Join me at the PMO Global Alliance Experience Oct. 26 – Nov. 16

Join me at the PMO Global Alliance Experience

Learn from more than 300 speakers from 100 countries.

Choose among 350 sessions, several languages (English, French, Portuguese, Arabic), and your preferred time zone.

Attend especially the following sessions

  • Many interventions from Americo Pinto and the PMO Global Alliance leaders
  • The PMO finalists and winner of the year
  • The PMO leaders finalists and winner of the year
  • The PMO influencers finalists and winner of the year.

And I will be most happy if you join Reinhard Wagner, Chairman of the IPMA, and me at:

  • My Keynote session “The PMOs and the Black Swans” Oct. 26 at 6:00 pm CET.
  • My Talkshow with Reinhard Wagner, Oct. 26 at 8:00 pm CET.

All 350+ sessions are recorded and will be available to all.

Register now at:

And please download the Conference app.

You can find it HERE

Thank you


The Seneca Cliff

When I wrote the book, “The High-Impact PMO[1], in 2017, my true and hidden goal was to help PMOs prepare for “unusual unfolding” of their business environment.

My belief was that human history may be more a succession of big surprises than a long series of small evolutions. I also learned by experience that what really moves businesses, organizations and societies are the (strategic) projects they undertake. That PMOs should prepare to unforeseen events if they were to successfully support projects was an evidence to me.

One of the paragraphs concerned the Seneca Cliff[2], a phenomenon studied by Ugo Bardi or François Roddier, also called collapse, avalanche, disaster, failures, or all sorts of adverse effects.

About 2,000 years ago, the Roman philosopher Lucius Seneca wrote to his friend Licilius[3] noting that “growth is slow, but ruin is rapid”

Seneca was a good Stoic. He knew that we must always be prepared for the future, knowing full well that ruin can come upon us at any moment. This is true for individuals as well as for an entire society.

He wrote in his letter that “it would be some consolation for the feebleness of ourselves and our works if all things should perish as slowly as they come into being; but as it is, increases are of sluggish growth, but the way to ruin is rapid.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has very abruptly put billions of people in very difficult situations. This “Seneca Cliff” unfortunately seems to me nothing more than a wake-up call and the trigger of bigger “unusual unfoldings”. It is a call to anticipate a much bigger “Seneca Cliff” where financial, social, and political systems could very well be shaken in a way none of us can imagine today.

I remember another chapter of my book. It says how difficult, if not impossible, it is to forecast a future. Do not ever try to forecast this second “Seneca Cliff”. Any event of this kind is unpredictable. But conversely, prepare for its consequences. Here you are in the domain of certainty.

And this is where the Project Management community and the PMOs can have a huge value. This is still more true for those who evolve close to the strategic levels of their organization. They can have indeed a strong influence on the system behavior. They can explore and adjust the position of their organization between order and chaos.

A single recommendation? Study and learn what Nassim Taleb, the author of the wonderful “Incerto[4], calls a barbell strategy: “A barbell strategy is to be as hyper-conservative and hyper-aggressive as you can be instead of being mildly aggressive or conservative: taking maximum exposure to the positive Black Swans while remaining paranoid about the negative ones.”

May I remind that “a Black Swan event is a highly unexpected event for certain observers, that carries large consequences and that is subjected to ex-post rationalization.” A pandemic is a Black Swan for some, a White Swan for others.

Stay safe, wear a mask and respect social distancing


[Note: I beg your indulgence for the Globish language I am using in this article. Any copyediting from one of you, dear reader, will be highly appreciated.]

[1] Husser, Philippe, The High-Impact PMO, Amazon Publishing, 2017

[2] Bardi, Ugo, The Seneca Effect: Why Growth is Slow But Collapse is Rapid. Springer. 2017

[3] Seneca, Lucius Anneaus, Letters to Lucilius, n. 91

[4] Taleb, Nassim Nicholas, Incerto, Incerto: Fooled by Randomness, The Black Swan, The Bed of Procrustes, Antifragile, Skin in the Game, 2019

You can also read some of my most successful articles here:

High-Impact PMO

A Great Community For PMOs.

The PMO Global Alliance, a Great Community For PMOs

Being a finalist of the PMO Influencer of the Year Award is a gift. Isn’t it a wonderful feedback from the members of the PMO Global Alliance community? Thank you. I love you all. Yet, take care and stay safe during these volatile and uncertain times. Life is indeed stronger than a virus.

Certainly, the PMO Global Alliance is a wonderful global community of professionals. Its members are PMO leaders, PMO members, Executives, Consultants, Teachers, Students, or Project Managers. They all share a common interest in the PMO (Project Management Office) topic.

Not All PMOs Are Happy

Before exploring with you why this community is so important, let me tell you a story.

Several years ago, a Senior Vice President nicknamed in public “pousse-café” (in French) or “coffee-flunky” his PMO.

Firstly, he used to consider a PMO as a mere meeting facilitator. Secondly, he thought that a PMO was only a cost center. And thirdly, for him a PMO was limited to making sure coffee and pastries were served on time at the beginning of each meeting.

Soon the PMO of the above story quit the VP who did not want to consider his added value. He did not want to stay close to anyone acting like the rogue Procrustes.

PMOs Clearly Support Project Excellence

What this VP did not understand is that an organization delivers successfully its mission through the combination of both operational excellence and project management excellence. All strategic change in an organization is delivered through successful portfolios, programs and projects.

A PMO is not a “paper tiger” nor a division on the side telling people what to do. On the contrary, a PMO is there to help project owners execute and deliver benefits to the best of their ability. And everyone knows how challenging it is for the project management community to be successful in our complex world.

And a seasoned PMO brings valuable knowledge and experience in supporting the project management excellence. It brings the required support and techniques. It also introduces the human dynamics that help all project stakeholders work together in the best possible manner.

Really, PMOs are adding a tangible and recognized value to any organization prepared to set up, develop, and work with a top notch PMO.

The PMO Global Alliance Supports Your Development

This is why the PMO Global Alliance plays such an important role. Its mission is to support the professional development of its members through mutual support, networking, advanced research and an intensive exchange of experiences.

Because of this, I have joined this community several years ago. And I can tell you that I find many extraordinary benefits in being part of this community:

  • Learning about innovative practices for PMOs, broadening my knowledge and evolving in my career.
  • Accessing and sharing successful experiences with PMO professionals worldwide.
  • Expanding my network in a vast international community of PMO professionals as well as many CEOs, Strategic Initiative Sponsors and leaders, Portfolio Managers, just to cite a few.

Join Us

Now, do you want to learn how this PMO Global Alliance can transform your PMO?

Then join us at the virtual

PMO Global Alliance Experience

from Oct. 26 to Nov. 16.

To you continued success


Read some of my most successful articles here:

And if you want to study and learn how PMOs thrive in an uncertain and volatile world,

read the their stories in my book The High-Impact PMO:

High-Impact PMO
sand pile effect

The Sand Pile Effect

The world is about to breach a critical threshold in the global geopolitical dislocation. And as with every breach of threshold in a complex system, this will generate a suite of nonlinear phenomena: developments that do not conform to the usual rules and the traditional projections, be they economic, monetary, financial, social or political.

LEAP 2020[1]

Imagine you are on a beach of fine, golden sand.

Take a shovel and a bucket. Build a castle by pouring wet sand regularly on what will become the chateau of Sleeping Beauty. The pile of sand becomes higher and higher. Now and then, the heap of sand slides in avalanches from the top. Isn’t it frustrating?

This experiment was built by Per Bak[2], Chao Tang, and Kurt Wisensefeld, a group of physicists at the Santa Fe Institute in the 1980’s. Per Bak was a twentieth century Danish theoretical physicist. He coauthored the 1987 academic paper that coined the term “self-organized criticality.” Their beach was a table in their laboratory where the experiment repeated your sand pile and its avalanches.

What’s interesting is that, when piling higher, sand piles achieve a rest angle and a rough stationary state. As the sand is poured ever more upon the sand pile, we see many small avalanches of sand occurring. From time to time, we see a large or very large slide occurring. The sand rest angle weaves around a critical value without ever stabilizing. Figure 1 describes this phenomenon.

Figure 1 – Sand piles produce avalanches around a critical slope and their size is inversely proportional to their frequency.[3]

There is no typical size for sand pile avalanches.

If you try to estimate the weight of human beings, the more humans you will weigh, the better you will become in ability to estimate their mean weight.

Conversely, if you try to estimate the size of the sand piles avalanches, the more avalanches you will observe, the greater your chance to see an avalanche size bigger than any previous one.

Repeating the experiment long enough, you will see massive avalanches, although these may be rare in occurrence. This remains true whatever the grain of sand.

This is a power law[4]. Per Bak and his friends have shown that it was a law in 1/f. What does it mean? F is the frequency of the avalanches. The function is the size of the avalanches. The more frequent the avalanches, the smaller they are. And the less frequent they are, the bigger they are.

Big events can be triggered by the same tiny (and invisible or undetected) cause.

An example of self-organized criticality.

A sand pile organizes itself until it tunes itself to a critical state of its rest angle. Each small avalanche cascades other small avalanches, thus redistributing its energy information from one group of sand to the other.

Complexity originates from the tendency of large dynamical systems to organize themselves into a critical state, with avalanches or “punctuations” of all sizes.

Large systems do not need massive movers to move immensely.

Ecosystems tune their structure to a poised regime between order and chaos, between subcritical and supra-critical behavior, with power law avalanches. What we observe here can also apply to flooding of rivers, to many biological systems, to earthquakes, and, most importantly for you, and to all kinds of social organizations as well.

Organizations also are oscillating between order and chaos.

They permanently self-organize by importing energy and information while exporting to the outside the maximum possible production of entropy.

In his book The Thermodynamics of Evolution, François Roddier explains that[5]

the universe incessantly strives to maximize the speed with which energy dissipates. That this principle also applies to human evolution should therefore not surprise us.

In 1988, the American scientist Rod Swenson recognized the Law of Maximum Entropy Production (LMEP or MEP) that states

the world will select the path or assemblage of paths out of available paths that minimizes the potential or maximizes the entropy at the fastest rate given the constraints.

Finally, we know since Claude Shannon that entropy and information are equivalent (though with a different sign). Exporting entropy to the outside is done by importing information from the outside. An organization that closes on itself ends up “lukewarm” and cannot produce any work. Organizations open on their external environment import information on the evolution, the expectations, and the other players of this environment. By doing so, they generate the equivalent of avalanches that are reorganizations, small and large, frequent and infrequent.

This is a lesson for anyone working in the domain of Strategy and Project Management.

Sometimes as a Strategy Management Officer or a (Strategic) Portfolio and Project Manager, you will be part of “something” sparking the avalanche. Sometimes you will stay a spectator or a watchman awaiting the next “Big One.”

Remember though that even if a Big One is a sure event, no one can predict when it will happen.

Yet, getting on board of a Big One is often the opportunity of a lifetime. Do not miss such a chance to be engaged in something big.

Look at the example of bicycles. Bicycles were introduced in the late nineteenth century in Europe (around 1885). This has been a lifetime event. By the early twenty-first century, more than 1 billion bicycles have been produced worldwide. They now outnumber cars. However, only modest improvements have followed the first time humans used only two wheels in tandem as a means of transport.

Key Takeaway

Regardless of the situation, playing with the waves of the inevitable successive reorganizations (avalanches), and especially big ones, is a chance for the Strategy and Project Management Community willing to catch opportunities to favorably surf on these waves and learn to develop favorable impact.

To your continued success


This article is an extract of my book The High-Impact PMO . You can also read some related articles here:

High-Impact PMO

[1] LEAP (Laboratoire Européen d’Anticipation Politique) 2020, GEAB49, November 2010.

[2] Bak, P., How Nature Works, The Science of Self-Organized Criticality


[4] A power law is a functional relationship between two quantities, where a relative change in one quantity results in a proportional relative change in the other quantity, independent of the initial size of those quantities: one quantity varies as a power of another. Source: Wikipedia

[5] François Roddier, Thermodynamics of Evolution, An essay of thermo-bio-sociology, Parole Editions, 2012.

PMO or TMO? 3 Key Differences

Do You Need a PMO or a TMO?

Everyone knows what the various types of PMO generally do. Yet, following the current fad for “business transformations”, many change the name of their PMO into TMO, Transformation Management Office. This misleads everyone since a transformation is very different from mere projects or programs. Accompanying a transformation is indeed radically different from managing a project.

A TMO should obviously play some or all of the traditional PMO roles. After all, transformations present many of the characteristics of large and complex programs. However, because of their characteristics of complexity, transformations result in the emergence of “something” that cannot be inferred from the mere characteristics of the components initially concerned by the transformation. A PMO knows how to support a project delivering a new aircraft. A TMO learns to accompany the transformation of an organizational culture.

Therefore, there are specific roles that a real TMO must play that traditional PMOs do not have to fulfill. These specific roles find their origin in what transformations are as compared to project portfolios or programs.

What Is a Transformation?

The Cambridge dictionary tells us that a transformation is “a complete change in the appearance or character of something or someone”.

A transformation is also “the process of changing completely the character or appearance of something in order to improve it”. As a synonym, a metamorphosis is a change into a completely different form or type, a change in composition or structure.

In aerospace, switching technologies from mechanical to hydro-mechanical and then to fly-by-wire control systems are typical examples of transformations.

E-commerce is another example of a transformation that shakes entire consumer behaviors, markets and businesses. Platform companies have revolutionized the way sellers and customers interact.

Transformation Management Requires Studying and Solving New Problems

Transformations clearly belong to the domain of complex systems. Complex systems are made of a large number of components that dynamically interact together in modes impossible to understand and control.

First, these interactions result in behaviors at the macro-system level that individual behaviors at the micro-level cannot explain. Transformation management must therefore develop a set of capabilities built upon complexity sciences.

Secondly, when the system is a social organization, transformation management also requires to study and solve advanced human dynamics. and indirect strategies.

Thirdly, direct interventions (such as mandating individual behaviors) are unlikely to bring about the required change in a complex system. Transformation management needs to study and solve indirect strategies that prove to be more effective because they touch the deeper, more persistent drivers of behavior.

Transformations Result in the Emergence of Something Radically New

During a transformation process, new “things” emerge. Emergence is “the fact of something becoming known or starting to exist”, or “the process of appearing”. Several types of emergence exist.

Example 1 – when you mix and cook sugar, wheat, yeast and other components, you get a muffin that is radically different from its constituents.

Example 2 – a caterpillar hungrily stuffs itself with leaves, grows, and then pupates a chrysalis. When metamorphosis is complete, the pupal skin splits and a butterfly flies off.

The first example is an “emergent behavior” that characterizes properties of a system that are in some way (possibly in a particular way) not captured by the properties of the parts.

The second example is a temporal version in which a new kind of system “emerges” at some historical time without in some way being captured in the previously existing systems.

In each case, the initial system and its components become something entirely new. There is no way to run the process backwards, recover the initial state of the components, and start all over again.

Some transformations require a long and continuous process. Others are explosive.

Transformations Rely on Interactions Between Agents

Interactions between agents are more important than the components themselves.

Emergent properties are a product of the synergies between the agents (components of a system). These synergies give rise to a new macrolevel of organization. Therefore, these emergent properties cannot be observed locally in the subsystems. They you can only observe them at the macrolevel structure.

The key point here is that the behavior of complex systems results more from the interactions (inside and outside the system) between the components than from the behavior of the components themselves taken in isolation.

Do not conflate interactions with interdependencies. Most projects depend on other projects or initiatives to deliver some enabling capabilities that are essential to their successful implementation. This is the domain of interdependencies. An interaction is simply a back and forth action or communication between different agents with some kind of resulting effect.

Example: The properties of water are not apparent in the properties of gasses of oxygen or hydrogen. Neither does an isolated water molecule reveal most properties of water. However, a microscopic amount of water is sufficient to observe these properties.

Phase transitions occur along lines of equilibrium. An exchange of energy and various sets of volume, pressure and temperature transform the water into different states as you can see in the figure below.

Whereas the solid area is well distinct from the other two, the line separating the liquid area from the vapor area ends up at some critical point beyond which the liquid phase can no longer be distinguished from the vapor phase.

In the business world, production, demand and offer are similar to volume, temperature and pressure of the water.

Transformations Concern the Macrolevel and the Microlevel

Due to the development of the different levels of organization within a single overall system, emergence gives rise to a complex dynamic between the different levels; most notably between the macro and micro levels of the system.

All the restaurants in a city give a typical example of this phenomenon. There is a macrolevel looking at how the people in the city eat globally outside their homes. And there is a microlevel that considers the individual restaurants. Running a single restaurant does not say anything about how the network of restaurants in a city works. Nor why you could run this network with some kind of “plan” similar to the management of a single resturant.

As a consequence, you cannot describe the emergent macrolevel phenomena with the vocabulary applicable to the parts. The emergent features require new terms and new concepts to categorize them.

A TMO Should Develop 3 Typical Characteristics

TMOs do differ very clearly from the traditional PMO. Several characteristics distinguish a TMO from a mere PMO. Here are three key characteristics among all of them:

  1. A TMO focuses primarily on the interactions between the components of this system over time, space and depth.
    • This requires that the TMO study and solve problems of network analysis, human dynamics and stakeholder management.
  2. A TMO addresses complex tasks and interactions at different scales
    • A family is not a village, a village is not a large city, and a large city is not a country. This is also true in a business organization. A TMO should study and solve problems of multiscale (from microlevel to macrolevel) adaptive system development.
  3. Finally, a TMO facilitates the emergence of new “things”
    • So a TMO should study and solve problems of newness management, rather than sticking to known “things” (e.g. creating a winning proprietary technology instead of fighting existing competitors by cutting costs).

And if I had to summarize what a TMO is, I would say that a TMO is a sort of farmer who “prepares the ground, plant seeds, then weeds, hoes, and waters the corn, and waits until it is ripe”.

Do you agree? Your contributions to this important question are welcomed here. Thank you.


You can also read some of my most successful articles here:

High-Impact PMO

Do Not Stick to the Iron Triangle in Project Management

Do not stick to the Iron Triangle in Project Management. Only time proves the success of a project. Not the successful realization of the Triple Constraint (scope, time, cost… and quality), the famous Iron Triangle.

Consider the following two examples: the Boeing 737 MAX 8 project and the Sydney Opera House project.

The Boeing 737 MAX 8

The Boeing 737 MAX 8 was an initial project management success. The aircraft was delivered on schedule in May 2017 to catch up with its Airbus A320 NEO competitor. Sadly, this initial success was followed by a huge drawback with 2 crashes that killed 346 people. Since then, the aircraft are grounded, customers lost their trust, and Boeing loses several billions of $.

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Fig. 1 – Representation of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 Benefits

The Sydney Opera House

The Sydney Opera House project has been an initial failure. Budget increased from AU $7 million to AU $102 million. The delivery was 10 years behind schedule. This project became a study in the domain of project failure. Who remembers the name of the architect, the Dane Jørn Utzon? The overrun on the Opera House, and the controversy that followed, destroyed Utzon’s career and kept him from building more masterpieces. He had even to leave Australia and the Opera House, in the middle of construction and never returned. Yet the Opera House is today a worldwide attraction for millions of tourists and a major success for Australia. the Australian government even recouped the massive cost after only two years. More than 8.2 million people from Australia and around the world visit it each year and some 300,000 people take part in guided tours. Isn’t it a huge success?

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Fig. 2 – Representation of the Sydney Opera House Benefits

Key Takeaways

What you want in reality is sustainable success, not costs, schedule or scope. Here are my three takeaways:

  • Quality (the “fourth dimension” of the Iron Triangle) must be the priority one. The Sydney Opera House is a superb iconic building that sooner or later would deserve its rewards. Performance was maybe bounded (by its Triple Constraint overrun), yet its success is unbounded[1].
  • The Iron Triangle is nothing more than an excessive set of constraints. Ease them to make sure that you achieve the right “quality”, that is what the users will get from your project. A few more months and redundant systems would have cost more than initially forecasted by Boeing, yet much less than the costs incurred by the tragedies of the crashes.
  • Above all, replace the efforts you devote to the Triple Constraint by efforts to reduce the fragilities of your project. A fragility is anything that does not like uncertainty, volatility, disorder, or time[2]. Never focus too much on efficiency alone. For example, imitate human bodies that reduce their fragility thanks to redundant eyes, lungs or kidneys.  

Do you agree?


Philippe Husser

The article is inspired from the 5th version of my book The High-Impact PMO, Why and how agile project management officers deliver value in a complex world” that you can buy on Amazon

Or read my most successful articles here:

High-Impact PMO

[1] Read L. Barabasi, The Formula

[2] Read N. Taleb, Incerto

The image of the Syndey Opera House is from Patty Jansen, Pixabay

Features That Foster Project Adoption

Making a complex project take off and be adopted by its targeted population may be similar to getting a tipping point. Tipping points refer indeed often to rapid and irreversible favorable changes. Tipping points make a project, a program, or a portfolio performance  take off in an unexpected and favorable way.  You surely do not plan their emergence. Yet, you can profit from a variety of specific features that help this emergence. Let me share with you seven of these features that I learned by experience.

1 – Sand Piles And Tipping Points

Imagine first that you are on a beach of fine, golden sand.

You have a shovel and a bucket. You build a castle by pouring wet sand regularly on what will become the chateau of Sleeping Beauty. The pile of sand becomes higher and higher. Now and then, the heap of sand slides in avalanches from the top. Isn’t it frustrating?

Per Bak[1], Chao Tang, and Kurt Wisensefeld, a group of physicists at the Santa Fe Institute built this experiment in the 1980’s.

What’s interesting is that, when piling higher, sand piles achieve a rest angle and a rough stationary state. As the sand is poured ever more upon the sand pile, we see many small avalanches of sand occurring, and from time to time, we see a large or very large slide occurring. The sand rest angle weaves around a critical value without ever stabilizing. Figure 1 describes this phenomenon.


Figure 1 – Sand piles produce avalanches around a critical slope.

2 – Weights And Frequency Of Adult People

Still more interesting is the finding that there is no typical size for sand pile avalanches.

If you try to estimate the weight of adult human beings, the more people you will weigh, the better you will become in ability to estimate their mean weight.

Summarize your findings with a graph that displays different body weights on the horizontal axis (the X-axis) and the frequency (% of subjects) of each weight on the vertical axis (the Y-axis).

Figure 2 shows the results. It is bell-shaped with a single peak in the center, and it is rather symmetrical with at the center the mean weight.

Figure 2 – The bell-shaped curve of weights in a population of adult human beings

3 – Size And Frequency Of Avalanches In A Sand Pile

Conversely, if you try to estimate the size of the sand piles avalanches, the more avalanches you will measure, the bigger the maximum size of the avalanches will become.

Repeating the experiment long enough, you will see massive avalanches, although these may be rare in occurrence. This remains true whatever the grain of sand. The same tiny (and invisible or undetected) cause can trigger very big events.

Per Bak and his friends have shown that the size S of the avalanches is inversely propotional to the frequency f of these avalanches. What does it mean?

It means that the more frequent the avalanches, the smaller they are and the less frequent they are, the bigger they are. This is a power law where very big but improbable events happen.

The graph of such avalanches has a “fat tail”. Figure 3 shows this graph with linear axis. The green part comprises almost all avalanches. In the yellow part, you find rare but big, or even some day, exceptionally big avalanches.

Figure 3 – A power law shows how the size of avalanches varies in 1 / frequency

Power law graphs prefer logarithmic scales. They deliver a straight line on a log–log plot. The Figure 4 illustrates this avalanche frequency – size relationship on such a logarithmic scale.

Figure 4 – Avalanche size distribution in the two-dimensional BTW sandpile model by Christoph Adami.

4 – Avalanches in Social Organizations

Per Bak’s experiment applies to catastrophic events (like snow or sand avalanches) but also to favorable events like tipping points in projects or in business. Malcolm Gladwell proposed such examples in his book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.

Can we help to generate (or avoid) large avalanches in social systems? This is a question everyone leading change in an organization considers one time or another.

Such an avalanche is that point in a system’s development where a (sometimes invisible) small change leads to a huge effect, in a very rapid time frame, and spreads through the system in a contagious fashion.

For whoever wants to foment rapid change, the principles or components of an avalanche or a tipping point model are worth examining.

The rapid growth is usually started by a handful of people who exhibit some kind of exceptional behavior.

A small number of people (like skateboarders) have the ability to “infect” a large number of other people with a new idea (like a style of clothing or an interest for a new singer).

Yet this is not enough.

A tipping point may require a certain number of favorable features to have a chance to produce. Here are indeed the seven key success factors I learned myself in projects that took off in an unexpected way.

5 – Seven Features Favorable to Tipping Points in Projects

The presence of these seven elements does not guaranty the emergence of a tipping point. But there absence puts it at risk. I identified them late in my career. It was by “looking backwards to connect the dots” (Steve Jobs), and especially after the success of the implementation of a new Global-500 company Project Portfolio Management Platform (PPMP).

a) A cause and its social value.

Only the strength of a cause can make a change program succeed. Projects fail when they are not solving a big customer problem. While your organization controls all tangible sources of power, your cause is the intangible strength of the problem you want to solve. Make it absolutely powerful. For example, “get rid off Excel in project portfolio management”. In the case of the PPMP, people did not care for a new PPM (their company had already 11 of them!). They cared for “dividing by 2 the number of boring coordination meetings”.

b) An emotional benefit.

The change must create a positive emotion. For example, your PPM Platform must be beautiful, user-friendly, and an “All-Seeing Eye” solution everyone will envy to get on their smartphone. Offer this emotional benefit to the community of people using the platform. They will feel like belonging to a “Porsche Club”.

This may not be enough. Your project should also hook the users. This is what the PPMP team discovered after a while. The secret sauce was Nir Eyal’s 4-step Hooked model. People loved especally to check their PPMP application and discover the latest updates of the portfolio status.

c) A rational benefit of high value.

The solution must also bring rational benefits. Users of the PPM platform are even more important than the executive team members. If users recognize that using it saves time and stress, they will use word of mouth to spread this good news very quickly. They will explain how the new PPMP eliminates the painful need to build, share, consolidate spreadsheets and reduces, by 50%, the number of preparatory transversal meetings for Project Management teams.

d) Several connectors 

Connectors have a large number of connections, a wide reputation, and a strong interest in your project output. They act as influencers. In the case of a new project portfolio platform, they can be an Executive Vice President or a highly recognized thought leader that appreciated the benefits the platform offered to them and their (large) teams. When implementing an organization-wide transformation, focus your efforts on the most connected employees rather than on the most powerful ones to help generate momentum and accelerate impact.

e) A high level of visibility.

At a certain moment, a project needs to become highly visible. This visibility comes from its high level, or its large scope. For example, the project portfolio performance platform will be used in real time during leadership team meetings or during an executive team meeting. Everyone must have it installed on their personal Smartphone.

f) A certain level of adherence.

Users will adhere to the platform because they easily memorize the message it carries. This is the “stickiness factor” of Malcolm Gladwell. In a typical example such a platform was named PIMS for Progress Initiative Management System. However, PIMS is also a delicious cookie with as a base an orange marmalade layer added to a chocolate layer. This single name gave the tool the stickiness factor no PPM will ever get on its own.

Figure 4 – The project name PIMS evokes a lovely cookie and creates adherence

g) A favorable context.

The context is placed at the end of the list. However, its importance is the biggest. It is the context that allows avalanches to produce. Most tipping points are achieved because the environment and the solution converged at a certain favorable time with a level of ripeness on each side. The urgent need for a single version of truth related to a new vital strategic initiative can be the trigger for implementing a new PPM System.

6 – More About the PPM Platform Tipping Point

These seven features served as key success factors in deploying a new Project Portfolio Management System in a large global company (120,000 employees, 75 countries, 4,500+ projects)

The initial PPM goal was to support a critical program (context) based on a portfolio of around 300 projects.

A strong community of local PMOs run portfolios of 10 to 50 projects. They all looked for the easiest way to monitor and share progress and impact of their portfolio (cause and social value).

The executive committee required a single version of truth for this program (the high level of visibility).

The PMO community installed a Saas (Software as a Service) platform with very simple functionalities, just enough to offer everyone this 24X7 single version of truth. Project data were as simple as “are we going to deliver on time” and “will the project deliver the promised benefits” (a benefit). But above all, customer support was outsanding.

The platform name became PIMS for “Progress Initiative Management System”. Yet, as said above, PIMS was also the name of delicious cookies with as a base an orange marmalade layer added to a chocolate layer (the adherence).

Seeing that, two unexpected champions (a regional EVP and a functional EVP) loved the platform (the connectors). They asked that all projects under their responsibility be monitored with the platform.

As a result of these lucky factors, 4,500 projects were on board a few months later. The platform achieved its tipping point.

7 – Your Call to Action

Why not apply what you read to your own life?

What is your current top project? What do you want to achieve? Which is your target population? How do you intend to make people adopt your project, use its outputs, and benefit from its outcomes?

Why not sense your own environment and see if you profit from one or more of these seven features?

What can you do to develop them further?

Trust they will help you anticipate and benefit from the next big avalanche!

To Your Continued Success!


The article is inspired from my book the High-Impact PMO that you can buy on Amazon

Or read my most successful articles here:

High-Impact PMO

A Mind Needs Books as a Sword Needs a Whetstone If It Is To Keep Its Edge

Get a fresh start in your projects with a series of out-of-the-box solutions for CEOs, Strategy Management Officers, Portfolio Managers, Transformation and Program Managers, as well as all kinds of PMOs.

My brother has his sword, King Robert has his warhammer and I have my mind…and a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone if it is to keep its edge. That’s why I read so much Jon Snow.” says Tyrion Lannister in the Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin.

If you already read books about the Project Management Office, go a step further and read The High Impact PMO.

You will learn with well known scientists (P. Bak, L. Barabasi, F. Roddier to cite a few) why projects benefit from tipping points, network analysis or ever faster dissipation of information.

You will adapt thanks to human dynamics experts (like O. Fox Cabane, R. Lewis, or J.C. Fauvet) your leadership to different cultures, cognitive biases, and social dynamics.

And you will surely redefine your strategy management system (thanks to R. Ulanowicz, Mencius or N. Taleb for example) with a new equilibrium between planning and agility, a blend of Aristotle and Chinese wisdom, or bimodal strategies.

Buy the High-Impact PMO on Amazon or read my most successful articles:

High-Impact PMO

A Variety of Project Management Approaches

A Complexity / Uncertainty grid positions a variety of project management bodies of knowledge, frameworks, and tools according to the levels of complexity and uncertainty in their environments.

Of course, no grid can describe the world. No grid will ever be perfect.

But, the goal of this grid is simply to introduce discussions within a project management community of practitioners whose degree of experience in the domain is highly diverse.

This is a version 2 of the version 1 grid I have recently posted on LinkedIn. The v1 grid received an amazingly large number of views as well as many likes and important comments.

I have learned a lot with all these comments. I felt comfortable with many, uncomfortable with some.

But all helped to progress and develop an improved version.

So, Thank You to Everyone For the Likes and Comments on the Version 1 of the Grid.

Of course this version 2 is not perfect. This version contains a few improvements and clarifications. I hope they will help whoever looks for different project management approaches in a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous (VUCA) world.

It shows bodies of knwoledge, frameworks, and tools. Since a project accomplishes products among other outputs, the grid contains also project management frameworks and product delivery frameworks. Thus, it should taste like a burger with its different constituents and their specific baking time.

Please also note that project management relies on technical, leadership, and business and strategy capabilities. Separate grids will describe the last two domains, while this one concentrate on the technical domain.


About Complexity and Uncertainty

Complexity has many sources. Among these sources are three fundamental characteristics that make an endeavor complex: the high number of variables involved, the nonlinearity of the interactions between these variables, and the irreversibility of phenomena within complex systems.  Here are a few other characteristics of complex systems:

  • Emergence (look at termite hills)
  • Co-evolution (impact on the environment)
  • Sub-optimal (relative fitness)
  • Requisite variety (resilience)
  • Connectivity (feedback loops)
  • Simple rules (flight of bird flocks)
  • Self-organising (no (apparent) hierarchy)
  • Edge-of-chaos (maximum diversity)
  • Nested systems (fractal scales)

More on complexity at More also at

Uncertainty means here the indeterminacy of the future. It is a situation in which something is not known, a state of limited knowledge where it is impossible to exactly describe the existing state, a future outcome, or more than one possible outcome. Volatility and uncertainty are equivalent.


About Projects

project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to accomplish a unique product, services or results (PMI). The European Commission has defined a project as a structure which is setup to create a unique product or service (output) within certain constraints such as time, cost, and quality. Each project’s goal is to introduce a new product or service or to change an existing one. achieving the goal is expected to bring about benefits to the organisation. A project can also be seen as a transformational process, turning ideas into reality.

Organizational Project Management (OPM) is a strategy execution framework that utilizes portfolio, program, and project management as well as organizational-enabling practices to consistently and predictably deliver organizational strategy to produce better performance, better results, and a sustainable competitive advantage (PMI at

Project teams improve performance when they benefit from a wide range of available solutions fitting the level of complexity and uncertainty of their environment. It is up to these teams to adjust the solutions to their needs, to their culture, and to their capabilities. The approaches cited in the grid are largely used in the Americas and in Europe. I wish project practitioners from other regions will bring their own contribution and confirm or improve the grid with what they do there.


About Project Categories

A megaproject is only a category of projects. I is an extremely large-scale investment project. Megaprojects are large-scale, complex (both in technical and human terms) ventures that typically cost $1 billion or more, take many years to develop and build, involve multiple public and private stakeholders, are transformational, and impact millions of people. Examples of megaprojects are here or here.

Complex projects are characterized by a degree of disorder, instability, emergence, non-linearity, recursiveness, uncertainty, irregularity and randomness, and dynamic complexity where the parts in the system they act upon can react / interact with each other in different ways. More for example at ICCPM. ICCPM Ltd was established by Australian, UK and US government bodies and major defence industry corporations. It is now a substantial network of global corporate, government, academic and professional organisations dealing with Complex Project Management.

Innovation projects are a very important and specific category of projects. Innovation is precisely something that gains from uncertainty. And some people sit around waiting for uncertainty and using it as raw material.


About Project Management Approaches

The PMI Project Management Body of Knowledge is a set of standard terminology and guidelines for project management. The body of knowledge evolves over time and is presented in “A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge”. The Guide is a document resulting from work overseen by the Project Management Institute (PMI), which offers the CAPM and PMP certifications. The PMBOK Guide is intended to be a “subset of the project management body of knowledge that is generally recognized as a good practice. ‘Generally recognized’ means the knowledge and practices described are applicable to most projects most of the time and there is a consensus about their value and usefulness. The 6th Edition of the PMBOK Guide now includes an “Agile Practice Guide”. There are also a guide for program management as well as a guide for portfolio management. More at

PM2 (stylized PM², sometimes pronounced as P M square) is the official project management methodology of the European Commission (EC). It incorporates elements from a range of widely accepted best practices in project management, and builds heavily on PMBOK, Prince2, IPMA-ICB, CMMI, TEMPO, and operational experience from EC institutions. More at

The Spiral model is a risk-driven process model generator for software projects. Based on the unique risk patterns of a given project, the spiral model guides a team to adopt elements of one or more process models, such as incremental, waterfall, or evolutionary prototyping. This model was first described by Barry Boehm in his 1986 paper “A Spiral Model of Software Development and Enhancement”. More at

About Agile

Agile software development describes an approach to software development under which requirements and solutions evolve through the collaborative effort of self-organizing cross-functional teams and their customer(s)/end users(s). It advocates adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery, and continuous improvement, and it encourages rapid and flexible response to change. The term Agile was popularized, in this context, by the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. The values and principles espoused in this manifesto were derived from and underpin a broad range of software development frameworks, including Scrum and Kanban. More at

Scrum is a framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value. It is founded on empirical process control theory, or empiricism. Empiricism asserts that knowledge comes from experience and making decisions based on what is known. Scrum employs an iterative, incremental approach to optimize predictability and control risk. More at

High-Impact PMOThe Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®) helps businesses address the significant challenges of developing and delivering enterprise-class software and systems in the shortest sustainable lead time. SAFe synchronizes alignment, collaboration, and delivery for multiple Agile teams. SAFe is scalable and configurable. And it allows each organization to adapt it to its own business needs. It supports smaller-scale solutions employing 50 – 125 practitioners, as well as complex systems that require thousands of people. As an extensive body of knowledge, SAFe describes the roles, responsibilities, artifacts, and activities necessary to implement Lean-Agile development.  More at

There are a number of scaling frameworks available, such as SAFe and LeSS (Large Scale Scrum)Horizontal scaling works with the largest adoption of the agile mindset. Vertical scaling goes up to the executive team. It connects with strategy management systems. The goal there is more “Agile at Scale” than “Scaling Agile”.


About Strategy

Sustainable organizations develop through operations and projects that sustain their strategy. Operational excellence and project excellence are two indispensable pillars.

There is a direct connection between Project Management and Strategy Management. For this reason, the project management community benefits from understanding the strategy management systems. I have cited in the grid the very few a Strategic Initiative Officer may like for example: the Kaplan Norton Execution Premium System (XPP), or Nassim Taleb’s bimodal strategy described in his book Antifragile. Both have been alive for a long period of time. That proves their value.

It seems that there is no framework or approach which works for an extreme uncertainty and complexity. However Nassim Taleb proposes a solution. Indeed, about all solutions to uncertainty are in the form of barbells. The barbell is a bar with weights on both ends that weight lifters use. Thus, it illustrates the idea of a combination of extremes kept separate, with avoidance of the middle. And in our context it is not necessarily symetric. It contains two extremes, with nothing in the center. One can also call it, more technically, a bimodal strategy, because it has two distinct modes rather than a single, central one. So, the barbell is a domestication, not the elimination, of uncertainty More in Nassim Taleb”s book Antifragile.


Thank you. To your continued success.

Philippe Husser

Author of the book :

The High-Impact PMO, How Agile Project Management Offices Deliver Value in a Complex World



Read Real Life Stories of PMO Who Delivered Value in a VUCA World

Read real life stories of PMO who delivered exceptional value to complex projects, programs, and portfolios in a VUCA world.

Explore a variety of capabilities that will make you navigate in the most complex environments.

Coverage includes:

  • Dealing with nonlinearities
  • Surfing on transitions, bifurcations, and avalanches
  • Thriving with uncertainty and unpredictability
  • Understanding power laws and tail effects
  • Adapting your approach to the thermodynamic cycles
  • Learning direct and indirect strategies
  • Focusing on people and great causes
  • Escaping the Procrustean bias
  • Being a challenger and a coach
  • Finding your buddy
  • Bridging cultural gaps
  • Capitalizing on technology
  • Analyzing your network
  • Getting to tipping points
  • Building your Enterprise PMO