Help! How do I Align our Project Portfolio to a Strategy That is not Clear?!

Posted by Pete Fisher on 7/9/15 11:00 AM
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Aligning project portfolio to strategy.

I do not know about you, but in my 30+ years in business at the various companies where I have worked, it has been the rare exception that the senior leaders have clearly articulated and reinforced the business strategy.

Maybe this was because they did not have a solid strategy. Perhaps this was because developing a solid business strategy is hard, executives felt that developing the strategy was the real task, the organizations were so big that it was hard to cascade the communications down to the front line, or they felt that they only needed to communicate it several times for it to stick. None of these are justifiable excuses, but that is a topic for another day.

What is a Portfolio Manager to do?

As a Portfolio Manager trying hard to manage demand for projects and advise executives on portfolio gaps in relation to implementing the strategy, how in the world are you supposed to do that? As stated, you cannot. So now what?

What about a different approach to move the ball? Your executives may convene monthly to govern over the project portfolio, reviewing portfolio health, requests for change requests and/or requests for new projects to commence or be prioritized.

From meeting to meeting, they may lose sight of current decisions versus past ones and connect the dots. What if you were to deduce the strategy (at one level anyway), by analyzing the composition of the current project portfolio and ‘flashing’ that back to the leaders…STRATEGY ANTHROPOLOGY of sorts?

Strategy Anthropology

For example, perhaps senior leadership messaging regarding the 'strategy’ has consistently been all about top line growth. In studying/categorizing the portfolio, you see that only 20% of the initiatives by budget relate to sales growth, while 50% relate to cost reduction, 20% to improving customer satisfaction (perhaps an indirect and slower path to sales growth), and the remaining 10% to compliance. What if you hijack one of the monthly meetings, make the executives aware of this, AND suggest the right slate of new project requests primarily related to sales growth to better balance the portfolio in alignment with the ‘strategy'. Talk about value-add! You will be shifting your role from meeting facilitator to strategic advisor!

You will be a rock star. Give it a shot…what do you have to lose? If nothing else, you will shift the conversation in the right direction!

Topics: Strategy, Portfolio Management