Published here September 2019


Musings Index

More on Program Management & Matrix Organizations by Dan Pedersen

To my Email Dan Pedersen responded:

Mr. Wideman,

Thank you very much for the thoughtful reply. I am truly honored. I am especially keen that you also recognize the problem. The iPM idea is certainly a possibility. I think there are several problems. We need to be clear about what we are addressing and not addressing.

When I started my career at a major aircraft company, "Projects" were a big deal. The President of the company was provided a simple one-page status every month. The status included the project objective, start and completion date, total budget, budget to actuals, a one-line status, major risks and help needed. His interest sent a clear message, and ensured resources were properly provided.

Since that time, projects are frequently pushed down to a first line manager with limited span of control. The first line manager with no training then hires a PM and tells the PM to "manage upward". This is insane.

To solve this problem companies have created PMO's, implemented matrix organizations and implemented complex software tools.

  • Normally, the PMO's are staffed with clerks that have no experience. These clerks then mandate that time-consuming software tools and processes be used. This solution simply made matters worse.
  • Matrix organizations were even a worse remedy. The matrix organization takes scarce resources and shares the resources across multiple projects. On paper this looks great. One technical resource can satisfy the needs of multiple projects. Unfortunately, this approach couples all the projects together. Completion of development activities cannot be planned to the day. As such, a slide of even one day has a catastrophic affect on the other projects. It causes a churn in the project plans and staffing conflicts that words cannot describe.
  • Software tools sounded good. But, in practice the tools make matters worse. So much time is spent making the tools work that face-to-face discussions, and schedule negotiations, are not occurring. This results in even more schedule slides.

My experience outclasses the experience of all my clients. As such, my Fortune 100 clients routinely hire me to fix struggling programs. They explode when I suggest simplifying the reporting structure, reducing the dependence on shared resources and reducing use of sophisticated software tools. These well-intended, inexperienced, individuals are so heavily vested in the status quo, they cannot see straight.

I have tried to address the above issues with PMI. But, they are only interested in promoting discussions that generate revenue. They are not interested in confronting anything that might put the PM role into question and reduce revenues. The problems above are real. My project success rate is above 98 percent. Yet, across the discipline,[1] eighty percent of projects fail. Most of the failures can be attributed to the three points above.

Your iPM might work. It would certainly be a first step. Maybe we could start by being be a bit more anal about the motivation, prerequisites, and RAA's for Project Managers, Project Coordinators and Project Schedulers. This might be a first step in pushing some of the staffing issues up the organization structure so that it can be addressed properly.

About ten years ago I started a book on this topic. I gave up on the book because my audience was in denial of the problem. Your kind reply has inspired me to resume work on the topic. I will try to find my old notes and case studies.

You are still a very much respected figure in the PMI. The PMI would take notice of your comments.

Your writing is wonderful. It would be an honor to correspond and work with you on this topic.

  • Do you have a stable Internet connection?
  • I have been successful in using Skype to help the hearing impaired. Have you ever installed Skype?
  • If you have a Microsoft email, we can share documents on Microsoft's share drive product OneDrive. Do you have a Microsoft email account? If you do not have an email address, I suggest that you go to and obtain the email address for

Seattle and Vancouver are close to each other. Eventually, I can drive to Vancouver.


To which I replied:

Hello Dan,

Thank you for your interesting Email containing your thoughts. I agree with a lot of your observations. However, the key issue at this time is whether you will decide to reinvest in your book. That's a lot of work but it is always worth it (though not necessarily financial) because it puts you "on the map" so to speak.

To answer your questions, I am connected only by Wi-Fi, but it is stable. I work on a Mac and so I use Apple's Mail as my Emailer. It will handle attachments up to at least 5MB, so that should take care of most situations. No, I have not used Skype, only because I have not found a need.** However, I have used Zoom, the latest collaboration software.

While it is true that Seattle and Vancouver are quite close together, the fact is that I no longer live in Vancouver. We have moved to Richmond Hill, which is a city north of Toronto. That's a long drive from Seattle!

Let me know how you are getting on with the return to your book project.

**I have since installed Skype on my computer - in case of need.

1. That is for in-house project management generally.
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