management, organizational learning, and learning organizations. Other research has drawn attention to particular perspectives, such as those within human resource management (Bellini & Canonico, 2008; Keegan & Turner, 2001), the role of non-financial capital (Arthur, DeFillippi, & Jones, 2001). Some authors have looked at knowledge sharing between industries (Fernie, Green, Weller, & Newcombe, 2003), whereas others have examined the methods to capture and validate relevant knowledge (Abril & Müller, 2009).

Based on the PMO definition, many entities fall under the categorization that leads to the coexistence of multiple competing PMOs, particularly in large organizations. PMOs are rarely autonomous or isolated units within an organization; they are frequently intertwined with other PMOs in the same corporation. This is in line with results from a recent research showing an increase in the interdependencies between PMOs after a PMO structural change (Aubry, Hobbs, Müller, & Blomquist, 2011).What we now observe in large organizations is the creation of communities of PMOs aimed at learning and sharing knowledge in the management of projects. These communities form one pattern of organizational project management. The community of PMOs consists of internal networks of PMOs that cross the organizational boundaries. Networks can be formed implicitly or explicitly in order to create value by sharing knowledge in the management of projects.

In this paper, we borrow from the theory of community of practice (CoP) (Lave & Wenger, 1991) to explore the PMOs’ social networks as communities of practice. This approach offers the opportunity to build not only on the grouping role of PMOs around multiple projects but also on the practice of project management and the practitioners. This phenomenon of community of practice has already been acknowledged within the field of project management research. A quick look at the publications from the three specialized academic journals shows that, since 2002, 40 articles have been published. Interestingly, the Project Management Association of Japan introduced the management of a community of practice as part of the project and program management (Project Management Association of Japan, 2008); however, none of these papers addresses the role of the PMOs in the making and sharing of knowledge on project management practices.

Following what has been said earlier on the current organizational context, the main objective of this research is to provide an understanding of PMOs as communities of practice. This leads to the following research question: “What are communities of PMOs?

The Missing Link on PMOs’ Organizational Learning

To answer this question, a review of the literature has been undertaken with two major themes: knowledge management in the PMO literature and community of practice theory.

How Do Project Management Offices Support the Circulation of Knowledge?

Past research on PMOs mainly looked at one instance at a time. A descriptive PMO model has recently been proposed to make sense of the variety of configurations that are found in reality from 500 unique PMO descriptions (Hobbs & Aubry, 2010). One statistically derived function pertained directly to knowledge management and includes such activities as:

  • Monitor and control the performance of the PMO;
  • Manage archives of project documentation;
  • Conduct post-project reviews or post-mortems;
  • Conduct project audits;
  • Implement and manage the database of lessons learned; and
  • Implement and manage risk database.

However, this knowledge management function is one of the least important when compared with others (Hobbs & Aubry, 2010). This low result should be looked at in light of other research undertaken on knowledge management at the project level. Williams (2008), for example, showed that project team documentation on lessons learned was poorly done. Often members of a team are dispatched to a new project prior to the closing of the current project. It is well acknowledged that lessons learned are a good means to transferring knowledge, but it is usually not performed. There is another perspective when looking at knowledge management in the context of the PMO. Seminal work from Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) proposed a framework based on the distinction between explicit knowledge (e.g., documents, patents, statutes) and implicit knowledge. Implicit knowledge refers to the individual know-how as a capability or competence to solve problems. This knowledge is difficult to articulate or to explain and, therefore, hard to transfer in the pure sense of duplication (Gertler, 2003; Nonaka & von Krogh, 2009). Within projects, explicit knowledge can often be related to the project life cycle (Project Management Institute, 2008). However, tacit knowledge is created as learning (Kotnour, 1999), focusing on the active participant being responsible for its own progression instead of focusing on the object of knowledge (Brown & Duguid, 2001). In other words, “people do not simply learn about, they also learn to be” (Bruner, 1996, as cited in Brown & Duguid, 2001, p. 200). Learning in action (rather than after the fact) makes the practice at the front.

The PMO's knowledge management function described above, only acknowledges explicit knowledge. It overlooks the complementary implicit knowledge that does not sit in a database. The basic definition of a PMO refers to the relation with multiple projects and as such, a PMO is involved directly or indirectly in the practice of the management of unique projects or in the practice of one or multiple functions as defined within the PMO model. The new phenomenon of multiple PMOs working together raises questions about knowledge, learning, and practice in the social networks of project managers. The missing link in the current literature is twofold. First, it refers to the lack of recognition of the PMO's role in both the explicit and implicit knowledge. Second, it ignores the interrelationship between PMOs in the purpose of knowledge management. This paper suggests that the community of practice theory brings in the missing link. It has the potential to explain theoretically the phenomenon and, very importantly, it can lead to practical application of the PMO's better knowledge management.

Organizational Learning: A Community of Practice Approach


A community defines a group of people with common characteristics or interests living together within a larger society, whereas practice is defined as the continuous exercise of a profession (Merriam-Webster, 2007). The community of practice theory was introduced as a theory of learning from studies of apprenticeship. The initial thoughts on communities of practices have emerged from a profound questioning on the learning process that is the object of the seminal book from Lave and Wenger (1991). These authors proposed the concept of situated learning as a legitimate peripheral participation within a theoretical perspective of social practice, which includes learning. “We are, then, trying to furnish the social world in a way that begins to do justice to the structured forms and relations in which legitimate peripheral participation takes place. Relational, historical conceptions have emerged from this exercise, and this decentering tendency is characteristic of the means we have explored for grasping person, activity, knowing, and the social world” (Lave & Wenger, 1991, p. 122). The person is considered as a practitioner both involved as a member of a community and as an agent of activity. The person dynamically progresses (as does the community) from a newcomer becoming an old-timer, leading to what can be seen as a contradiction between achieving continuity for the community of practice on one hand and the replacement of old-timers. Within the situated learning activity, transformed in legitimated peripheral participation, newcomers move in a centripetal direction under their motivation to becoming full practitioners. Knowing is located in a social reality where participation is a way of learning. It takes the form of relations “among practitioners, their practices, the artifacts of that practice, and the social organization and political economy of community of practice” (Lave & Wenger, 1991, p. 122).

Wenger and Snyder (2000) proposed to define communities of practice as “groups of people informally bound together by shared expertise and passion for a joined enterprise” (p. 139). Communities of practice are now entering the virtual mode making use of open communication technology such as wikis, webinars, blogs, and so forth. For example, PMI recently launched numerous communities of practices through its Internet website (Project Management Institute, 2009).

Yet, community of practice is anchored in learning. It adopts an integrative constructivist epistemology where different types of knowledge (tacit, explicit, individual, team/organizational) are seen as inseparable and mutually enabling (Bredillet, 2004). “Thus knowledge can be seen as an input of knowing, and knowing as an aspect of our interaction with the social and physical world, and therefore the dynamic interaction of knowledge and knowing can generate new knowledge and new ways of knowing” (Bredillet, 2004, p. 1114). It is opposed to the more traditional positivist epistemology that assumes knowledge is something people have.

Community of practice and other types of groups.

Distinction between different types of groups is proposed by Wenger and Snyder (2000, p. 142). The PMO's community of practice is distinct from a formal work group from which specific outcomes are expected, from a project team from which deliverables are expected within a specific budget and period of time, and, lastly, distinct from an informal network formed loosely between employees that share some common interest. Although this grouping is useful to distinguishing between different groups encountered within the organization, it misses major learning fundamentals based upon the community of practice theory. Bredillet (2004) suggested a typology to distinguish community of practice and project team based specifically on the learning experience. Following Bredillet (2004), members within a community of practice “learn by participating in the community and practicing their jobs” (Bredillet, 2004, p. 1130). Conversely, in a project team, “members practice their jobs and learn by participating in the project team. Project team is a place where knowledge is created, where members learn knowledge that is embedded, and where knowledge is utilized” (Bredillet, 2004, p.1130). Knowledge occurs in project teams as well as within a community of practice.

Community of practice is an emergent concept and multiple forms are found in reality. Scarbrough and Swan (2008) argued for accepting diversity in the form of a community of practice. They see the concept of community of practice as denoting not a discrete social grouping but rather historically specific expressions of the self-reinforcing relationships between learning, identity, group formation, and social practices. They have shown that project team and community of practice represent different sources of learning and that they overlap, reinforce, and sometimes conflict, depending on the relation between project work and existing social practices.

Managerial paradox

However, precisely with the wide diffusion of the concept comes a sort of distortion of the initial thoughts (Duguid, 2008a; Lave, 2008). Duguid (2008a) pointed out that community of practice is now an instrument of management: “We also get a theory that appeals strongly not only to business schools, but also to management consultants: it is instrumental, operational, and promises only beneficial results” (p. 7). Initial thoughts on learning as improvisation and autonomy are forgotten and replaced with just the contrary, to follow the rules and avoid any improvisation (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Wenger & Snyder, 2000). Duguid (2008a) saw in this managerial approach to the community of practice the traditional but still strongly alive of the Taylorism: “The community of practice was rapidly domesticated” (p.7). Nevertheless, Duguid (2008a) and Lave (2008) both admitted that, as any other construct, this one is following its own itinerary.

An example of managerial domestication of community of practice is given within Wenger and Snyder (2000). They promoted communities of practice as a managerial new instrument to reaching business results such as helping to drive strategy, starting new lines of business, and so forth. They defined communities of practice as fundamentally informal and self-organizing and at the same time, they benefit from cultivation. For these authors, cultivation refers to support communities of practice and sustain them over time. This is where the management paradox comes in: on one side, the emerging and self-organizing inherent character of community of practice and on the other side, the managerial involvement in developing them and integrating them into the organization. In this context, up to what point is a community of practice not becoming a formal working group?

One other dimension of this paradox relates to the knowing what and knowing how. In community of practice theory, codification of knowing what in an artifact is possible. However, the knowing how needs practice to make it actionable (Duguid, 2008b). This paradox frequently takes the form of best practices diffusion. Best practices refer to explicit knowledge that can be transferred from one organization to the next. But, what is critical in knowledge is not that much the what, but the how: “[…] the explicit is worth relatively little” (Duguid, 2008b, p. 81). To solve this paradox, best practices should be re-embedded within the community.

Toward a Community of PMOs Approach

This section proposes a conceptual framework for the study of communities of PMOs within large organizations. Within an organization, a community of practice of PMOs can be defined as a group of people (PMO manager or employee) informally bound together by shared expertise and passion for a joint enterprise. In other words, it offers a platform for learning to experienced members and newcomers. It forms a community in the sense that members share a common interest and passion for the success of projects. It is oriented toward practice.
The raison d’être of any PMO, whatever its functions or structural characteristics, is mainly associated with projects. But, what is a community and what is a practice when considering the PMO as a community of practice? The practice of project management is at the heart of a PMO's community, but the PMO practices are specific and differ from the project management practices. The former refers to the functions within the PMO model (Hobbs & Aubry, 2010), whereas the latter refers to managing a single project as described in various project management Bodies of Knowledge (Association for Project Management, 2000; Project Management Institute, 2008). About half of all PMOs do include project management as their primary function (Hobbs & Aubry, 2010). The object of learning in a PMO community of practice may bear on the management of a single project or to a PMO's specific set of functions. Members of a PMO community are the ones who believe in and have a passion for the project management practice. It may include people working within the PMO as a manager or employee, or people working within a single project, including a project manager, project controller, and others involved in project work. Interest and expertise surely differ when considering the management of a single project versus PMO functions. This may lead to the coexistence of multiple networks. It is already acknowledged that each project can be seen as a social network that crosses the hierarchical boundaries of the organization (Blackburn, 2002). Adding to these project networks are the ones related to a community of practice. As PMOs show a wide variety of configurations, communities of PMOs might as well show this diversity in which practices will differ depending on PMO functions and characteristics. By participating in project management governance, these PMOs form either one or multiple networks. Understanding these networks by means of their relation will shed light on the global picture of organizational project management.

The suggested conceptual framework for this research is proposed in Exhibit 1. It is not expected that this framework will cover the overall phenomenon of communities of PMOs, but it will be helpful in capturing basic components from the community of practice perspective.

Conceptual framework for communities of PMOs

Exhibit 1– Conceptual framework for communities of PMOs

Research Design

The network of PMOs is our unit of analysis because it represents a formal and idiosyncratic articulation of project management in multi-project organizations. This paper is part of a research program based upon a mixed-method approach and focuses on in-depth case studies.

The starting point to a better understanding of a complex phenomenon is a case-based grounded theory approach (Corbin & Strauss, 1990; Yin, 2003). We propose describing four case studies, each one being a large organization where there are multiple PMOs, including interviews with 10 to 15 people from upper management to project managers. As shown in Exhibit 2, the choice of the organizations accounted for diversity in countries (North America, Europe, and Asia), industries (healthcare, manufacturers, telecommunications, and banking), financial structures (private, public, and mutual). Globally, the research design provides a strong mix of similarity and diversity (Eisenhardt, 1989). The result will be a rich description and a map of related components of organizational project management within their dynamic context and in different cultural settings.

Case studies description

Exhibit 2 – Case studies description

We used a multiple-case design, which implies replication logic (Yin, 2003) within which a case is treated as an idiosyncratic expression of the phenomenon under study. We gathered information from several layers of the management hierarchy and incorporated company and industry level forces and circumstances. Data for the case studies were collected through semi-structured interviews, observations, and reviews of existing documents. Each case has been described and internally analyzed before cross-case analysis took place, following Eisenhardt (1989). The interviews done as part of the case study will follow a grounded theory approach for each individual case. In line with the abductive approach described for the cross-case analysis, the grounded theory approach will follow the Strauss and Corbin (1998) school. This implies an analysis after each individual interview and a continuous comparison approach to identify commonalities, as well as ruling out one-time events, thus ensuring a robust theory.

Preliminary Results from a Healthcare Case Study

This section presents the results from a healthcare case study through examples of situated learning from two PMO communities of practices. The first one refers to a PMO coordination committee that has been put in place at the ministry level, the second relates to a PMO within a regional center that interplays with other PMOs at the regional level and PMOs at local centers.

Description of the National Healthcare Network

This case describes the social networks between PMOs within a national healthcare system. The major particularity of this public case study is that the entire system constitutes a network of quasi-autonomous organizations spread over three structural layers: national, regional, and local. A first hierarchical look at this National Healthcare Network is illustrated in Exhibit 3. Boxes in bold indicate the units that were investigated within this research regarding their PMO. At the national level, three PMOs were investigated: (1) PMO dedicated to a major national project; (2) PMO within the information technology (IT) department; and (3) PMO within the IT dedicated supplier. At the regional level, four PMOs have been investigated. At the local level, four PMOs were explored, one located in a first university hospital and three in a second university hospital. Projects can be initiated at each of these three levels. National and regional projects are financed by the national health budget. The distribution of the regional envelope through the local institutions is under the mandate of each regional agency. Local projects can be financed by this envelope but also by local financing (e.g., a hospital foundation).

The three layers of national healthcare organizations

Exhibit 3 – The three layers of national healthcare organizations

Situated Learning at the National Level

Two different learning mechanisms can be observed at the national level, both being related to a PMO's coordination committee (Exhibit 4). The PMO's coordination committee has been decided at the ministry level with the aim of succeeding in the implementation of a major national project, the personal health record. Therefore, it is quite far from the initial concept of community of practice in which practice is at the heart of a community (Lave & Wenger, 1991). The approach is rather one of instrumentalism of the concept and integrated as a management tool as pinpointed recently by both Duguid (2008a) and Lave (2008). However, the PMO's coordination committee forms a real social network that aims at constructing new knowledge from established practices within regional levels. It also plays a role of disseminating practices from the master to the newcomers. The objective here is to identify the events that provide a group-learning situation, even if they refer to an actualization of the initial concept of community of practice.

Learning mechanisms from the PMO coordination committee

Exhibit 4 – Learning mechanisms from the PMO coordination committee

The second learning mechanism from the PMO coordination committee is the creation of new networks. One single case has been reported during interviews, but more may exist. Three PMO regional directors decided to work together outside of the committee. Even though they did not know each other before the committee was put in place, common interest has been identified between them. They quickly recognized that they shared a common way of looking at PMO problems and solutions outside the scope of the PMO coordination committee; so, they identified a few of these elements and met several times to work out solutions together. This approach is more in line with the initial approach of a community of practice, but it would have almost no chance of happening without the opportunity given by the PMO coordination committee.

Situated Learning at the Regional Level

Five learning mechanisms could be identified from the analysis of the interviews at this regional agency (Exhibit 5). First, the PMO director participated in the PMO's Coordination Committee. At the implementation of their own PMO, they received advice and support on the methodology proposed by the Ministry. Now, they are perceived as being a PMO model of success. They have implemented a PMO for a longer period of time than other regional entities. They share their regional experience within this committee with PMO directors from other regional agencies.

Learning mechanisms from a regional center

Exhibit 5 – Learning mechanisms from a regional center

The second mechanism relates to the internal regional agency organization. The regional center PMO, at the time of interviews, was under the finance department. The major project within the PMO mandate was the PHR, for which a special expertise was needed. An employee from the IT department had this expertise; not only did this employee have the opportunity to join the PMO as a project manager, but he experienced the methodology and tools and constructively challenged them. The fresh look from this newcomer to the PMO resulted in improved methodology and tools.

Third, the mission of this PMO is to accompany and support the project management within the region, in particular projects that are undertaken in local establishments to implement the PHR project. Two large healthcare centers exist in this particular region. One is a university hospital and the other one is a youth center. Each one has several projects but in fact, the university hospital grabs the largest part of the regional budget envelope. A PMO already existed at the university hospital center. The relationship between this PMO and the one at the regional center mostly involved directors of these PMOs and aimed at sharing experiences informally.

The fourth learning mechanism belongs to the relationship between the youth center and the PMO at the regional center. This situation is quite different from the previous one in which the youth center was looking for support in the implementation of its first PMO. A senior project manager from the regional center PMO worked closely with the new PMO director at the youth center to accompany and support her in this new PMO implementation and in the related cultural change.

The last learning mechanism challenges the well-being of a community (Lave & Wenger, 1991). In the overall health care system, projects and PMOs are widely associated with IT, reasons for this being the history of project management and the importance of the IT budget over all other project components. However, within the healthcare system, IT projects should not have legitimacy if not related to a clinical raison d’être. Recently, in this particular regional agency, the clinical experts were trying to assume the project leadership, and in doing so, pushed aside the IT experts who have the project management expertise. The result is that clinical experts have formed a regional working committee in which they take major orientations on specific projects. In doing so, they isolate themselves from the rest of the organization creating a kind of a kind of isolated island.

There is neither an IT representative on this committee or a project management expert. Consequently, this creates some confusion in the implementation of solutions and all the knowledge developed in project management has been forgotten.

Key Findings and Conclusion

The national healthcare case study included rich data that help understand how a community of PMOs works. From the results presented above, five key findings may be identified that could find applications in organizations, not only in the public sector.

  1. Community and Practices: In the case study, examples were observed for both the sense of a community and the practices. For the former, the PMO coordination committee has been created officially under a top-down decision by the IT department in an instrumental view of a community. However, a “true” learning mechanism occurred; the participants manifested their passion to share and learn from each other. Practices were mostly oriented toward the PMO's functions, such as methodology and standards and portfolio management. In the second example, learning mechanisms emerged bottom-up from the participants. Practices varied depending on the need from managing one specific project, helping in the implementation of a PMO, and sharing on the management of a PMO.
  2. Network of Practice: In the field of project management, the term community of practice is used openly in all sorts of situations, either intraorganizational (e.g., communities of practice for project managers) or interorganizational (e.g., communities of practice within a local PMI chapter, specifically on construction projects, PMOs). The interpretation of what a community of practice is depends on the nature of the community itself; it is, therefore, a product of the community of practice (Duguid, 2008b). Duguid (2008b) went back to the earlier approach on apprenticeship and suggested a distinction between community of practice and networks of practice. These are two forms of knowledge networks that may coexist within large organizations. The distinction is based upon learning to be versus learning about. “The former requires knowing how, the art of practice, much of which lies tacit in a community of practice. Learning about requires the accumulation of knowing that, which confers the ability to “talk a good game, but not necessarily to play one” (p. 77). Explicit knowledge contains only partially the knowledge embedded in the community of practice. In this perspective, face-to-face interaction is almost necessary to accessing the knowing how. However, Duguid (2008b) proposed the concept of network of practice to take into account wide practice sharing within large and decentralized organizations. “The network of practice designates the collective of all practitioners of a particular practice” (Duguid, 2008b, p.78). Practices and tools (know what) from the network of practice are then reintroduced in a process of embedding at the local level (know how) and within a local community of practice.

Community of PMOs and PMOs in Transition

A community of practice lasts as long as the interest is vivid within its members. But a question arises when the short life of a PMO is considered, as shown in the specific case of the national healthcare organization. What happens to the knowledge and the learning activity that are going on within existing communities of practice? What happens to the community, what happens to the practice? The PMO transition challenges the concept of situated learning where the history of a community of practice is taken into account. What happens to the masters? Is the commitment maintained over transformation of the situation? Future research should address these questions; therefore, knowledge management within organizational project management should directly correlate with the challenge of the economic-based economy.

Variety of Communities of PMOs

As PMOs show a wide variety of configurations, communities of PMOs might as well show this diversity in which practices will differ depending on PMO functions and characteristics. Practices are tightly linked to the functions PMOs perform. From the present case study, the more visible differences regarding practices are related to project management practices, as well as the more specific PMO functions. Learning mechanisms seem to be differentiated based on the persons involved and on the object of knowledge.

Cultural Influence: Communities of practices are embedded in the cultural life in which they evolve (Lave & Wenger, 1991). There is no single definition of culture but, following Henrie and Sousa-Poza (2005), we adopted Hofstede's definition, “the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group of category of people from another” (1997, p. 5). In our research, cultural groups could be identified at two levels: the country and the communities of PMOs. At the country level, this paper examines communities of practices within a single-case study. Four organizations have been targeted as part of our data collection design They were chosen for their cultural diversity in terms of: (1) countries (four); (2) private (two)/public (one) /mutual (one); (3) industry: healthcare, manufacturing, telecommunications, and banking; and (4) physical (three) and virtual PMO (one), To that end we contextualize the case — analyses within cultural commonality as opposed to cultural differences, especially as neither case studies by themselves, nor the sampling approach chosen would allow for more than speculative results about cultural influences or differences (i.e., one data point per country). When the full data collection and analysis will be done, this cultural aspect will be taken into consideration. The cultural aspect should also be taken into account within the Communities of PMOs. As shown in the healthcare case, communities of practices allow individuals from different internal or even external units to participate in a common social network. Even within the same type of organization and the same country, each of these individuals comes from a culturally different mindset within their own local innovation field (Brown & Duguid, 2001). Cultural issues seem to play an influential role in the knowledge dynamic process within communities of practices.

In conclusion, preliminary results from this research have shed light on the role that PMOs can play as drivers of knowledge management within organizations. Case studies within the national healthcare network described above illustrated the interplay between PMOs being part of communities of PMOs. In this research, multiple hidden social networks became visible in sharing concrete practices within learning mechanisms. More work still needs to be done; yet, results from this research confirm that the community of practice theory presents legitimacy in the study of knowledge management within organizational project management and practical application in a variety of organizations.


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Authors wish to sincerely thank PMI and the Per and Eivor Wikström for their support. An expanded version of this paper has previously been presented at the 2010 PMI Research conference (Aubry, Müller, & Glückler, 2010).

© 2011, Aubry, Müller & Glückler
Published as a part of 2011 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Dallas, TX



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