Combat Pushback—and Protect Your Portfolio

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By Wanda Curlee

Portfolio management is slowly being adopted by corporations. Or is it? I am speaking from my perspective, which admittedly is narrow, but I wonder if company leadership has what it takes.

I have worked at different organizations—from retail and legal to medical and government—and they all say yes, they are ready to do the hard work. But when you try to start developing requirements or even do a gap analysis, there are many reasons why it doesn’t happen: leadership is not in sync, resources aren’t available or there’s not an appetite for change. Or even worse, there is only one person who champions the cause, and he or she does not have the political momentum to push the effort.

The pushback can be major or minor. Leadership might say they had no idea you would need their people to develop the processes, templates and tools. Or leadership might ask if the company can just get a tool instead? There are solutions to all of these points, but leadership may not want to hear them.

So, how do you get over these hurdles?

For some, it’s a matter of providing training and knowledge. Leadership may truly have no idea what portfolio management is. In their eyes, it’s simply knowing what all the projects are in their area. That is one aspect, but there are several steps before you even get to that spot.

For instance, will you look at all projects in the organization, or only those of a certain budgetary value or length? Perhaps a combination of both?

Then there is the question of how to slice and dice the projects.

To slice and dice, you need to understand how to relate projects to strategy. Does your organization meet several of the corporate strategies or only one? If you have a project that is not allocated against a corporate strategy or sub-strategy, then why are you doing it? It’s taking resources and budget away from projects that do have strategic value. Even operational projects, such as upgrading software to a new version or implementing new enterprise software, need to map to a strategy.

For example, imagine your company has a strategy to increase sales by 20 percent in three years. The current sales tool has received well-deserved criticisms, and the tool is too small for the current sales volume. Implementing a new sales tool probably makes sense. However, the new tool would require the company to be running the latest version of operating software. The portfolio manager would recognize this, along with IT, and the portfolio manager would argue the case that these are interrelated. The opportunity exists here to make these two software projects and all the peripheral workstreams, such as training, into a program.

Do you have what it takes to push portfolio management forward? Or will you just succumb to pushback?

Don’t be afraid to speak up. If project portfolio managers don’t advocate for the correct way to do project portfolio management, organizations will suffer in the long run. The wrong way to do something is expensive and not beneficial.

Don’t let your company fall into that trap.

What experiences have you had when pushing portfolio management forward? Please share below.

Posted by Wanda Curlee on: March 29, 2019 11:03 AM | Permalink

Comments (20)

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Very interesting articel, Wanda thanks for sharing! I had once accidentally succumbed to ‘Strategy & Projects, PM’ role, but it turned up the best experience I had in my career! Challenged by hardcore, well established VPs who are the project owners and getting real updates were tough, but once convinced they will trust you to do the job, communications skills was definitely the key to survive, exploring and making use of all communication channels worked well for me!

Good article. Thanks for sharing!!

Thanks. In my company we don't have a portfolio management or it's not clear and shared.

Thanks for such qn interesting article.

I often see organisations profess a desire for project portfolio management, then push back when asked to share business plans and strategic goals, argue why their pet projects are "must do" or miss the need to involve operational functions because "it's only about projects, isn't it?".

Thanks for sharing your insights here.

Hello Suzi - thanks for your comments. I have had some great experiences with portfolio implementation but there are those that still don't know what they want.

Hello Rajesh - Thanks

Hello Tarik - You should investigate to see if there is portfolio.

Hello Nicole - It is not understanding the rationale behind portfolio that leads to those conclusions.

The bigger the organization the bigger the pushback unfortunately. Makes it very hard for enterprise-wide initiatives to flourish.

Thanks Wanda, funny you say that, i felt that in ‘mature organisation’, ‘pushbank the pushback’ could be the best ‘floating’ solution until the senior management have fully exhausted all their options, the end-result will prevail eventually, as long as we are consistent and relevant, i guess we can only do want we can do! Agreed with Sante size matters too, as the pushback comes from all directions, which makes is even more interesting!

Hello Sante - Thank you for that perspective.

Dear Rajesh - Thank you very much for your efforts and sharing

Thank you very much for your efforts and sharing.

Very interesting article, thanks for sharing

Thanks, Wanda. In answer to your question, I think that a lack of understanding of portfolio management is a key issue. This can come in the form of organisations running into problems when they place too much emphasis on using portfolio management to drive delivery, thus ignoring the upstream planning issues - e.g. a lack of prioritisation - which lead to resourcing and delivery problems.

Muhammad - Thank you

Eduin - Thank you

Mark - Thanks for your perspective. Planning an activity that no one wants to do but needs to be done to increase success. This is true whether project, program or portfolio.

Wanda, thank you for your short article.
For my greater company I developed a standard for project portfolio management. It provided a hierachy of portfolios and only minimum standards to allow each business unit to reflect their important criterias for selection of projects. I failed, because it did not find the value for this standardization and continous portfolio process to convince the management of the business units to accept the standardization.

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