“40 portfolio lessons because I’m 40”

I turned 40 just before Christmas, it made me do a little bit of life reflecting –  so much so that I emailed a selection of people that have been important in my life and career to say thanks.  Then I thought about all the stuff I’ve learned in portfolio management over the years and decided to write a “40 portfolio lessons because I’m 40” list.

So, here you go – in no particular order except for the first one!

(1) Harnessing the energy of your portfolio delivery team is the number one key to portfolio delivery success, period.

(2) Portfolio management is a way of being, not a process or procedure.

(3) Portfolio management is a form of “organisational alchemy” that mixes people, processes and decisions to make a special kind of magic.

(4) Using the left or right side of the brain will not be enough in portfolio management – you have to use both at the same time.

(5) There will never be a point in time when things are perfect, and true perfection is in the imperfection anyway … so deal with it.

6) True enlightenment is in the question and not the answer, ask questions, lots of them.

(7) Never be scared to put your hand up and ask a question, at least one person in the room will have the same question – they’re just too scared to ask it.

(8) If you can’t answer the question “what is the overall return on investment for our portfolio?” you don’t have a portfolio, you have a shopping list of projects.

(9) You have two ears and one mouth, use them in this ratio.

(10) Portfolio Plans bore people, Portfolio Journeys excite people.

11) Word documents bore people even more, awesome pictures get people super excited.

(12) View everyone outside of the portfolio office as your customers, put customers at the centre of what you do, love on them.

(13) Treat your portfolio investments as you would your own personal investments.

(14) Make sure your portfolio analysis is based on a transparent methodology, people can argue about priorities of projects, but they can’t argue with an outcome of an agreed prioritisation methodology.

(15) Every product that leaves the portfolio office should add instant value to the recipient.  If it doesn’t the product is not good enough, re-work it.

(16) You are here to enable better executive decision making, put yourself in the executives shoes – would you be able to make a good decision with the information you’re providing? Not sure, re-work it until you are sure.

(17) Think of your portfolio office as an Art gallery – curate a collection of beautiful large scale interesting portfolio diagrams that get peoples attention.

(18) Add your own personality to the portfolio, you’re cooler than you think.

(19) Measure how ‘happy’ people are in the portfolio, do things to increase that measurement, repeat.

(20) If you use less than size 10 font on any document it shows you didn’t think about the design, never ever use less than size 10 font – ever!

(21) If your mum couldn’t understand the portfolio management diagram, don’t use it.

(22) People need processes to feel secure, but don’t like being forced down a path – do all you can to skip joyfully down the path holding hands with people.

(23) If you don’t understand where you’re already doing good portfolio management stuff, you’ll never know where to improve.

(24) Always double check your RAG status before you press send on the Executive Portfolio Update, especially the red stuff.

(25) Face to face beats email every time.

(26) People’s perception of the portfolio is their reality, never forget this.

27) Every wall has a weak spot, keep banging your head until you find it.

(28) No-one wants their project stopped…be compassionate, be firm, be fair and never lose courage to do the right thing.

29) Publish a Welcome Pack for your portfolio office, highlight the value that people will get from working with you. If you don’t know the value – you’re in the wrong job.

(30) Work with your team to create (in any format) a portfolio dream for your organisation, share it.

(31) Portfolio management is getting very popular, the true experts in portfolio management simplify things, the others complicate things – beware of the others.

32) If the words ambiguity, change and complexity scare you, get out of portfolio management.

(33) Being a great project or programme manager doesn’t mean you’ll be a great portfolio manager, respect this profession please.

(34) Portfolio management scares people, cuddles make people feel comfortable, cuddle people.

35) Portfolio management is as boring as you are.

(36) Never ever stop investing in the portfolio management skills of your portfolio delivery teams, ever.

37) Communication is not the answer…collaboration, conversation and community are the answers.

(38) If you don’t have a single overarching picture of your portfolio roadmap, get one within the next 10 days.

(39) Remove the words “Strategic Alignment” from every portfolio document and business case, replace them with “Strategic contribution” and see what happens.

(40) Have fun, and remember… it’s okay to be a little weird.


Feel free to add to this in the comments.




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