OPM3 FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

Organizational Project Management (OPM) is a system for executing strategy through projects. Prior to SIMPLE®, OPM3 was the model for making OPM capable in your organization. This page provides a free overview and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). For the real history of OPM3 and what has happened to it, read “Alexander and the Indian King: A Story of Project Management Empire.”

while marketing its own consulting service, PMI withEld components necessary to implement opm3

On June 7, 2016, after a demand from PMI members, we learned that the OPM3 standard would be updated from its current third edition to a fourth edition. This was good news after less welcome news earlier in the year that, in an unprecedented move, PMI would enter the consulting market even though it is a non-profit. PMI said it would do so through a subsidiary it had recently acquired named HSI, a firm that operated as a "for-profit" venture from its creation and had been a competitor to OPM Experts LLC.

OPM Experts LLC had not only been a long-standing competitor to HSI but had been hired previously to correct mistakes made by HSI in maturity assessments of Organizational Project Management, where the client had complained that HSI's assessment was superficial, and in one case a client published a detailed account describing how OPM Experts LLC corrected and improved upon an assessment by HSI.

Although PMI said that it would update the OPM3 standard to its fourth edition, we learned that the update would NOT include the OPM3 Capability Statements, which are required if users wish to assess themselves, implement the model, and increase their maturity level. PMI has not made those components of OPM3 that are essential in order to implement OPM3 available for purchase either.

Previously these components, namely the "OPM3 Capability Statements," were only available to users who paid thousands of dollars to obtain them. PMI ultimately retracted that over-priced offering in 2015, but has not decided on a more appropriate price for the Capability Statements. This years-long delay has led many to speculate that PMI is dragging its feet on repricing the Capability Statements because it wishes to promote its own consulting services rather than Capability Statements that users can implement themselves. Read the full story here.

Unlike OPM3, PMI's "Q4" DID Not Increase Your Maturity Level

HSI's assessment tool, named "Q4," was called a "diagnostic," not a "maturity model," meaning it was a set of questions, but unlike OPM3 the diagnostic was not a framework for developing capabilities. The main areas it assessed were basic things that were distinguished originally in the first maturity level of OPM3, but the diagnostic did not address the development of capabilities beyond OPM3's first level of maturity.

By contrast OPM3 has four maturity levels, and the purpose of OPM3 is not merely to diagnose current practices but to guide organizations from the lowest level of maturity to the highest level, creating bona fide capabilities in project, program, and portfolio management. HSI's diagnostic did not do this.

In 2015, PMI's CEO Mark Langley wrote a letter to OPM Experts LLC's founder John Schlichter (copying a hundred other persons) that said PMI did not view HSI's diagnostic as an alternative to OPM3. However, in 2016 PMI began promoting HSI's services for hire as an alternative or substitute for OPM3, which fomented complaints from many who were involved in the creation of OPM3.

In March 2017 we learned that PMI decided to discontinue "Q4" and stop providing consulting services through HSI.

PMI eventually decommissioned HSI, which was a significant win for PMI members, practitioners of Organizational Project Management, and users of OPM3. However, serious flaws have remained in OPM3, as explained below, and here and here. Meanwhile, OPM Experts LLC has created SIMPLE®, which does not rely on any content owned by PMI. SIMPLE® enables users to infer their OPM3 maturity level and achieve the highest level of OPM3 in a fraction of the time typically required by OPM3.



Leading organizations of all types and sizes across many industries had adopted OPM3 (before PMI removed the essential elements of OPM3) to transform their ability to close the gap between strategic intent and tactical outcomes, specifically through successful project selection and delivery, which is what implementing OPM3 helps organizations to improve.

These include leaders in outsourcing, foreign relations, telecommunications, municipalities, applied science laboratories, NGO’s, hospitals, cable television providers, American military intelligence, crisis response, financial services, terrestrial and space born electronics, mega-infrastructure operations, regional governments, rapid transit, risk retention, mobile technology manufacturers, enterprise application giants, and many others across North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

The preferred method for implementing OPM3 begins with an OPM3 Assessment by an experienced OPM Expert from OPM Experts, LLC.

Learn more about What We Do here.

What are the benefits of opm3?

  • greater agility

  • greater capability to choose the right projects to enact business strategies

  • greater capability to deliver projects successfully, consistently, and predictably

  • increased benefit realization from programs

  • increased freedom of action-taking

  • increased agility

  • better collaboration among organizational units

  • reduced bureaucracy

  • personnel aligned to the organization's policies and processes

  • improved decision-making

  • increased inter-operability among teams

  • better performance data for executives

  • increased productivity

  • data-driven, proactive, quantifiable, confident execution

What is in the OPM3 Standard?

The OPM3 Standard was composed of hundreds of best practices which were defined in terms of sequences of "Capability Statements," outcome statements, and key performance indicators. The Capability Statements are the essential component of OPM3, without which OPM3 cannot be implemented. An OPM3 Capability Statement is formatted as a statement like "The organization being assessed has the capability to...." Such statements are testable criteria that pertain to specific and actionable things.

OPM3 Content (What's OPM3 Made Of?)

Today the book titled "OPM3 Knowledge Foundation" from PMI no longer contains the OPM3 Capability Statements, which composed most of the OPM3 standard in the first place and which are required to implement OPM3. It is impossible to implement OPM3 without the Capability Statements.

When OPM3 was first created between 1998 and 2002, ninety-seven percent of the effort was spent on researching, identifying, distinguishing, and articulating these Capability Statements. And at the very end of that five-year effort, PMI hired a professional writer to work with OPM Experts LLC's founder John Schlichter to create an "OPM3 book" to package the Capability Statements. PMI's OPM3 book has always been a tiny fraction of OPM3 as a whole, and the Capability Statements compose the majority of OPM3 content, its heart and soul. PMI's OPM3 book is nothing without the OPM3 Capability Statements.

Is OPM3 a book, a tool, or a certification?

When OPM3 was first published, hundreds of OPM3 Capability Statements (testable criteria used to assess organizations and identify improvement options) were contained on a CD attached to the back cover of the little OPM3 book that was written as packaging for the Capability Statements. These Capability Statements identified the specific things an organization would need at each stage of creating capabilities in project, program, and portfolio management. OPM3 cannot be implemented without these Capability Statements. Everything else including PMI's OPM3 book could be discarded but not the Capability Statements, which are the essence of OPM3.

But PMI removed the Capability Statements from the OPM3 book, begging the question why the book written to introduce the Capability Statements would be sold without the Capability Statements. And they priced the book itself (without the CD) under $100. In the same stroke, PMI made the CD the basis of an expensive certification scheme managed by PMI, a scheme PMI marketed to professionals who would be providers of services related to OPM3. The Capability Statements were repackaged as a software product or database available only to persons who became "certified" for thousands of dollars.

Thinking incorrectly that PMI's book itself must be a lite version of OPM3 that they can implement without having to buy the Capability Statements for thousands of dollars, more people bought PMI's book than the Capability Statements. As such PMI's book became what customers perceived as the OPM3 Standard instead of the essential Capability Statements, which was a catastrophic mistake. They did not realize that they were buying something that did not include precisely what they needed in order to use OPM3 as it was designed. This was a mistake that has led many astray and inhibited users from unlocking the power of OPM3.

Ultimately PMI's foray into offering expensive OPM3 certifications by withholding the Capability Statements from non-certified users failed, and the certification scheme was terminated. However, this has left the Capability Statements (which are essential for implementing OPM3) in limbo, as they have not been reinserted into PMI's OPM3 book.

If you think PMI should fix this immediately, then tell PMI right now.

Can I buy OPM3 from PMI?

If you try to "buy OPM3" from PMI, you are essentially buying a book that contains a set of generic "best practices" and "high level" assessment questions that conflate and confuse assessment criteria to the point of rendering the questions meaningless. "High level" means "dumbed down" to the point of absurdity. Using the "high level" questions will waste everyone's time, virtually guaranteeing termination of the initiative. To be candid, CEO's simply do not tolerate this kind of folderol. And if you inflict the "high level" questions on them, you deserve the full measure of their wrath, which is likely to be both embarrassing and final.

More specifically, neither the best practices nor high level assessment questions in PMI's OPM3 book include the essential Capability Statements today. Indeed in the original publication of OPM3 in 2002, the Capability Statements were included on a CD in the back of PMI's book. But PMI soon removed the CD of Capability Statements and instead offered a much more expensive "OPM3 Professional" certification, which became the only way to access the Capability Statements.

To be clear, buying OPM3 from PMI today will not deliver the essential components of OPM3. It's like buying a car that is missing its engine. It won't work.

To be clear, buying OPM3 from PMI today will not deliver the essential components of OPM3. It's like buying a car that is missing its engine. It won't work.

why can't we just buy the capability statements from pmi?

That is an excellent question, one which you may address to PMI right now.

This has been a source of controversy for a long time, and in 2015 the controversy worsened when PMI ended the OPM3 certification program and thus withdrew the OPM3 Capability Statements from the inventory of products that it sells. At that point PMI could have simply made the Capability Statements available from PMI's website either free of charge or for a price, but they have not done this.

Instead PMI has signaled that PMI may want to compete with its members who had become OPM3 Professionals, and PMI may do this by offering alternative maturity assessment services that it sells and delivers on its own at much higher prices. While PMI knows this is fomenting a controversy, PMI has declined to announce that PMI will not attempt to withhold the Capability Statements while it markets alternative services that compete with the consultants who use OPM3 in support of their clients.

PMI has yet to dispel this controversy, and the only way to access the OPM3 Capability Statements is to engage the help of a company that already has them, e.g. OPM Experts LLC.

This has become a governance issue for the PMI Board, whom you may contact here for the latest information about this issue.

Can I implement OPM3 on my own if i just buy PMI's OPM3 book from PMI?

To repeat, you cannot implement OPM3 without the Capability Statements, which are not included in the OPM3 book from PMI. Moreover, conducting an assessment using the "high level" assessment questions in PMI's OPM3 book has derailed countless OPM3 implementations because the questions are misleading. You need to use the Capability Statements as your assessment questions instead. It is impossible to advance through OPM3's stages of maturity without the Capability Statements.

caveat emptor.jpg

Make sure you engage people to help you who have the OPM3 Capability Statements and know what they are doing. The Capability Statements must be used as the assessment questions in your maturity assessment to determine which improvements your organization needs in order to increase its level of Organizational Project Management maturity.

Was "OPM3 Online" an online version of the OPM3 Standard?

Not at all. The so-called "OPM3 Online" tool excluded the Capability Statements, which meant all of the elements that are essential to increasing the maturity level and capabilities of an organization were missing.  OPM Experts LLC repeatedly published this fact in order to advocate for OPM3 users. OPM3 Online harmed OPM3 adoption. Because "OPM3 Online" did not include the Capability Statements, it came as no surprise when PMI retracted "OPM3 Online," which is no longer available to anyone.

Who was involved in the development of OPM3?

The OPM3 Standard was originally developed by a team of 800+ people from 35 countries, led by OPM Experts' founder John Schlichter over a five year period. This team deployed surveys to 30,000 people and analyzed 27 maturity models in order to create the Capability Statements.

John Schlichter (founder of OPM Experts LLC) has contributed greatly to the Project Management Institute.
— Greg Balestrero, Chief Executive Officer, PMI (PMI Today, 2002)
In John Schlichter’s role as leader of the OPM3 program, he has immeasurably contributed to the growth of the project management profession.
— Rebecca (Becky) Winston, J.D., Chair of the Board of Directors, PMI (PMI Today, 2002)

However, in the final months before OPM3 was published, PMI hired a mid-level manager to be PMI's new administrator accountable for OPM3. His role was to provide PMI oversight to the OPM3 Program Manager who was not a PMI employee, i.e. John Schlichter. The fragmentation of OPM3 can be traced back to decisions made by this PMI manager despite Schlichter's objections, well before PMI's current CEO took office.

Did PMI screw this up?

It's debatable. PMI has retired the OPM3 Professional certification and has said that PMI is not retiring the OPM3 standard, but in retiring the OPM3 Professional certification PMI has left the core components of OPM3 (i.e. the OPM3 Capability Statements) unavailable for new users to purchase directly. PMI members have protested PMI's actions and called for PMI to place the OPM3 Capability Statements in the public domain.

The OPM3 Professional certification was hurting adoption of OPM3 because it was expensive and because many certified persons were unqualified and incompetent. It is good that PMI has retired the certification. However, it is the position of OPM Experts LLC that PMI should make the OPM3 Capability Statements available to everyone. It is not fair to the profession that this rich content would be available only to OPM Experts LLC and a small number of other firms. Having said this, one should point out that OPM3 is just a tool. For an organization to unlock the power of OPM3, an expert is necessary. At OPM Experts we like to say “Tools are cool, but expertise rules.”

OPM Experts LLC was the main developer of the OPM3 Capability Statements. We have been leading OPM3 assessments longer than any other provider, and today we are the leading provider of OPM3 assessments. No matter what PMI does regarding the OPM3 Capability Statements, OPM Experts LLC remains highly expert in this kind of work, and we can help you. Meanwhile, we will continue to lobby PMI to release the OPM3 Capability Statements to everyone.

Who owns OPM3?

The OPM3 Standard, which was developed originally by volunteers who were led by the founder of OPM Experts LLC, is owned by the Project Management Institute, the global advocate for project management. Professionals across the globe volunteered their expertise and assigned copyright to PMI for the intellectual property they contributed to OPM3, believing that PMI would be the best caretaker of this intellectual property, most able to publish it for use by all stakeholders for the foreseeable future.

As part of this arrangement, volunteers who developed and contributed intellectual property to OPM3 by assigning copyright to PMI retained ownership of whatever they contributed, whether or not PMI continued to publish OPM3. Incidentally, OPM Experts LLC was the sole author of the Capability Statements in OPM3 that pertain to standardizing, measuring, controlling, and (continuously) improving Project, Program, and Portfolio Management, and this material composes most of OPM3.

When was OPM3 published?

OPM3 was first published in 2002, and has been updated to its 3rd edition. PMI has announced that OPM3 will be updated to a 4th edition that will re-insert the OPM3 Capability Statements.

Who is using OPM3?

See our extensive client list.

What kind of support is available for my implementation of OPM3?

Organizations using OPM3 are supported by OPM Experts, which has access to proprietary software tools unavailable to the public to facilitate and expedite OPM3 assessments and OPM3 benchmarking.

What is the best way for my organization to learn about OPM3?

Contact OPM Experts LLC today. OPM3 can be implemented in a manner that achieves your assessment purposes while simultaneously training you in OPM3.

Is OPM3 aligned with PMI's PMBOK Guide?

Yes, OPM3 is internally consistent with the PMI's "A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge" or PMBOK Guide (which PMI also owns), the most widely adopted standard for managing individual projects, and the basis of the widely known PMP certification.

Beyond project management, does OPM3 address Program Management and Portfolio Management?

Yes, PMI sponsored the development of the "Program Management Standard" and the "Portfolio Management Standard", and both of these were incorporated into OPM3 as well.

Do I have to implement everything in the OPM3 Standard at once?

No, OPM3 is modular, scalable, and flexible. You can scope your implementation of OPM3 to only those parts most relevant to you, and the model defines the prerequisites for any scope you choose. This is accomplished by an OPM Expert using proprietary tools.

OPM3 is a "maturity model." What does this mean?

OPM3 (which stands for Organizational Project Management Maturity Model) is a maturity model because it defines excellence and the steps to get there, recognizing that not every organization enjoys excellence from inception. For more information about the difference between "maturity" and "capability," click here.

Is OPM3 like Six Sigma?

Some aspects of OPM3 incorporate principles of statistical process control that have been proven over the past century, just as Six Sigma does. However, OPM3 also includes substantial content developed through primary research sponsored by the PMI addressing cultural and environmental factors that promote the successful selection and delivery of projects. These factors span many areas:

  • Organizational Project Management Policy & Vision

  • Strategic Alignment

  • Resource Allocation

  • Management Systems

  • Sponsorship

  • Organizational Structures

  • Competency Management

  • Individual Performance Appraisals

  • Project Management Training

  • Organizational Project Management Communities

  • Organizational Project Management Practices

  • Organizational Project Management Methodology

  • Organizational Project Management Techniques

  • Project Management Metrics

  • Project Success Criteria

  • Benchmarking

  • Knowledge Management

  • Project Management Information Systems

How is OPM3 implemented?

A consultant from OPM Experts LLC will guide you through your implementation of OPM3, tailoring use of the standard to fit your strategic priorities, environment, and culture. To begin, we assess your organization using the OPM3 Capability Statements. As a result of using the Capability Statements in your assessment, we know which Capability Statements you have satisfied and which ones remain as prospective improvements that can be made within your organization. The value-add of OPM Experts LLC is not merely that we use the OPM3 Capability Statements but that we have more experience than any other firm in customizing this model to fit your own needs. This enables planning for improvements, specifically creation of a roadmap for your organization. Once we implement those improvements, we repeat the process, undertaking a new assessment to demonstrate the progress made thus far and to identify next steps to achieve the next level of maturity.

What are OPM3 "maturity levels?"

A maturity level is an agenda. Each level is a different agenda. The first agenda is Standardization. The second agenda is Measurement. The third agenda is Control. And the fourth agenda is Continuous Improvement. You cannot accomplish these agendas without the Capability Statements.

What does "Standardization" mean in OPM3?

Standardization means uniform implementation of project, program, and portfolio management processes. A "process" is a well-defined, conceptually repeatable, systemic sequence of steps, methods, strategies, or approaches for transforming inputs to outputs. Operational definitions create uniform and correct behavior by process operators.

Standardization is the first agenda or maturity level in OPM3 (and therefore standardization is the focus of your initial maturity assessment). Standardization means consistent implementation of work methods. Elements of standardization include governance, documentation of policies and processes, training of personnel, and the institutionalization of structures that promote the consistent implementation of work methods in a manner that is appropriate to your environment.

When standardization is done correctly, bureaucracy and red-tape are minimized, freedom of action-taking increases agility, and the various parts of an organization begin to work better together as a whole. Once the elements of standardization described above are implemented, a follow-up assessment occurs to demonstrate progress, create momentum, and accelerate the next stage of capability development.

An assessment performed using PMI's OPM3 book will not reveal which aspects of standardization need to be addressed in your organization. In order to assess standardization, one must use the Capability Statements.

What does "Measurement" mean in OPM3?


Standardization is complemented by an activity to design metrics in portfolio, program, and project management that fit your organizational imperatives. Project, program, and portfolio management processes can be measured, and they must be measured in order to control and improve them. Through measurement, we seek to increase the value of the processes and to simplify them. Process measurement should focus on the critical characteristics (key performance indicators) of project, program, and portfolio management processes. Measurement techniques must be well defined.

Measurement is the second agenda or maturity level. Metrics designed to fit your organization are captured on a recurring basis as your personnel make portfolio, program, and project management decisions over time.

Results of measurement include alignment of personnel to the organization's policies and processes, improved decision-making, inter-operability among teams and business units, better performance data for executives, and increased productivity. Another assessment is performed to demonstrate the benefits that have resulted from the measurement agenda and to lay the foundation for control.

An assessment performed using PMI's OPM3 book will not reveal which aspects of measurement need to be addressed in your organization. In order to assess measurement, one must use the Capability Statements.

What does "Control" mean in OPM3?


In order for project, program, and portfolio management processes to be stable, the outputs must be stable, how the processes are operated must be stable, and in nearly all cases the inputs to processes must be stable. The focus is on preventing process upsets. A system for maintaining process control must include an operational definition of stability and a mechanism for detecting if stability is lost.

Control is the third agenda or maturity level. Make no mistake about it: control is the name of the game. It is the key to execution. Control is made possible as a result of completing the prior measurement agenda. Achieving control means distinguishing performance expectations for decision-making and action-taking; deciding the range of variation that is acceptable in portfolio, program, and project management processes; and implementing systems that both alert you in real-time to any loss of control and help you to ensure your projects are advancing your organization's strategic intent and producing the intended benefits.

Control tells you whether key processes can be expected to perform within specification limits, how much natural variation a process experiences relative to its specification limits, and how well your organization is controlling the selection and delivery of the projects that enact your corporate and operational goals. Control moves you from reactivity to data-driven, proactive, quantifiable, and confident execution.

An assessment is performed to demonstrate the efficacy of your control agenda. An assessment performed using PMI's OPM3 book will not reveal which aspects of control need to be addressed in your organization. In order to assess control, one must use the Capability Statements.

What does "Improvement" mean in OPM3?

Improvement (or Continuous Improvement) means routine, systematic, and sustained improvement of processes and thus the products they produce. "Making improvements" is fire-fighting, whereas "continuous improvement" is systematic root-cause elimination based on analysis, integration with systems that standardize improvements, and widespread deployment of involvement in improvement. Improvement is the fourth agenda or maturity level.

An assessment performed using PMI's OPM3 book will not reveal which aspects of continuous improvement need to be addressed in your organization. In order to assess continuous improvement, one must use the Capability Statements.

Are there any online discussion groups devoted to OPM3?

Yes, right here.

Where can I read about the history of OPM3?

Download a history of the original development of OPM3 here.


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