NJM Consulting | The PMO, Improving Those Unintended Consequences!
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The PMO, Improving Those Unintended Consequences!


The PMO, Improving Those Unintended Consequences!

The Law Of Unintended Consequences – Mighty Thor !


I wonder how many of the turn of the century Suffragettes in the western world realise just how much they owe the furtherment of the cause of Women’s Emancipation to an unintended consequence.

As those very brave women struggled to have their human rights properly recognised Mr Alva J Fisher was working on a project. I am sure that in the course of this he could not have known just how much he was going to be aiding women all over the world to start to claim the lives they were just as entitled to as men. There had been other inventors as early as 1815 who devised devices that certainly made steps in the direction needed but it was Alva who brought it all together. He built “Thor”, the first electric-powered washing machine. Introduced in 1908 by the Hurley Machine Company of Chicago, Illinois, the Thor washing machine was a drum type washing machine with a galvanized tub and an electric motor. A patent was issued on August 9, 1910 and at that point the Law of Unintended Consequences cut in.

Today few of us give so much as a thought to just how much time and effort went into cleaning clothes because we live in a world where it is so easy to clean our clothes. We can change them every single day, but imagine wearing the same clothes for weeks on end because the effort required to wash them. The work to clean clothes fell to women and that hard labor effectively enslaved them, but with the invention of Thor a stone was dropped into society’s pond and the ripples moved outwards. It took some more development but over time but as the technology became cheaper and permeated through society much of women’s time was liberated, firstly through communal access to washing machines and then to access in their own homes. The impact on women and society as a whole has been profound to say the least. Few projects in the development of technology, including the internet, has had such strikingly unintended consequences. In this case the consequences of Alva’s project have been positive, this is not always the case, especially in the world of project management.

A Project Management Office  can improve the odds of favourable outcomes.

The Project Management Office – Gate Keeper Against the Unintended


The Law of Unintended Consequences, it will get you every time, at any time, BUT you can do much to mitigate against its often negative impacts with a good Programme/Project Management Office. 

The  two biggest, most visible, most important impacts are usually be cost and schedule. Anything that has a negative impact on project costs or schedule is going to ruin a project manager’s day, we in project management all know this. Unsupported and lacking enough information it is very easy for project managers to make a decision, often for the best of reasons, just as often based on ‘gut instinct’, whose unintended consequences impact those areas, and then all too often many others such as quality, product capabilities, or personnel.

A PMO with proper stakeholder backing will bring strong processes, experience, capabilities in change control, risk management, reporting, metrics and data visualisation. The processes the PMO brings promote consistency, credibility, and stability. It develops experience through mentoring of the less experienced, and functions as a communications hub thus providing situational awareness of the larger programme picture. All of these things in combination help to mitigate that troublesome law and bring value, certainly more value than a project failing and dragging you towards a contractual breach

Of course even a PMO can have some unintended negative consequences too, but our PMO as a Service seeks to reduce those by providing clearly defined processes and procedures to an equally clearly defined price. In doing it this way our clients have a clear view of cost. While a PMO might make a small impact on schedules this is balanced by improved quality of those schedules. Rigorous change control can also add to schedules but its value in engaging all stakeholders in examining all possible eventualities it can really restrain the law of unintended consequences leaving it’s heavy boot imprint on projects.


With a PMO to assist a team in following organizational processes the wild card variables drop in number making for more hostile ground for that law to play hob in but rather keep it’s impact to positive ones!