Before starting with the real topic of “senior management commitment”, let’s first agree on what we understand when saying portfolio management. A portfolio – according the MoP® guidance – is “the totality of an organization’s investment in the changes required to achieve its strategic objectives”, and the management of it is defined as “a coordinated collection of strategic processes and decisions that together enable the most effective balance of organizational change and business-as-usual”.

 

Compare it with your private budget for doing all those things you need to do and would want to do. Just a few things I think about: trips, holidays, buying a muscle car, but also the maintenance of the house, the regular car, food, clothes, education of the kids, etc.

 

Any organization has the same difficulty: way too many things they want to realize when looking at the available resources (human, financial, and other resources). Each organization has to find the correct balance between keeping the operations running and investing in new initiatives for the future. This is what portfolio management is all about.

 

Now about that senior management commitment. It is cited so often: we need senior management commitment. Which is true. Which I agree with. And looking back to the definition, which is absolutely a must. We are talking about strategic processes and strategic definitions. Who takes these? Senior management. So if they do not commit to the processes they agreed to; if they do not commit to the standards they agreed to; then what message do they pass in the organization…

 

Now what can they do… Sorry, what can we do to support senior managers? And ensuring that portfolio management is agile?

One of the key items is to ensure a clearly defined role, with its responsibilities and accountabilities. Note that we only propose; each manager has to agree with their role – if not how could they even give their commitment. And please keep it to the point. A few bullets in the role description about portfolio management should be enough. Some examples:

As senior manager, responsible for <part of the> organization,

  • I make investment decisions based on agreed business cases that benefit <part of> the organization
  • I ensure staying in compliance with the portfolio governance
  • I explain the rationale for go/no go decisions and prioritizations to anyone who is interested; clearly making the link with the objectives of the organization

Coach your senior management in their role. They can use any support they can get. Ask supportive questions so they can explain why certain decisions are taken; ask how some initiatives are linked to the strategy; ask what you can do so your senior manager can improve their decision making; etc.

 

A non-committed manager will defend his/her pet projects. A committed manager will openly explain – within their authority; some points they might not be allowed to explain, but they will indicate this.

Thank them for the input; their commitment is at least worth your recognition.

 

Next time in Portfolio Management-back to the basics: align with the organizational governance.

 

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