New Years Portfolio Resolutions – Part 2

13 February

Last month we began to frame up an exercise program to get your portfolio “back in shape” as we started off the New Year. Now is a great time to take a good look at what we originally planned for our business, and what we need to do to drive it to the success we envisioned as we got into them. To continue:

Step Five: From the identified list, have the team (with representatives from each area – hopefully serving as your steering team going forward) pick their “Top Ten” list with the thought that Compliance projects take precedence. See if the projects align across individuals. Repeat the process as needed.

Step Six A: Communicate the Focused Projects list across the organization and request feedback. This will allow the team supporting the initiatives to understand what the organizational priorities truly are and helps align expectations, validates the organizations expected timeframes, and allows the opportunity for the teams actually doing the work to identify any potential impacts from their perspective in getting it done. These impacts may include resource constraints or conflicts, dependencies between projects or on external factors outside of their control, unclear or excessive scope, and in some cases, even unrealistic timing.

Step Six B: Based upon the feedback received, review the project listing, determine if items need to be shifted based upon impacts identified, and schedule the work to be done. Communicate the updated list as the current portfolio and organizational priority.

Step Seven: Start the project work. Go through the normal project processes for each initiative: initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and control and project closure. Each of these areas has in depth steps supported by the project managers and their teams to insure project success and will be touched upon in future columns.

Step Eight: Establish a portfolio monitor and change process based upon the steps we previously completed. This does not need to be a complex or highly administrative process within the organization but needs to be established and communicated to avoid project “temptations”. We are suggesting a more standard approach to introducing these changes on some regular basis – perhaps monthly based upon frequency of change within the organization.

We realize change occurs in business and periodically the priorities need to be re-evaluated based upon current business need. If a new project is identified, allow the requestor to put a basic business case together (think back to Step Two the “red face test”) as a basic gauge.  Deliver or present the information within the larger steering team group based upon the frequency determined. With compelling reasoning presented, determine if the project should be included within the portfolio, deferred to some future period, or rejected as appropriate. If accepted, determine the priority compared to others within the active listing. If the new project, takes priority, determine if the replaced project can be deferred to a future date or can be “killed” altogether. This will be very difficult at first for several reasons: minimally it requires a demonstration of perceived business value from the requestor, may make for uncomfortable debate among colleagues/peers, requires people to think organizationally, forces action and a decision to be made outside of individual executive control. It cannot be an exercise ending with an “add it to the list” mentality. The important thing here to understand is project work is presented, reviewed and validated at the organizational level and then communicated to insure alignment.

Step Nine: Continued Communication to the Enterprise and allowing “No” at the desktop. As project changes are agreed upon, this needs to be continually communicated to the people in the trenches, along with the current project health around key initiatives and anything needed to get them back on track, if required. This allows them to understand organizational direction, and how their day-to-day activities are supporting organizational success. If resources are being requested to support projects that are not authorized, it also allows them an opportunity to push back on the requestor (or escalate to their PMs) and remain focused on doing the right things or negatively impacting other project activities they are supporting. These impacts will eventually appear in the project reporting as tasks slip, so why not proactively head them off up front.

Step Ten: Celebrate success. As you go through this process your organization should begin to see increased project success and throughput. Remember our goal up front – to allow you to do the things you need to do to move the organization forward, align your resources and get more things done. As you go through this process it will become smoother and more ingrained within the organization and you can continue to tweak as needed. As people see the success and discipline around the process, they become increasingly confident in their abilities and enjoy being part of a winning team. Success is contagious and people respond to being set up for success. Celebrate your successes, and more importantly your people!

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