PMO Business Case Review Checklist (plus free template checklist download)

For any project to have a chance for success, it is important to start with a solid foundation. A key part of this is to have a robust business case that has been agreed, and signed off by the sponsor(s). For more information on why this is important view post 5 reasons why a project should have a business case (you may also want to take a look at the post Why sponsors do not want their project to have a business case).

Example of PMO Business Case Review Checklist

The reason for the business case is to ensure that the project has been though through and a credible case developed that makes sense. This means the business case should have a good idea what will be done, the cost, the benefits and if it can be achieved.

A PMO can play a valuable role in helping to ensure that the business case is robust by performing reviews ahead of any formal review and sign-off. This is a worthwhile exercise as it helps improve the quality of the case. The project manager should view this as a positive as opposed to a hindrance as it is far better to catch potential issues in a less formal review so that changes can be made to give the case a better chance of approval.

This review can be greatly assisted by using a checklist. This will help to ensure that important areas are considered. While not an exhaustive list, areas for consideration include:

Alignment to strategy

Resource, time and budget are typically scarce. Therefore, they should only be invested on business cases that help move an organisation in the required direction.


There must be confidence that the solution has been considered and that it can be clearly explained.


Very important. How much risk is in the solution? A business case with a high payback but very high risk may not be delivered. Understanding the risk is an important part of the decision.


It does not matter how compelling and good the business case is, without “buy-in” the project is destined to failure.


Projects are delivered by people. So a check must be made that resources will be made available and that they have the required skills.


A project will need investment. The budget must be agreed and allocated if the project is to deliver to agreed timelines. Slow budget approval can seriously damage progression.

Return on Investment (benefits)

Most business cases, unless they are mandatory / regulatory type changes, should have some form of benefits. These must be clearly defined to allow a considered investment decision.


Most projects involve some form of technology change. It is important to understand what technology will be used, if it is new or established, hardware requirements, etc. New untested technology can be very high risk.


The above checklist gives some ideas on areas of the business case that should be tested. This is not an exhaustive list and you should add other areas applicable to your organisation. The aim is to conduct a thorough review to help improve the business case.

Free PMO / Project Business Case Review Checklist

You can download a free checklist template that you can update and use. It does contain a number of questions you may wish to ask against each of the headings listed above.

Download Free PMO Business Case Checklist TemplateIf you find it useful please can you share your appreciation by using the social media links on this page.

PMO closure checklist

Closed signWhen a project comes to an end, one of the steps will be to close the PMO supporting the project. The reason being that the services are no longer required and the resources can deliver more value by being redeployed.

In the same way that there is a process for project closure, the same applies for a PMO. It is important that the closure is conducted in a structured way.
Below is a checklist of key steps that should form part of the PMO closure.

1. Resource Management

This is the most important item. There must be a defined approach for the roll-off of resources from the PMO. It is rare for the entire PMO team to finish on the same day. What typically happens is that the team reduces over a period of time. This is logical as the requirements from the project should also be reducing as it nears closure.

The plan can be a simple table listing each resource, their role and planned roll-off. For contractors, it is helpful to include the contract end date as this may influence when a resource is rolled-off.

As part of the planning, it is important to consider the skills and knowledge for each resource. There will be resources that it is important to retain for the benefit of the organization. Therefore, those resources must be identified and action taken to find new roles to retain the knowledge. Important: do not wait until the PMO closure to think about how the resources will be deployed as it normally takes some time to reallocate resources. It is also important to let people know that you wish to retain them, especially if they have important skills, otherwise they may find a new role themselves outside of the organization.

2. PMO Review

The project closure process aims to collect what went well and what could have been done better. The same applies to the PMO. A review should be completed on what went well with the aim that the other PMO’s in the organization can benefit.

In a similar way, what did not go well should be understood. The aim being that other PMO’s can make changes and improve the outcomes.

3. Knowledge Transfer

Linked closely to the PMO Review, it is important that knowledge is transferred and retained by the organization. This helps maximize the benefit from the investment.

The PMO may have developed templates, processes, presentations, Sharepoints, etc. This information should be stored in a way that makes it accessible to other PMO’s. A readymade set of PMO templates and processes will help speed up the mobilization of other PMO’s.

4. House Keeping

This means making sure that all outstanding items are either closed or transferred. For example, it is good practice to make sure that all projects are closed (i.e. risks, issues, dependencies, milestones, change controls, etc). Final status reports completed and project officially closed.

It maybe that there are still outstanding benefits to be realized from the project. Therefore, arrangements need to be made to transfer the tracking to ensure that they are not forgotten and the benefits are realized.


The above provides a number of key points that need to be considered when closing a PMO. By having a structured approach it should help ensure that key resources and knowledge are retained.

Gaining support for a PMO

Man with PMO business caseYou may have been asked to set up a PMO or, you may have a strong desire to set a PMO up for your organisation as you believe (know) that it can deliver value. Unfortunately, many will not have the same view and this will greatly hinder or even stop the journey of setting up the PMO.

This is a real shame as organisations with a PMO typically enjoy a higher success rate than those who do not. Interestingly the Global State of the PMO: An Analysis for 2015 by ESI found that PMO’s still use classic indicators to measure success based on budget and delivery as opposed to using metrics to demonstrate the value delivered by the PMO. This in turn means that the senior management level (72% in the survey responses), continues to question the value delivered by a PMO.

The takeaway is that anyone embarking on securing approval to set up a PMO, must ensure that they win the support of all key stakeholders. When you think about this, it is no different to securing the support and funding for a project. If the business case does not make sense, you would not approve the project to proceed. The same principle applies to the PMO.
Therefore, it is critical to have a clear structured approach on how you are going to secure the support and funding for your PMO.

Business Need

Every business case must start with a business need. What is the problem that you intend to solve? Why will solving this problem help? Asking and answering these questions will help focus why you need your PMO.

Important: While tempting, do not try to set up a PMO if there is not a need. This does not equate to value for your organisation.

Examples may be:

  • Standardization of process
  • Independent view of status
  • Improved rigour
  • Faster mobilization
  • Improved delivery against business case.

Further information can be found in the post, What is the benefit of a PMO.

Build the PMO Business Case

It is important to clearly articulate the need and benefits of a PMO in the form of a business proposal or business case. This can be in the form of a standard business case template or a presentation.

Tip: it is important to know what format resonates best with the stakeholder(s) that you need to convince to provide their support. For example, if you know that they respond better to presentations, you may need to prepare the standard business case template and then take the key points and prepare a Powerpoint presentation. Yes, this is extra work. However, if it helps the stakeholders to connect with the proposal, it is worth the investment of time.
The art is to present the compelling reasons why the organisation needs a PMO. If you have done your homework, it should be easy for them to say “yes”.

Define what success will look like

This helps to ensure that you secure the support. You should look to convey what the sponsor can expect if the PMO is implemented. How it will make things better for them. To give this weight, it is important to define what measures will be used to demonstrate success. This makes it real and shows that you are confident with your proposal.

Build Support

While the sponsors may be providing the ultimate support and funding, there will be many stakeholders with a vested in the PMO being a success (or not). Make sure that you have identified those key stakeholders and invest time ensuring they understand what you are trying to achieve. How it will help them and be sure to address any questions or concerns.
Doing this ahead of the final approval will help that the sponsors hear positive feedback. It is also important that you act quickly to address and negative messages that you may hear directly or, more commonly, indirectly.

More information can be found in the post, PMO Stakeholder Analysis.


Following these steps should help to construct a solid business case and secure the support of sponsors and stakeholders. This is important as without this support, it will be very difficult, if not impossible to achieve your objective of setting up a PMO.

Why as a PMO professional you should sometimes say “no”!

Before everyone working within a PMO starts saying “no” to every request that comes their way, below is a true story that demonstrates the right way to say “no”.

There were 2 senior project managers, they will simply be referred to as Project Manager A and Project Manager B. Both had a lot of experience delivering large projects and dealing with senior stakeholders. However, discussions with the Business stakeholders was very revealing.  The perception of Project Manager A was that he never delivered, always went over budget and therefore was not very good. In stark contrast they thought that Project Manager B always met timelines, over delivered and was therefore very good.

This was somewhat puzzling as upon reviewing the projects they worked on, their delivery records were similar. This required further investigation. What was very revealing.
Project Manager A had a style where he never appeared to write anything down, sometimes he did not even open his note book in a meeting. This gave the perception that he was not paying attention. As such there was a tendency to agree to extra scope without knowing if it could be accommodated and the possible impact.

Project Manager B always captured the information and then played it back to the stakeholder for confirmation. Scope was never taken on-board without the appropriate analysis and the initial answer to the request was typically “no”.

So, you may wonder how they both delivered to the same level but with such different perceptions from the stakeholders?

Take moment to look at this diagram below.

project plan showing 2 deliveries

As you can see that while both project managers delivered to the same level, Project Manager A had promised much more while, because of saying “No”, project manager was perceived to have over delivered. If Project Manager A had said “No”, he would have also been seen to over deliver.

This real life example illustrates an important point. It is the natural working style of many PMO professionals to want to help and take on more work. However, it is counter productive to tell the different stakeholders that you will take on work, enhance reporting functionality, etc and then fail to deliver. This only serves to create the perception that the PMO is not doing a good job.

So, it is important to adopt a structured approach for taking work into your PMO.

1. Does the work really belong with the PMO?

Important one to watch. Many projects will look to push work they do not want to do into the PMO. Make sure you check it is legitimate and belongs in the PMO. As soon as you take it on (even just to help), the perception will be that you are accountable and that it is nothing to do with the project manager.

2. Capture and Document Requests

Keep a list of the requests, especially where enhancements are needed i.e. such as when new reports are required. Conduct the proposer impact analysis and work out if the request is valid, if not let the requester know that it will not be taken on and the reason. Estimate effort. This will allow the work to be scheduled. The schedule should be communicated to stakeholders to manage expectations.

3. Deliver Changes to Agreed Schedule

If you commit to make changes / take on work by a specific date, make sure you meet the deadline. If timelines are slipping, let the stakeholders know as soon as possible (ideally providing a solution at the same time).


It is very important you say “no” in the right way. Simply saying “no” in a negative, unhelpful way will not win friends. When a request is made, listen, let the requester know that you can not commit until you have reviewed. Explain the process. These steps will ensure that you are seen as being helpful without risking over delivering.

Some simple concepts that will serve the PMO (and project teams) well.

You don’t need to be a project expert on everything!

You are probably wondering about the choice of title for this blog post?

Team asking questionsThis is based on a number of observations over many years and seeing people feeling that they need to be an expert on everything to do with the project or PMO, as opposed to being smart and making use of the experts who are in the team!

As you go through school, one of the primary outcomes is that you learn a number of skills that you will need. This includes the core skills such as mathematics, English (if you are an English speaking nation), etc. The approach is very much that you must learn all the required skills as it will be you and only you to take the required exam to attain the qualification. While it is important to gain these skills, it does mean that it is possible to become programmed that you have to complete and solve tasks as an individual.

So when it comes to the work environment, many are pre-programmed to think and act that they “need to know everything” and that it is a sign of weakness / incompetence to seek or ask for help. This behaviour can go on for many years.

As your career develops and you take on more challenging, larger and senior roles, you will soon realize that it is not possible to know everything. Even if you are the person with the most knowledge, the limitations of there only being 24 hours in a day means that you physically can not spend the time. As your role responsibilities expand, you have to rely and trust others to complete tasks.

There is also a risk that when you develop a idea, solution in isolation, you may miss something, there may be a fatal flaw or it just may not work for your organization. This could result in a lot of wasted time and effort.

The good news…..

You really do not have to be the person to come up with all the ideas and solve the problems. The quicker you realize this, the happier and, more productive you will be.

Working as a team is an enjoyable way to come up with ideas and then develop them. If you get the right people in the room with a wipe board, flip chart, multi media lab, etc – OK I made the last one up but you get the idea. All helping to develop the idea will result in something better than what would be developed individually. One person will say something, that triggers input from someone else, followed by a challenge, adjustment and so on.

The testing and challenge is important as it helps test the initial hypothesis. This then means that you have got something that can then be shared with a wider audience to see what further adjustments are required. This is good as most of the obvious flaws should have been identified making the proposal more credible with the wider group.
Another significant benefit of this approach is that the knowledge is shared, means others can take on ownership to further develop resulting in you having more available time – increased productivity.


Before starting any session, make sure that there are clear objectives and ground rules. For example, if you are trying to solve a problem. Make sure that the problem is clearly articulated and everyone understands before trying to come up with solutions.

Then be mindful that some tasks need to be completed individually, it is not possible to give exact rules but it could be where this requires very unique knowledge, involves difficult / sensitive decisions, etc. However, being mindful of this will help you reach the right approach more times than not.

To close….

This is a different post to my normal ones. However, this is something many people struggle with. Realizing it is not a sign of weakness to seek the help of others who have the required skills, will result in higher quality output, increased productivity and a more enjoyment as you will be working with a team.

Relying on others does actually make you an expert…..

PMO risk review routine

Continous risk review processManaging Risk is a very important task for the project manager and PMO. Unfortunately, in many cases, effort is spent at the beginning of the project to identify and document the potential. Then the Risks are filed and never reviewed. Whereas what the project manager and PMO should be doing is constantly reviewing the Risks (both existing and identifying new ones). Doing this gives the best chance of stopping Risks becoming Issues and impacting the delivery of the project.

As managing Risks is so important and provides significant benefit, it is crucial to get the Risk Management routine up and running as quickly as possible. As with most behaviours, the more you practice, the more likely they become “second nature”.

PMO Risk Review Routine

Firstly, it is worth taking a moment to understand what is meant by routine. A routine is the frequent and repeated review of risks. The important words in this statement is “frequent” and “repeated”. For the process to give the highest probability that the impact of risks are minimized, a process needs to be put into place so that all risks are reviewed on a frequent basis and that this review is repeated throughout the duration of the project.

Project Routine

It is important that the routine is documented and understood by all project teams, PMO and other stakeholders. For example, the framework may dictate that all risks must be reviewed and updated by the project teams by close of business each Friday. This means that project teams are expected to review existing risks, identify new risks and update in the designated tool by the close of business each Friday. This includes flagging any risk to be escalated.

PMO Routine

The PMO will then take an extract of all of the risks above a pre-defined tolerance level each Monday. The reason for setting a tolerance is that the PMO should not be reviewing the risks that are set at a level to be managed within the project. The only exception may be for any risks that are rated as high probability, high impact.

The PMO will review the risks and, where necessary, discus with the project manager. This will ensure the risk is understood and for the appropriate action to be taken. It will also allow for the risks highlighted for escalation to be checked to ensure that they do indeed need to be escalated.

Escalation Routine

There will be instances where risks need to be escalated using the established governance. This normally is in the form of escalation to the steering committee or management meeting. It is important that it is understood when in the regular cycle, the cut-off point is for being presented into these forums.

Before, including risks in these forums, it is advisable to review with the programme director and / or sponsor. It may also be necessary to discus with the accountable representative who will be present at the meeting so that they do not feel they have been exposed.

It is very important that any risks to be escalated are reviewed to ensure that they clearly articulate the risk, action taken and what is being asked of the committee. For risks that have already been presented, there must be an update on status / action taken. If not senior management will become concerned that risk is not being managed.


  • A “frequent”, “repeated” risk review framework must be implemented and followed
  • Project teams review and escalate risks
  • PMO reviews risks, discusses with project manager and agree actions / escalations
  • PMO prepare risks to be escalated including programme manager / sponsor
  • PMO ensures that risks are clearly articulated and updated

Implementing a robust PMO Risk Review Routine will help reduce the impact of risks on the delivery of projects.

PMO risk management plan

Protection through PMO risk management planIf you ask a project management what are their responsibilities, very high on the list will be the identification and management of risks. The reason being that risks have the ability to derail the best laid plans of a project.

This statement is true. Risks have a nasty habit of becoming issues that impact the progress of the project and, in extreme cases, can cause the project to fail. This is not career enhancing for the project manager.

In numerous articles, books, training, videos, etc you will find information on how to capture risks. It will also include how they should be reviewed and managed on a regular basis. This is very good practice and you can read more information in post Project Risk Management. However, not all of them include the step of risk mitigation planning. This is a shame as this is a powerful tool for the project manager.

Before exploring Risk Mitigation Planning, I want to take a moment considering the typical approach to risk management.

  • Step 1: Project team identify and grade risks
  • Step 2: Risks are reviewed and mitigating action identified
  • Step 3: Risks mitigated where deemed appropriate
  • Step 4: Risks monitored on regular basis

This is a solid approach. However, in many cases, mitigating action is identified but usually most sponsors do not agree to mitigate as it usually costs money and may not be needed. Like with insurance policies, no one wants to pay money for insurance until their jewelery is stolen!

So given that a sponsor will be reluctant to authorize mitigation activity, the project manager needs a back-up plan. This comes in the form of the Risk Management Plan.

Risk Management Plan

While this is called the risk management plan, it’s focus is on dealing with issues. When a risk event occurs and impacts the project, it ceases being a risk (something that may happen) and becomes an issue (something that has happened).

For all of the high probability, high impact risks, work with the team to formulate a plan of what you will do if the risk becomes an issue. Now it is important to note that this is NOT the same as risk mitigation.

Risk Mitigation – action you take to mitigate the impact of a risk. For example, you may decide to engage a 3rd party to build an interface for a system if there is a high probability the in-house interface will not be delivered in time.

Risk Management Plan – action you take when the risk becomes an issue. Taking the implementation of the interface. The decision has been taken to build in-house, it has been decided not to mitigate by getting a 3rd party to build a solution in parallel. So if the risk that the interface will not be delivered on time becomes true, the issue that needs to be handled is that the interface will be late. Therefore, as there will probably no time to engage a 3rd party to build, the Risk Management Plan should contain the tasks that will be performed to address the issue.

Capturing Risk Management Plan

  • The inputs to the process should be the high probability, high impact risks identified during the ongoing risk identification process.
  • Review the list and identify the risks that need to have management plan.
  • Set up sessions with the resources who are best placed to consider how the risk will be managed if it becomes an issue. Note: you may need to set-up different sessions for each risk as they may need resources with different skills.
  • Make sure that everyone understands the risk and agrees the impact. Then walk through the steps of what will probably happen if the risk becomes an issue. The aim is to consider all aspects so that a set of response actions can be established.

The reason for going through these steps is to come up with a plan ahead of the risk becoming an issue. The benefit of this is that the approach can be established when the team has more time and is not under pressure.

Take a moment to think of the alternative. The project team is working at 100% capacity to reach critical milestones. A high impact risk becomes an issue. The project team are then in crisis mode and need to divert their attention to understanding the problem and establishing a course of action. As they are under pressure, the decision making process is compromised. The outcome is that the issue takes longer to resolve as the wrong course of action was taken at the start, more time reviewing options before the correct solution identified. Oh and the original milestones the team was working on has been missed.

Now look at the same scenario with a Risk Management Plan. The risk becomes an issue, the team review the issue, refer to the Risk Management Plan and follow the predefined course of action that has been developed when the team is not under pressure. Yes, time is still lost. However, it takes a lot less time and the team are able to return to the original milestones with minimal delays.
Risk Management Plan Template

This typically takes the form of a spreadsheet or word processor document. I personally like a word processor document as it allows more space to capture the required information.
The document does not have to be overly complicated. All it needs to capture is:

  • Risk
  • Impact
  • Action Plan (with owners)

The plan should be reviewed and updated at least when a new high impact, high probability risk is identified.

In summary

While it takes a lot of effort to build Risk Management Plans, for critical projects it is worth it as it will provide a better chance of success. It is also good for the career as it will demonstrate to your managers that you are a very insightful project or PMO manager.

Basic PMO Templates

Perhaps a better title for this article would be “Core PMO Templates” meaning, the ones that should be used to form the basis on any good project management office!

This post will cover a popular question, namely what basic PMO templates are needed to support a project management office?  The reason for this question is that as PMO’s mature, the data and reporting can become more complex.  This gives the impression that PMO templates have to be complicated.  If this is your impression or experience then I have got some very good news for you, the templates DO NOT have to be overly complicated.  In fact, the simpler and more easy to complete, the better the results.

Take a moment to consider the primary purpose of a template.  It is to simplify and standardize the process to allow the efficient collection of data to allow rapid review and consolidation.  So, if a template is too difficult to complete it will result in the data being collected with errors, gaps or, in extreme circumstances, not at all as it just is ‘too hard’ for the users.

So a good PMO will always take time to consider the objectives so as to define what data needs to be collected.  This will then allow for simple templates and processes to be designed to enable the collection process.

What are the basic PMO templates?

As well as being easy to use, there are a basic (core) set of templates that should be used by all PMO’s.  This basic set will enable the successful and smooth operation.

  • Planning and milestones
  • Costs plan
  • Benefit plan
  • Resource plan
  • Risk register
  • Issue register
  • Assumption register
  • Dependency register
  • Communication plan
  • Procurement plan
  • Document storage strategy
  • Project report
  • Change request template and register
  • Consolidation templates
  • Programme / management report

While other templates may be required such as Quality Assurance, Metrics, etc, the above list forms the core of most PMO’s and will collect all of the important data points.

Project Resource Template


Basic PMO templates do not equate to low value.  The purpose is to allow the rapid, efficient capture and consolidation of the key data points across all projects so as to provide management with visibility and transparency.

If templates are too hard to use, they will not be used.

Focusing on these points, especially if you are new to the project management office environment will help ensure you do not become overwhelmed thinking you need to design very complicated tools and processes.

Please share any thoughts and experiences on using simple tools and processes that have resulted in good outcomes through the comments section at the bottom of this post.

If you are looking for professional, ready made templates you can quickly deploy, please take a look at the PMO Template page.  This shares details of a very good resource that can be used to quickly deploy the core templates required.  The package represents excellent value for money and will save a lot of time compared with creating each template from new.

PMO productivity tools for important information

tips for PMO productivityTime is a scarce commodity for project managers, PMO managers well just about most people. It can be very time consuming (and extremely frustrating) searching for information or files that you know you have got but just can’t remember where. This post covers 2 applications that can help with PMO productivity.

Add to this the pain when you are at work, traveling or on business when there is a sudden need for a template or presentation that you need but it is stored on your computer at home or in the office. You have to wait until you get back to that PC before you can access what you need – yet more wasted time.

This is where the advances in technology are truly helpful meaning that you can access the Internet almost anywhere – PC with wifi or 4G dongle, iPad, Kindle, smart phone. Even better there are some smart people out there who have developed some great web or app based software to help solve these problems.

This post shares details of a couple of solutions really can save time and, best of all, have free versions.


dropboxIf you work between multiple devices (PC, iPhone, iPad, etc), you will know it is a pain having to make sure you have the most up to date file, document, picture, etc on the device you are using.
Installing Dropbox on all devices will enable any file in the Dropbox folder to sync between all devices. This is a great time saver.

Even better, it is smart enough to work out the latest version. You can work on a document at home. Then, when you access the same file on your laptop, it will automatically work out and sync the latest version. A big help with version control.

You can also use Dropbox to share documents with colleagues. Great if you are working on a shared project that needs collaborative work.

A great tip is to use Dropbox to store project templates and resources. This means that if ever you need a particular template, it does not matter where you are in the world, as long as you have an internet connection, you can access the resources saving on lost time.

The application is free with 2gb of storage. Visit the Dropbox website for more details. Note: if you store a lot of files, be mindful of data charges if syncing using mobile data.


evernoteDo you write lots of notes on pieces of paper and then lose them. Evernote can be installed on computers and mobile devices and allows you quickly to make notes, capture pictures, articles, etc that are then stored and synced.

Evernote is very useful for keeping a record of the logins and passwords to different websites that you use. Again another great free resource. Visit the Evernote website for more details.
What saves you time?

If you have any great online or app based solutions that save you time, especially with project management and PMO activities, please send through the details so that they can be shared with the PM Majik community.

How a PMO can help get Red projects back to Green

project surgery to get projects back to greenOne of the main duties of a PMO is to provide transparency of the status (“health”) of each of the projects for which they have oversight. This is usually achieved by implementing a regular reporting process with a standard scale for reporting RAG. This provides a mechanism to capture projects where the status is deteriorating and raise this to the attention of senior management.
So far so good. However, after spending the time and effort to provide the transparency, it is important that action is taken to return get the projects back on track.

Instead of approaching this on an ad-hoc basis for each project, more mature organizations will have a defined approach to restore the “health” of “sick” projects. These processes are typically giving names such as “Go for Green”, “Path for Green” and many similar permutations! This post will share the approach called The Project Surgery.

Project Surgery Overview

The principle was very simple, where a project had moved to a Red or deep Amber status, this was a trigger that the project needed help to restore the health back to Green – hence the name project surgery.


A meeting would be arranged by the PMO and would include all of the relevant parties who could explain the issue and agree a plan of action. Note: the attendees were limited to only those people who absolutely needed to be there. The reason being to avoid a ‘cast of thousands’ that would probably result in no clear plan being agreed. The meeting had a set agenda and minutes (in the form of a clear action plan) and scheduled for 60 minutes.


The scope of the session was very tight.

  • Clear understanding of issue(s)
  • Agree action plan (with focus on the next 7 days)

Important: The meeting did not include the discussion of blame and / or budget refunds. Emotive items like these were discussed in a separate session once a plan had been agreed. The focus on the session was purely to understand and address the issue(s).


It was usually the project managers responsibility to ensure that the issue was clearly documented and then to explain the issue to the forum. Tip: the PMO added value by reviewing the document before the meeting and working with the project manager to ensure it was clear and concise.

Action Plan

The forum then agreed the overall action plan including a clear set of actions to be agreed over the next 7 days. The actions were clearly assigned and a follow up meeting scheduled for 7 days to monitor progress. Tip: the PMO added value by ensuring the actions were clearly captured, assigned an short document published to all attendees very soon after the meeting.


The approach of the “Project Surgery” worked very well as it allowed the right people to focus on clearly understood issues and agree an action plan without the emotion of blame. Repeating the surgery every 7 days until the health of the project is restored ensured the project manager and other stakeholders kept the correct level of focus. The PMO played a pivotal role in driving the process.

This approach, practiced correctly, will lead to a reduction in projects being Red and those that did report Red were quickly returned to Amber or Green.
The concept is very straight forward and would be easy to implement in most organisations:

  • Name the process i.e. Go for Green
  • Define process
  • Define tools for meeting (meeting agenda, issue template, action plan template)
  • Communicate approach

Hope that you can put the concept to good use.