February 20, 2012 | Author: PM Hut | Filed under: Project Portfolio Management
Projects Endanger Lean Project Portfolio Management
By The Grumpy Project Manager
The biggest problem in business development project portfolio management is projects. This is because they are defined to have a start, an end and a unique end result. They are considered to be separate independent entities. Projects are lonely wanderers who don’t much care about each other. They share same resources now and then but not the objectives. Each of them has a unique end result, states the definition. What do we do with continuously produced new unique results? Nothing. Our one unique end result should be achieving strategic objectives. A lean project portfolio with its programs and projects should aim for that.
Organizational silos promote silo projects
Projects are not the only problem. The source of project proposals is one also. Lean project portfolio management faces challenges when operating with organizational silos. Development proposals are most often made by separate line organization functions and have a very narrow view: ‘We must develop sales systems like this’, ‘We must make these improvements in production’. Project portfolio programs are then often called something like ’sales program’ and ‘production program’ and ‘IT program’. Projects in those programs have ’sales’ and ‘production’ and ‘IT’ in their names. These projects are strangers to each other.They don’t know and don’t want to know about each other. They are silo projects in a silo program serving organizational silos.
They may pretend to have transparency so that for example a ’sales system improvement’ project has information about it available for ‘all’ in the Intranet, deep under the Sales -section where only the sales people may go.
The customer is wrong and is the wrong customer
Often some departments and individuals are more active or politically stronger or have better relationships with portfolio management than others. Most development project proposals come from those sources. The whole process is then not supported equally and the end results don’t really benefit the corporation. Lean business development project portfolio management must overcome these obstacles. It must see over the line organization borders and its own program borders in order to operate efficiently. It must see that the customer is wrong when asking for fragmented development, and it is the wrong customer anyway. Lean business development project portfolio management must serve strategic objectives.
Let’s make this project fit to this program
In managing a project portfolio we get development proposals from various sources. The easiest way to deal with those is to place them under these different programs. A project proposal is evaluated. One of the programs seems to be the most suitable for that project proposal. If the proposal is accepted and a project started it will be made to fit the selected program. All features reminding of other programs are cut so that the project more clearly belongs to the selected one.
The easiest way to deal with several projects in a program is to separate them clearly. Define them a start, and end and a unique end result. Forget everything that is around them. Let energetic project managers take them from the start to the end. It is easy to follow the progress and to report the status of these separate projects. It is easy to terminate unsuccessful projects. Like written earlier, projects are seen as silos. They need to be left alone from the start to the end in order to produce the unique end result. Change management guards that disturbance is minimized.
If a business development project can be run independently from the start to the end it is unnecessary.
If a project is a silo, it will bring very small benefits at most. All projects in a project portfolio should serve strategic objectives. The end results of all projects should support each other. The projects should be executed in co-operation and be able to cross program border lines - which should not exist in the first place -smoothly. Program managers should not guard their programs but offer their expertise and mentor all projects. There should not be separate projects with separate project managers, but a project manager team which runs lean projects together.
Balanced and optimized project portfolio
In lean business development project portfolio management projects are not started based on individual development proposals. Instead all proposals are evaluated together against the strategic objectives and possible projects started based on the results. A project in a project portfolio should get support from other projects and the results of those, and it should give support and basis for further development projects. The content of a project portfolio should be balanced and optimized to support strategic objectives. As long as projects are seen as individual entities project portfolio management cannot be efficient. It is merely a nicely organized collection of various projects, which in the end give minor benefits at most to the corporation. Lean project portfolio management requires ubiquitous awareness of strategic objectives. The definition of a project needs to be shaken up to ensure that projects are not encapsulated entities, but instead we have learning lean projects.
The Grumpy Project Manager is a program manager in an international corporation and has over ten years of experience in managing R&D, IT and business development projects. You can read more from the Grumpy PM on his (or her?) blog. S/he can be contacted by email at TheGrumpyProjectManager@gmail.com.
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