Project Management

Choose Again: Re-Evaluate Your Project Portfolio for Adaptability

Mass Bay Chapter

Johanna Rothman works with companies to improve how they manage their product development. She is the author of Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects, 2nd edition, Agile and Lean Program Management: Scaling Collaboration Across the Organization as well as several other books including the newest: Create Your Successful Agile Project: Collaborate, Measure, Estimate, Deliver. See her blogs and more of her writing at

In uncertain times, you might not know how to approach your project portfolio—which projects should you do now, later and never? You might be tempted to continue with “business as usual”—even though our times are not at all usual. Instead, consider how you can rethink the value of each project and effort. The results might surprise you.

Assess Your Mix of Projects
I like to start by seeing where people work right now. How many projects are:

  • KTLO: Keep the lights on work. We must do this work to stay in business.
  • Grow the current business: We continue to improve our current products and services.
  • Transform the business: We experiment here with new and different possibilities (business models, revenue streams, customers).

You can likely use any project approach for the KTLO work, as long as you deliver as necessary. In these uncertain times, consider an agile approach for the “grow and transform” work.

The smaller the chunks of work—and closer you are to continuous delivery—the more you can manage the project portfolio now and change it as necessary.

Once I see all the work in the various buckets, I ask the zeroth question about whether we should continue the work.

Ask the Zeroth Question
The more uncertainty you have in your business, the more you need to ask the zeroth question of the project portfolio…

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No matter how much cats fight, there always seem to be plenty of kittens.

- Abraham Lincoln