“Portfolio prioritization drives the wrong behaviors…”

There are times in portfolio management where things are simply very right or very wrong.  I was in a large meeting to discuss the difficulties that the IT team are having with managing and sequencing the workload that the portfolio needed .  Although this particular organisation had some great portfolio processes, governance and reporting structures in place it didn’t prioritize it’s 50 or so projects.

I’ve seen this a number of times and one of the early indicators that regular corporate portfolio prioritization is needed is the pain that IT are feeling with allocating resources.  So I raised the concept of portfolio prioritization as a key way to help, to which a senior change management bod replied “The Board don’t want to prioritize because it drives the wrong behaviors”.

I was pretty surprised with this view as I’ve never heard someone in this position be so eloquently and completely and utterly wrong on this subject.  (note you can always tell when I’m suprised because I say “okay” slowly and my eyebrows raise up to my hairline, which as you can tell from the Mr Portfolio Management portrait, is pretty high).  Anyway, I was ready to unleash my portfolio prioritization furry (sorry I mean highlight the benefits and ‘what’s in it for me’ of prioritizing) but it wasn’t the time or place unfortunately.

But it did get me thinking, I wondered if this person preferred the behaviors that failing to prioritize drives, which in my experience includes :

1) Everyone thinks their project should be resourced first so people go tribal (prevents the ‘one team’ approach and promotes silo delivery)

2) The big projects get resourced first simply because they are ‘big’ (increases delivery risk because often it’s the ‘little’ ones that can trip up an entire portfolio delivery)

3) Directors and their teams have to shout increasingly loud because this is seen as the way to prove your project is important (detracts from an energized change culture)

4) Portfolio delivery is rigid and cannot adapt quickly (risk that the portfolio delivery becomes detached from the strategy, especially in environments where customer needs and policy change frequently)

5) People are generally frustrated because no-one is prioritizing (increases risk of people leaving so you lose key skills and experience)

6) When budgets are cut, you chop a little off a lot or you kill the wrong project (increases individual project delivery risk because you cant reduce a budget and expect the same thing, secondly increases the risk that you’re killing a project that was contributing lots to the strategy)

For the record, prioritising your portfolio of projects is very right.  Without exception, failing to prioritize your portfolio is very very very very wrong. End of.




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