A project-oriented culture is an essential underpinning of any "Next Practices" business. Organizing work into a portfolio of projects and programs serves to break the "Silo Effect" that stifles many companies from being more agile.
However, a project-centered culture is not necessarily an simple thing to institute. Indeed, change is difficult. Most people do not easily embrace it. In fact, we seem to naturally resist change, regardless of the benefits that it may bring. For most firms, shifting to a project-oriented management structure represents great change. One can expect the resistance to come from many quarters within the business and to manifest itself in many different ways, including these issues that I like to refer to as the "7 Deadly Sins of Project Portfolio Management:"
1. Insufficient strategic planning practices: Portfolio-Based Project Management is a natural outgrowth of solid Strategic Planning - one that identifies the projects and programs needed to drive a business from its current state towards the achievement of its vision. Without a comprehensive strategic planning process, it is difficult for many firms to make the leap into Portfolio-Based Project Management.
2. Inability to identify and scope achievable projects: Even with good strategic planning practices in place, many businesses falter when it comes to properly identifying and scoping initiatives to incorporate into their strategic plans. It seems that translating "gaps" into initiatives is an unnatural way of thinking for may senior leaders. But, projects must be defined to create a project-centered culture. Here, again, the use of outside, expert advice can help the leadership learn how to properly determine the projects needed to evolve the business.
3. Scant leadership commitment: Company culture change comes slowly. People resist change. So, it's no surprise that true commitment to project management practices is very difficult to come by from the upper echelon of many businesses. Some may feel that a project-centered operation provides little place for them to hide, if initiatives go south. Others feel that they may lose control over their fiefdom, if other leaders get a glimpse into how they run their shop. However, it is the very lack of proper senior leadership commitment that inhibits firms from fully realizing the value of project portfolio concepts.
4. Meager foundation-setting: An unwillingness to establish the needed organizational elements (e.g., Strategic Planning Office, portfolio management policies, project management standards, etc.) will doom the implementation effort to failure. Such devices are essential to spearheading widespread involvement and overseeing execution.
5. Incomplete portfolio management practices: Once an organization begins to advance project-based concepts, it's important that a distinct set of portfolio management practices be defined and implemented. It's common for staff to seize upon poorly defined operating procedures as an invitation to circumvent the project management process altogether. So, portfolio management practices must be clearly articulated and enforced.
6. Skills deficits: Project-based skills development becomes the last hurdle to clear, once project-oriented concepts take hold within a firm. Without the appropriate skill-sets, the portfolio management model will fall flat. It is true that, early on, staff skills can be augmented through the use of outside experts. However, internal talent must be developed in order for project orientation to remain vital within the concern.
7. Substandard communication: Plotting the right communication strategy is as important as any other element of Portfolio-Based Project Management - without it, implementation efforts will fall short. Early in its implementation, steady communication is needed to demystify project-orientation. As project concepts mature within a firm, standard communication mechanisms must be put into place to keep the process alive.
To close, firms must avoid these 7 deadly sins of Project Portfolio Management. Clearly, time and money must be invested in building project management competencies or project-oriented work will collapse under its own weight. If you would like more ideas for how to get your project program off-the-ground please reach out to me directly.