Episode 2: The role of Portfolio Prioritisation
EPISODE 2: The role of portfolio prioritisation
Today we’re going to explore the role of portfolio prioritisation within the PMO and how it helps ensure the highest return from the organisations investments in projects and business change.
To unpack the opportunities and pitfalls I was joined by two guests who’ve both done their fair share of prioritising for major enterprises: Andrew Ball (Sony, NHS and many more) as well as returning guest and TechWomen100 award-winner Mandie Beitner.
The big takeaway? Most businesses could be saving 15% on their change budget if they had more focus on prioritisation.
Mandie Beitner is a Global Transformation leader with a laser like focus on results whilst keeping an eye on ‘how’ they’re delivered. She’s a seasoned interim who has delivered on numerous engagements (significantly around Portfolio Prioritisation, PMO leadership and Strategy Realisation Delivery) although most recently as a Chief Operating Officer. Organisations she’s supported over her 20+ year career range from the London Stock Exchange to BP and include sectors from banking and law to mining and media. Mandie is the person Boards choose to help them make strategic objectives and goals ‘real’ and has been described as a fast-paced commercial operator who keeps things on track, gets things done and delivers tangible ROI. She believes the ‘Ultimate PMO’ should have the status of ‘Air Traffic Control’ and she’s developed her own methodology in support of that.
Andrew ball is a no-nonsense PMO specialist who for 20 plus years has led the full lifecycle of portfolio management for global customers such as Sony and other multinationals across multiple sectors. This includes energy, finance, construction, shipping as well as the UK’s National Health Service. He has a particular passion for structured and planned approaches to portfolio management and prioritisation.
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welcome Andrew Ball, our no nonsense northern PMO specialist for 20 plus years cutting across the full lifecycle of portfolio management at global customers, Sony Sarga, multinational multi sector, working cross energy, finance, construction, shipping, and the NHS, which we know is a tough gig. He has a particular passion for structured and planned approaches to portfolio management and prioritisation. welcome Andrew! We’re also welcoming back Mandy Beitner, who joined us for our first PMO podcast. It’s great to see you back again, Mandy. Thank you. Boyd. Mandy is an award winning tech and transformation leader within the top 100 of tech woman spending time and operating at board level, very strong aligning of strategy to portfolio transformation delivery. She’s worked globally for customers like HSBC, BP WPP in roles such as interim COO, Chief of Staff, strategic realisation officer, which I think is my favourite job title, and Mandy to is happy to get on her soapbox and talk about the importance of portfolio prioritisation. Welcome back, Mandy. I’m Boyd Kershel, co founder of practicas. We help people and businesses navigate change. My role within the business is to talk to C suite and heads of change and transformation within our customers. I understand their problems, I challenge them, we work together to try and get to a real practical solution. I’ve definitely got the best job in our business. It’s fascinating the types of people that I talk to, and the types of businesses I talk to. Some were 250 employees, some with 30,000 employees. You know, it’s an amazing opportunity for me to learn for our business to learn. And also for us to share those insights with other companies and organisations. It fits perfectly with my ADHD, which I’m very happy about. And it’s really really rewarding for me, I absolutely love it. Right. Let’s dive straight into it. Shall we start with discussing maybe the approach to portfolio prioritisation,
the approach that I operate really is incredibly simple, it’s using the knowledge of the business to actually come up with the criteria and the prioritisation process. So starting with the C suite, I asked for a set of criteria that they identify alongside weighting, which then is delegated through the line of command, down to the people who are running the functions at the bottom, the heads off who understand what’s happening within the business, they identify all the activities that will actually when delivered achieve the overall vision from the executive board. The prioritisation is then going through and scoring each of the items they’ve identified against these criteria, which then provides that hierarchy, that big list of everything that the organisation needs to do in the right order to achieve the level zero vision
that does sound really simple. Mandy Mandy, what’s, what’s your approach?
Well, it’s a very similar approach, the only thing I would say is that the criteria is the area with which I would spend most of my time on because that’s where most of the C suite or the decision makers, it depends who, where, where, and how, because you could do this at any part of an organisation, or actually, intra organisation as well, actually. But it’s the gaining the agreement of what that criteria actually is, is where I have found the most challenges. So the process, yes, completely agree data driven, all about being collaborative about what it is that comes out. But you can’t do that unless you know where you’re going. And where you’re going is the having the criteria defined and everybody agreeing to it. And here adhering to it. I think the next stage is then the most important port. Well, the next most important thing is the scoring of the individual things that are going to make up how and what you’re going to execute to deliver the value and the strategy of, of whatever it is that they’re trying to achieve. I found that, in that scoring, there are definitely differences of opinion, in terms of judgement of what it is that they’re trying to do and how much they’re going to pay back. But basically, it’s a business case. So do you stand by your business case or not? So for me, although the process is very similar, the it’s the how you do that and the rigour and the collaborative pneus. If that’s a word that you need to really ingrain into a business.
Yeah. Cool. Thanks. Thanks for that. I think you’ve both touched on a key point as well, because it does sound simple, right? We know it’s not but it does sound simple. So why do organisations get it wrong? I was just on the phone this morning with a head of change and transformation for a 6000 employee business. We were talking about out portfolio prioritisation, and he asked me, you know, what are we doing around it and so forth. He actually said, prioritisation, I don’t believe is a problem for me. He said, It’s the Y, that is the problem, the C suite that don’t understand what the y is. So what we’re doing is we’re prioritising the wrong thing. So that was just off the press this morning. I was just talking to chat this morning. What do you see out there? Where does prioritisation go wrong? And why?
So I think it starts where I’ve just worked with what I was just saying before, that there is no Northstar there, they don’t understand what it is that they’re trying to achieve. Or at least they understand it, but it’s different, which is what usually happens, and therefore there is no prioritisation and direction goes in multiple different ways.
Do you mean that the C suite or board see the Y is different?
Yes. They’re not just the y’s, it’s the Watson as well. So I think that it really does come back to getting people aligned and doing what’s right for the whole organisation rather than for their own needs or their functions need. And actually almost giving way at times to somebody else, or another part of the organisation, because it’s right for the organisation as a whole. And I’ve seen time and time and time again, where unfortunately, objectives drive the decision makers to make bad decisions. And unless that’s resolved, that’s never gonna change. And you’ll
bet you, I think, from the simple approach, it’s the establishment of the Change Approval boards, the subset of the executive board who own the responsibility for the achievement of the strategic plan. That way, you’re taking the hands out of the function out of the operation, and they own the resources in a hypothetical way. But the prioritisation then is picking the right stuff in the right order to do my approach actually then takes it to the next level, which is about the balancing of the resource capacity and capability. So that you are guaranteeing that throughout the lifecycle of that strategic plan, you’ve got a nice balance. One of the things I’ve experienced on far too many occasions is that, that six months, the enthusiasm at the start is they cherry pick the stuff that they want to get on and do the stuff that will bring them the greatest accolades. But the one thing I always predicted is about six months in, they will hit a brick wall,
the way that the conversation goes at the beginning, from my perspective, or should do is when you’re discussing that criteria, some of the things that are in there are things like fix or fail, or regulatory or legal things that you have to do. And then it’s what’s left after you’ve got you’ve got the you must do is type of things that then gets spread out. And those things I agree with, you completely need to be fitted within the capacity and the resources of the organisation as a whole. Not just the development team, not just the IT area, but it’s the business people, there’s product owners, there’s all sorts of different people that need to be involved in this. And so to make sure that that all works, you’re right, it has to be a completely rounded out plan, with contingency I might add to alleviate having one of these blowouts, which most companies do end up having because they don’t attach the priorities to the and the resource capacity. And but it’s not just it’s it’s not just the financial capacity, it’s a resource and effort capacity.
Yeah, yeah, good point, the, you know, touching on the accolades and, and doing something which is right for the business, not the individual. It reminds me of conversations I’ve had about pet projects. And unfortunately, the pet projects typically come from the top. So, you know, I’ve had a couple of separate CEO conversations about prioritisation, where they are doing certain things within the organisation, which is more for the individual rather than the business. But the problem is, is if you’ve got someone in the PMO, even if they’ve got a good structure around prioritisation, and, you know, waiting and scoring, you’ve got a PMO analyst or PMO manager going to the chief exec saying, right, this project, which happens to be yours, is going to be pushed further down the track. And the CEO turns around and says, No, this needs to be here for this reason. There’s, there’s not gonna be a push back from the PMO analyst. There just isn’t it’s gonna get pushed up the line. I challenged the CEO about this about two weeks ago to say, you know, you on the on the on the on the end of this poor PMO support analyst, you’ll change their mind. And he actually started laughing and say, you’ve said it all for me. So, how do you how do you stop these projects? Really? How do you especially at the top, how do you do that?
So interestingly, I’ve just written a post about this on LinkedIn, I think that there needs to be a neutral transformation function at the top that reports into that CEO. Whereby they do have more, let’s say, power, power is probably not the best of words to use here, let me think they have more ability to push the CEO to think about what it is he’s actually saying, or her saying and on why it’s not such a great idea and give the give the view and show that the actions could actually be detrimental to the organisation and explain it, whereas a PMO analyst is never going to be able to do that ever. Yeah,
and I think this is this is why I instal the Change Approval board with with executive board members on it, because they are owning the overarching strategic plan, that there was always a likelihood that someone at some point is going to bring in a new idea that they want to introduce into the portfolio. Now, my pushback, immediate is all of a sudden, there’s a real risk that you’re going to invalidate the whole of the strategic plan, because there’s a likelihood that you’re actually taking the vision in a new direction, where what we want is the consistency, the honesty and the validity of the strategic plan to make the prioritisation and the delivery work. And so it’s balancing those two. The other side is, of course, with the prioritisation scoring, you are now comparing apples with apples rather than appointment against appointments. On a number of occasions, I’ve had two executives who turn around and say my project is far more important than his project, you have a conversation with the other person why project is far more important than that. And when you have the binary score that is coming out of the business, yeah, it becomes evident who is who, from a business operation perspective, what one needs to be done first. Yeah.
So you know, really good point that Change Approval board. So who did you actually have on the board? What were the stakeholder levels,
I had the HR director, I had the CFO, and I had the he was the Operations Director, C level Operations Director, because they’re actually incredibly interested in the future direction of the business. And that was absolutely key,
I actually make sure that some of the business leaders are in there, not just the, the the operational leaders. So what I’ve set up strategic change boards many times, and to be quite frank, they’re not very easy. And
what’s not easy about it? Well, because
they’re all rather strong characters, they have different views, they have different ways of working. And they will want to be heard as well, actually. And rightly, so that’s why they’re there. That said, getting them to see other people’s points of view, and looking at it from a wider perspective is not so easy. The other thing is that I think that at a strategic change board, those that are sponsoring those particular initiatives need to go and sell it to the others. And that’s why it’s important to have that too. And hopefully, that the chair, either the CEO or the, I would actually have a transformation person chairing that not the CEO, but anyway, would be able to guide that conversation to come out with a collaborative view at the end, it isn’t easy. And that also therefore allows the flexibility that when something else does come up, or market changes, or there are new ideas that have sprung up, you can actually look at the whole portfolio and compare apples and apples, as you say, and make changes or even stop something if it’s not delivering. So for me, though, that’s really important, but it needs to be wider than just the operational team.
Can I just pick up on one thing you sort of both touch on is when new leaders come into the business by because, you know, with there’s been a lot of change since COVID, senior leadership across multiple sectors. And so, you know, you’ve got one way of running a portfolio or change portfolio and prototype prioritising a new leader comes in, you know, how do you keep the consistency or is that just unrealistic? Because the new leader is going to bring ideas and maybe change strategy.
I think you want you have to accommodate them, you know that the previous vision, the first thing you’re testing is the validity of that previous vision because that’s driving the strategic plan. Once you get an answer to that question, if there is a new vision, if there is a new direction, you actually have to rework re, up, refresh the entire strategic plan, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing because it is actually opening the door to new ideas. And a new giant direction is needed.
I think think it depends what the new role that person in the new role does, actually, because some of it, excuse me, some of it would actually just continue because they’re there just to heighten something, for example. So I think it’s a depends answer.
Yeah, yeah, you’re right, because it might be. So for example, in the higher education sector, there are new vice chancellors coming in, you know, very senior, whereas they’re also hiring an HR director, which would sort of be on the change board, but not not really strike changing the strategy. Oh, no,
no, exactly. So I think it depends. I mean, if you get a new, let’s say, a new CTO, and who’s got some innovative ideas, etc, etc, is he, he or she really going to go and change some of the things that are already on the go, highly unlikely, because it would be wasting effort, wasting budget, throwing everything into chaos. But if you’ve got a new product, you know, a CMO or something like that, who have new ideas that they want to sell to the market, it might well change.
Yep. The I’ve had a few people wanted to ask some questions around sponsorship. And we know this comes up in lots of different forms across change in delivery. You know, who are two questions, you know, who should ultimately aim at who should ultimately aim? Who should ultimately own at the sponsorship for portfolio prioritisation? And then beyond that, how do you? How do you get momentum and engagement from that sponsor? What do you think, Andrew?
Well, I think this is where the the CIB, the Change Approval board actually sits in, because that’s where the sponsorship is, because it is, at the board level membership, you’ve got direct ownership and accountability for the future direction of the business. So it sits there.
So it doesn’t sit above that. No, no. Okay. What
about for the portfolio?
That’s really interesting, because I don’t I don’t actually agree with that, I’m afraid sorry. I think that each of the initiatives that are on that portfolio plan that have been scored, should be owned by one of the C level people in the organisation, and therefore, and that needs to fall through. I’m not saying that they wouldn’t delegate that responsibility for delivering it to somebody lower down in the organisation. But I think that needs to be sponsored by and supported by that sea level, and all senior people in that that team, including the CEO, and that creates the buy in, and that creates the whole organisation working in a much more efficient way.
Okay, yeah. You know, we were talking about strong characters, and, you know, and leaders, I was just, I was just curious to ask you guys, you know, where have you seen this working really well, because of a particular leader? And maybe the behaviours behind that leader? Where have you seen this work really well. prioritisation went really well, and, and what did the leader do?
So just before COVID, I implemented this in a law firm, where I’m not sure if everybody knows this, but law firms don’t work in the same way as an ordinary corporation. So a law firm has multiple businesses within it, and they all have their own p&l. So getting a group of people, even though they’re supposed to be managing the organisation as a whole, is actually not that easy. But because this, I tie these things to the finance and the budget process, which clearly happens yearly, although, you know, one of the things that I think we should be doing, and to innovate more is to actually do a budgeting cycle that’s more agile, but we can come back to that another time, is that you don’t get what you don’t pay for. So therefore, if it’s attached to the budgeting cycle, which is what we did there, we managed to get all of those people in a room and agree and it took us weeks. Yeah, it did take weeks. And I personally met with every single one of them. And they were all open to the idea but they all strong in themselves about what it was that they wanted to do. But once you figure out and you get them to come to an agreement that actually you know what that the agreement on the criteria and therefore what it is that they’re sponsoring and what they want to do fits with that. It was it was really quite plain sailing. I’ve got something called Air Traffic Control, which effectively shows you what pieces of the portfolio are going to who and by when, which is the next stage of the whole scoring process and how you can be more efficient digging up the road. Once instead of doing it multiple times, and once all of that was made very visible, and I gave them a chart to show where, though it was high priority, low cost and high priority, high cost, and the opposite. They it made it because it was so visual, they were actually bought into it. And it was fantastic. But I do think that that was because they were really determined to make a change. And they were really determined to stop the chaos that was going on in the organisation. Because, as Andrew pointed out earlier, there were too many projects all happening at the same time, not enough resources, and therefore nothing was getting done.
I mean, this is it’s a really good point you make in that sector could because right now, that sector, there’s a lot going on, you know, there are there are some legislation, legislation drivers around making tax digital, you’ve got the big players buying up smaller organisations in solid today, she has a lot of consolidation. It’s very fragmented, but they are trying to pull it pull them together, because that’s that’s where you get the efficiency. That’s where you get, you know, synergies around products, and getting giving customers a better journey. So we’ll talk about this offline, because what you’re talking about there is something we should talk about in terms of some of our customers are doing if I’m honest, Andrew, what do you what have you seen around good leadership out there,
I think it was MSC, the the shipping organisation I was invited in because they had 170 things going on, they didn’t really have a handle of what it was. So the starting point was get it down to a manageable level of real activity that is needed. And then apply a prioritisation process. Their problem was that they had an incredibly strong executive team who possibly delegated a little too much and all of a sudden, they were losing that that continuity between the two levels. So by going taking the stuff that was remaining through the prioritisation, all of a sudden it became visible. And you could understand what, when, why and how. And all of a sudden, you’re providing the executive with something that they can make decisions on where in the past, it really was not quite a free for all, but it was just best endeavours to get anything and everything done. Yeah,
we have right actually the point about making things visible and giving the information to make the decisions. That’s what this is all about. I mean, that’s the crux of it, you know, because if you don’t know how you’re gonna make the decision, or you’re gonna make a terrible one. Yeah,
if we’ve got customers that have the right framework, they have, you know, the right grading, they had the right scoring, but they’re still not getting tangible benefits out of it. What have you seen that happen before? And you know, is there anything that you can pass on advice around that.
So I’ve never seen that happen before, because I don’t see very many organisations actually doing prioritisation properly, they very rarely do the scoring that we’re talking about. And I would hesitate to say that if I had, I will be saying you need to go back and look at the criteria because clearly your criteria is wrong.
I think social housing when we were applying this this process, it really was taking it back. But it was the important thing is the scheduling, it is that balanced resource plan, that is absolutely key, because then you are increasing the certainty of achieving that particular activity. And that is what is key. And if you’ve got success at the end of a delivery, all of a sudden, you are actually going to have some real benefits, real tangible benefits, because you have an idea that you’ve actually taken through full lifecycle. Yeah, and you can see that the outcome.
So So So what when we talk about benefits, let’s just say, you know, you guys are going to sell this into the chief exec or CFO, whoever is going to own it. How, what sort of benefits are you going to articulate to, to that stakeholder to get them to buy into this process if they don’t already have Mandy?
Well, most people think about money when they’re talking about benefits. So I would be saying that, in my opinion, and the things that I’ve seen, there’s usually a reduction in costs about 15%. And maybe not straightaway, but you could definitely aim for that. And therefore, even if you didn’t need to cost cut, you could do more with the same. And I would be selling it from that perspective. That’s one, two, you’d have to have a very happy workplace if everybody knows what it is they should be doing don’t need to have as many meetings and can actually really know what they’re doing, why they’re doing it. And and being able to make decisions without having to go to the top all the time. I think
from my perspective is back down to the mythical brick wall. All of a sudden, there is no wasted efforts. All of a sudden, everything that we have on our plan on our list on our prioritisation we’re actually going to deliver. So yes, that makes an incredibly happy and engaged workforce. They know the future of the business and the future, the direction and all So they’re parts, their contribution to achieving it. So it takes them forward. from a cost perspective, it is just that certainty of delivery, that you’re not wasting time chasing rabbits, that you’re actually doing something that is meaningful and directed.
Yeah, delivering a reliability. So in the change boards, you know, health of the portfolio needs to be one of the things that you include in there. And you can see very quickly, if something’s not going right, or something’s going so well, and you want to actually add or invest more in it.
Yeah, no, it makes sense. And I think going back to what you were saying about your shipping prioritisation 170 things going on. And you, you took that down to 80? Did
you say Yeah, 8080.
So immediately, you’ve got 50% of our project stopped 50% of resourcing stopped on projects that maybe not the
really interesting thing about that is what would happen is that projects would just fade. So you, so a project manager could work on it for about three months, and then all of a sudden, bigger priority thing would happen. So that one would just fade, so you’ve wasted three months efforts. On nothing with no outcome, you know, you could just almost bundle it into a box file and shred it. And so you’re actually eradicating that wasted effort. Yeah, I
couldn’t agree with you more.
And the important thing is, it’s the discipline behind it, you know, the one thing the my image about the brick wall is, it’s the old discipline at the very, very beginning, it’s just exciting, enthusiastic, smashing these things out, and you will actually run into that brick wall. And it’s, and that’s the wasted effort. Because you have to recover where you are, the situation is Thetis,
I think this whole process, you know, it’s bait, what from my perspective, it’s based on managing for value, and the outcome is outcome driven. And there’s an economic profit model that sits behind what I do. So therefore, there is real numbers associated, but it starts to build the whole company culture behind that. And therefore, if eventually, that should bring efficiencies in itself.
Yeah, because we were, we’ve been working on the value of prioritisation, both tangible and intangible. I was, I was talking to a global delivery director of an organisation, and I used to just assume that they had a framework. You know, just going back to the point that you made, right, I was just assumed they had a framework. So I started asking about their components. So, you know, what components do you have within the framework, you know, like strategic fit, economic fit, people impact customer impact risk, capability, capacity, etc, etc. And he didn’t, really didn’t answer. And I just assumed that he got that. And so I started moving, talk to me about ranking, talk to me. And then he stopped me and you said, you’ve just made a huge assumption that we’ve got anything like that. And this is a really big organisation.
Honestly, most of the I’ve worked in some really massive organisations, and a lot of them because of being in trim for so long. And I honestly have not seen it. I’ve not seen this, or a scoring mechanism or a framework very often.
So just that example that I just go with this director, where should we start to support him? Because it feels like something that’s actually a really big thing to do.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a big thing. But what I would say, is it we’ve done full circle, we’ve come back to the, what is it going to give? Why why do we need to do this? And what criteria is it that we need to follow? If we come back to that, that’s where you should start? Because Because everything else will fall out of that.
It’s driving the culture of the organisation through to that, yeah, business change mentality. Yeah, that mindset that we are doing things for the betterment of the organisation? Yep. Yep. Not because we don’t know.
I find it quite incredible that I go in and I don’t see that kind of framework. I honestly find it astounding, and some organisations prioritise based on business cases, etc, etc. But those business cases are sometimes just pulled together, like overnight out of thin air, that really, you can’t, you can’t measure them. They’re not what I would call a real business case. And therefore, you’ve got a double whammy, really, because you’re not really prioritising on something that’s valuable, valuable. realigned. Exactly. And then you’ve got a business case that looks like it’s a nice piece of paper, but actually, what’s it going to give you and who’s standing by if you make people stand by it by putting your object making their objectives based on those? Okay, at least it works better. still doesn’t tell you the order, and it still doesn’t give you the whole. How can we deliver this picture, which is what we’re talking about before about the resource plan and the things that you may need? And ultimately, without that, what have you got?
You’ve just touched on another nerve actually, resource planning. So sorry, no, no, no, no, no. I mean, it hasn’t really got anything to do with prioritisation, but it is an impact of of the lack of prioritisation. So, you know, we provide a community service where we ask our customers, what’s going wrong with your with your PMO. And we put some of our community members in front of them to help them support them. A big one is resource planning and capacity planning. Because they don’t know exactly where it’s coming. They’re people. Yeah, well, one is not sure exactly what’s coming. And they don’t know. What’s my point? Which people? And so I was talking to one chip, and I said, What’s the stakeholder map look like? Have your most important people working on most of the projects, because that’s what typically happens. You get 510 key people, and they want to work on everything. And they’re holding it together. And so what are five of them leave? Then what happens? Yeah, so you need to deal with the problem. And the problem is not resourcing it’s prioritisation. Exactly.
So we’ve both said that the output of prioritisation needs to drive capacity planning and capacity management, resource planning. And we’ve both said that,
because the other side of that is that’s driving costs. Yes, you know, the mind process, you take the prioritisation, we then take you through a sizing matrix, the generals is a big nasty project is a small, easy one, okay, and you can build up the plan, you can build up the shedule for the portfolio over the coming period, you can actually assign some notional figures to it. And you can turn and say the delivery of the strategic plan is going to be x based on the profiling that you’ve got from the sizing everything. On the schedule itself. It’s not set in stone at that point. But it’s rough order of magnitude costs, which then feeds and informs the executive over the cost of going achieving your vision is this. And then you can build it backwards. But you’ve also got that net resource demand, looking forward all the way through the delivery periods. You haven’t got, you know, the resources you need. Not the names.
Okay. So, although I agree with you, in principle, because I’m an agile person, I think you would get an awful lot of pushback on that particular, the way that you just said it. In other words, because agile works in a slightly different way. My view is that you have to resource plan in an agile way as well. And do you work in sprints and understand what your capacity is? Etc, etc. So I think we’re saying the same thing in a slightly different for different ways of working,
how far ahead? Do you believe good, prioritisation will will provide resource planning how far ahead?
So I think it depends how big the projects are in first place, or the initiatives are? I think, ultimately, you can only really plan out well, for a couple of months. You can’t you can’t do more than that.
Yeah, so I look at 12 months.
This sounds absolutely bonkers. I’ve got customers who can plan only plan two weeks.
Yeah, I can see that. And that’s because they don’t know what nothing else is going on. What I’m saying about the couple of Sprint’s is what I’m really saying is because when you get further down into a piece of work that’s delivered in an agile way, you can hang your hat on their capacity and the way that they work through it, and it will, it will reduce or not, as time goes on. And I believe that you then increase your probability of delivery, and the reliability of delivery goes up as time goes on. That said, I still believe that because we have a process, that’s usually a yearly budget process, you have to have a bucket of money for a particular project that sits there that you call down, you literally call the money down from and you have a have the resources lined up, doesn’t mean to say it’s accurate. Yeah. That’s so when you asked an accuracy question, I can’t, I can’t really see my view.
So my accuracy is probably about 85 90%. Three months out. I will know to that level of certainty, three months, we just said, nine months out, possibly 50%. But it’s an indication because I know what I should be delivering in that period. And I know what resources I should need. I’m not going to go firm on anything until about three months out, but But it provides that visibility of what the resource plan looks like. Yep. Yeah. And I have this rolling month forward every month you’re just increasing your lifting level assisity as you are doing the work and doing the research on
- I’ve talked to a lot of people, and they follow the process and they’ve got outputs. But they haven’t really thought about what data they are going to collect to make the process better to iterate the process, because it does is going to take, you know, a number of months to get better and better, and so and tweak it and tweak it, because it’s got to be right for the organisation. You know, I know both of you have got really, really amazing frameworks. But you know, the magic is in tailoring it to the organisation. Right. And but I’m going back to that data point, you can tailor your frameworks to the organisation, but then understanding what data you want out of it, to iterate it and iterate and iterate it. Because if you can get that right, for your organisation, I think that becomes intellectual property for you.
Yeah. So the criteria, though, drives what you’re going to measure? Yeah. Right. And if if you’ve agreed what that is, and then you agree that you’re going to work on it, then you go away and make sure that you’re measuring exactly what it is. You said you were going to measure? Yeah. But but we’re talking about post delivery, right, during delivery, it’s slightly different, because those things are not out there, or the MVP is, is not quite going to deliver you the value yet. You see what I mean? Is ROI could be, you know, a number of years.
Yeah, you’re right. You know, I was talking to a chat the other day, and we’re just like throwing around different components of measurement. Right. So what do you know, what do you measure? What do you do? And all the normal stuff came up? And I asked him about environmental ESG. Because I, I’d seen them their strategy, it’s high on the agenda. But during in this prioritisation, he didn’t have anything around environment ESG.
So that would never have got by me. That’s the point of getting him which we started out with, again, with what is it that’s on the agenda that they want to want to meet? And therefore, if it’s not meeting that ESG agenda, why is it even in there? And if it is, then you have to have something to measure it?
Yeah. If they had it on there, I’d be curious to know what the weighting was.
Yes, absolutely. Yeah. No, that’s a good point. Yeah.
But the scoring would actually take it way, way down into the w’s of whether we’re actually going to bother doing it isn’t actually included against the criteria, it’s gonna get a zero, it’s going to get a one. So it doesn’t really matter. Yeah. And this is this is the criticality of those criteria, because it is that that what is the the core fundamentals, the belief of the organisation that you are measuring? The idea is against Yeah,
yeah. So So when prioritisation of portfolios is done badly, right, let’s, let’s call them out, you’ve got chaos? What do you hear around an organisation when prioritisation is done better? And then what do you see what type of behaviour do you actually see?
I think if you end up with the end users, they are just it’s well, it’s chaos. Again, it’s the same old, same old same old that we get a vision from the top and all of a sudden, it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen and the world changes. And we are completely detached from it. You know, from a PMO perspective, it’s just sneering mud, because they’re being pulled in all directions, because they don’t actually have an enormous amount of control over what they need to control. And then from the executive, they’re incredibly demanding, because they don’t see because they’re, they’re distant from the workings of it. And so you’re ending up with probably three times as much effort to achieve the same level of, of outputs, if you achieve it at all. And the light or the certainty of achieving it is far reduced from normal. Yeah.
What do you say then Civil War,
so we actually called it civil war. So So honestly, at one of the media companies that I worked at many moons ago, it was really interesting, the troops on the ground, literally called it civil war, and they they had to toe the line for their, their senior manager of that particular function. But they knew that actually, that meant they had to go fight with their colleagues, for no real good reason. Very interesting. It was one of the places that I put this in and it worked a treat actually, not easy to get.
Not easy. And, you know, if you think about, you know, the example civil war, or you know, where it’s chaos, if you can sort of funnel it back to probably the individual leader who who that because that’s the mind you need to change. You know, if if you could have that leader in a pub, and actually, they weren’t a leader, they were your one of your best friends. And you could have a conversation with that person about why they should be doing prioritisation. What would you say to them?
Do you want an easier life? Do you want an easier life? Do you want to meet the numbers? Do you want to make, you know, do more with with the same or less?
What is simple, but it’s more than I think it’s a happy culture working culture where you have one organisation, and there is no fragmentation.
I mean, Nirvana would be that I mean, honestly, you know, we’re all talking about what, what would be perfect, I don’t think we’ll ever get to perfect because there’s all always some kind of small thing that’s going on in the background. But if you can at least get the majority of an organisation pulling in the same direction, if you think about rowing, right, if everyone’s pulling at the same time, you’re gonna go faster, right? So that for me is a big value add? Why would you not want that? And if you don’t do it, my question might be, what do you think you’re going to see if you don’t do it? Because if you don’t do it, it’s going to carry on being fragmented, inefficient, costly, and you may not even meet the objectives that you want to meet. Does that is that good for you? Yeah, probably not.
Do you think that, because I’ve had a couple of bus stops with stakeholders recently? Because I can go on my soapbox as well, because I was talking to Andrew earlier, I had a conversation with the CEO that something and you know, I challenged them to say, because he said, Are we we do pretty well, we do well. Yeah. It’s like, okay, bullshit. You show us you don’t? Yeah, exactly. Couple of questions deeper. And it’s like, he doesn’t understand what he’s talking about. And it’s not his fault, because he doesn’t need to be at that level. Right. You shouldn’t be doing Chatterjee is doing strategy. But so but I was having a conversation to go a little bit into a couple of layers deeper. And I was challenging him there. His belief was, we can do it internally, just as well as we could, if someone came externally to view us, I said, completely disagree with you. Because you’ve got so many internal biases going on is too much politics, too much politics, too many relationships? And yeah, just a simple question. Okay. What’s the average tenure of the organisation? They’ve been going a long time. It’s been 20 years. Yeah. It’s like you’ve there is no way you’re experienced so difficult. You need an external view. I mean, that was just my view. And obviously, he had his view. What do you guys think? I’m with you. Yeah, we’re probably gonna say that, because it’s our business. But how can it be? How can? How can you make decisions about prioritisation? When you’re when you you can’t really be objective?
Well, I think that’s the biggest problem, isn’t it? That’s why the again, we’re coming back to the criteria, getting these people to be objective is actually not easy to look at it from a wider perspective, to look at it from across the board, not just their, from their own personal perspective. I mean, you have it you it’s a natural human thing to look from your own perspective. And that’s difficult to change.
I mean, you know, and I think it’s the, the lack of view of the consequences of getting it wrong. You know, from the from the criteria perspective, yes, you could pick six, you could pick eight, it doesn’t really matter. And it could be meaningless. But what are the consequences of that? What are the consequences of the portfolio going wrong?
Yeah, that’s the cost of not doing it. Yeah, that is quite key. And ultimately, the only if this is not done from a neutral position, you’re not going to get the outcome you’re looking for. Yeah. Yeah. So if you if, if he if they, she, she thinks that they can be completely neutral. Excellent. I’d love to see that though. Yeah, I would really love to see that. Now, given that that person is the CEO, they should really be neutral, actually. But then it would have to be them doing that piece of work. And I don’t see them doing that. That’s the that’s the tricky part. Unless, of course, they have a neutral transformation team. That has to be neutral, I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve been the middle person fighting all different areas, and having to put back to each of the different places. Well, you do mean that this means this for you, or that means that for you. But for the wider organisation, it means this eventually, eventually, they can see Oh, actually, you know what, you’re right. But it does take time because it’s not natural. And why would it be? The only way it’s going to be natural is if objectives are you get paid on the outcome? So, you know, ultimately, I don’t see it. And it’s much easier to do if you’re an external because you have no, you’re nothing. There’s no axe to grind. There’s nothing for you to there’s no politics.
Yeah, exactly. And the We’ve mentioned this before, but you know, we’ve been working on a prioritisation calculator for execs, which is, which is x been? It’s been really interesting, hasn’t it just going through and looking at, you know, you touched on it before 15% saving of a portfolio? I was talking about your deck 400 million, his portfolio is 15% of that. Yeah. But But still, it sounds really easy to go, why wouldn’t you do this? But actually, they’re not biting our hand off for it. Why do you think that is?
I think because they think it’s easy. And I don’t think they necessarily see what Andrew was saying before what’s happening down in the trenches. They’re not the ones actually doing it. They’re not the ones that are having to argue with everybody say, Well, my thing needs to be done first, or my thing needs to be done first. They’re not they’re not seeing that.
It’s almost as if they get the bus from the fact that this 400 million pound portfolio, not what’s in it, not what the outcomes are going to be. Because
I’ve never, I’ve never really thought of that. But I must have, I must have read, I don’t know. 200,000 TVs? And over my time, and everyone does shout about how big the portfolio is.
I mean, is that one project? Or is that 400 million projects? Yeah, it doesn’t really matter. You know, the bottom line is it’s, this is why I’m so focused on the vision, not the cost, not the money, because that’s it’s a measure,
I tell you, I’m going to ask for when I when I see a portfolio directors CV next time, and they have X million on when to ask for the percentage of successful delivery. Put that on there, please. Yeah, yeah.
And you’ll be you’ll be absolutely staggered, it is fascinating, you won’t
be able to measure that, by the way. They weren’t. So So at one of the financial services, places, obviously, they’ve got an enormous change budget enormous. And we are talking 1000s and 1000s of programmes plus 1000s and 1000s, of what we call pet projects, 1000s of let’s say, some small changes, it all adds up. Yeah. And and let’s be honest about it. A lot of those did not flow in the same direction.
I always have been an enormous intrigue into pet projects of what are they all about pet projects are the greatest way to derail any strategic business plan? Because what is the purpose of doing them? What are you trying to achieve by them? If it isn’t strategic, it’s not taking the business forward. Because if it was taking the business forward, it will be part of the strategic business plan. So you end up with 1000s of pet projects, what are these pet projects? Or why have they got funding? And it’s this is where the CIB becomes really, really powerful. Because you’re actually drawing back on those, because you will end up with arguments because they’re an order, not a norm, an enormous draw on resources.
So I think that in an organisation that wants to try to move forward and improve, you have to have an innovation but but budget, and I believe that the pet projects should align to some form of innovation. And if they do great,
why are they not? Then strategic? Why are they then because about taking the business forward, evolving growing up is because they
don’t all all succeed? So I was at another banking organisation, and they they spent a fair amount of money on certain renovations, trial and error, and they got rid of them. So for me that there should be a bucket of money, that if you want to move forward AI, for example, a few years ago, put it into a separate bucket, and do that and measure it as well. I’m not saying you shouldn’t, but it is a different thing. Yeah,
but But what we had with the with the global shipping organisation that the Managing Directors biggest, biggest ask was I need to maintain the innovation, how do we do it? How do we get it? And it was almost a suggestions box box in accounting, whether real or imaginary doesn’t really matter, but provide the opportunity to take these ideas and work them up into something that a decision can be made, because then you can bring them into the portfolio if all you want is a sandpit. 1000 projects is enormous sand beds of investment. Yeah, and it’s absolutely fine. You know, the other side of it is that there’s a, what happens to the sensitive stuff, you know, how do you deal with the sensitive stuff, why you deal with it sensitively, you know, it doesn’t go in the public domain. So it’s important that you’ve got that control of the visibility, but absolutely, Innovation is key.
This is we’re going a bit off topic, but it’s really interesting and timely. I spoke to an innovation director yesterday because we’re starting to build an innovation community So I’ve been speaking to a lot of people who are doing innovation within the organisations. And he was talking about, there is a percentage of the portfolio budget for his team. It’s only small. Yeah. But there’s a there’s a small percentage. But it doesn’t plug into the infrastructure of the way that they run projects. So for example, it doesn’t plug into the PMO. It’s it is separate, but it’s not getting the sport support, which is today, which is not but but he’s in a way that he’s happy because the strategy from the businesses X percentage is going to be spent on that. But it could it could be so much better if it was plugged in.
Yeah. If they had the framework and the support and the and the mechanisms to support them, would make it that would be more efficient to Yeah, but
are they delivering? Or is it just rolling running up? An idea is is there an outcome because if there’s an outcome, and if it’s a project and and this is the real danger that all of a sudden you are invalidating the portfolio absolutely completely if it is, if it’s there, all about the business, but you can have a separate innovation worlds. You know, if you go to Google, if you go to Apple, you know, you will look they will have that innovation cafe, where you can go and sit and you can think and you can pontificate. And you can come up with ideas. And you can run them up in a team. But you’re not actually into the delivery, the governance structure, because that’s the real danger.
But do you think it takes a different type of governance structure to deliver the innovation because you need to fail fast, you need to be quick to get through it. And you need to make sure that the proof of concepts get to where they need to go to if they’re going to be moved forward and go through the whole prioritisation process. But it needs to be a feed in is what I think,
or you don’t prioritise that with a portfolio. You all when it’s ready to be adopted when it’s ready to move on. Yes, bring prioritise and then see what happens because it could actually sit way down.
I was I was sarcastically going to suggest that they put their PMO process and prioritisation through the innovation process. Yes, exactly. Like, let’s just let’s, let’s just say that actually, the way that we do PMO right now is dead. It’s dead, it doesn’t work. And the business is going to fail. What were what would you do with it in your innovation process? How would you tackle it? I’m not sure what you mean. So they’re trying to come up with new ideas for the business forward thinking, what can we do, taking advantage of what other people do in other sectors, but actually, internally, they’re not delivering what they should be delivering, because the PMO is set up is not set up correctly, and the prioritisation is not set up correctly. So why don’t you fix that? Easily? By taking it through your innovation process? Actually, that’s
a good idea, because it would be a small, small air a pilot, it’s almost a pilot to check.
It is an internal, it’s inwardly looking. But it’s still important, though, isn’t it? Yeah.
Yeah, I think I think we’re going back to something we talked about last time, I actually do not think any of this should be called PMO. Yeah, I’m sorry. I just don’t, it gives the wrong impression of what it is what you should or shouldn’t be doing. And most people think it’s admin. And that was Sra. Did you call it? Yeah, strategy realisation office, or, you know, that kind of that kind of thing. Because this is not about setting up meetings. And you know, those sorts of things actually more important to get a company operating and being successful in what it does. You need one of these. Yeah.
So the CIP controls the initiation of projects from the shedule. They’re the ones who Terminus a kick this, this project is going to start now based on because they’re by rights, there aren’t any other projects happening in the business, even with the innovation stuff. So all then all the PMO doing is governing the lifecycle of the delivery, because at the end of it on closed down, the benefits realisation plan is handed back to the to the portfolio because they are the consistency in it. So the PMO has got a very small responsibility, and it’s all around the delivery of the project, and assuring that
that’s why it’s not PMO from my perspective.
Exactly. So you end up with this this wraparound, which is the portfolio piece because it is about the strategy, it is about taking those levels, zero level one vision, objectives, goals, translating and through to something that you can then assign to the PMO saying there’s another one coming on, assure that through to delivery. Yeah, that’s your response. That’s the the PMs responsibility.
I was talking earlier offline about summarising a mindset for leaders who are trying to prioritise their portfolios at the moment, a phrase you know three phrases that that you could come up with or not I had, I had a few things, be disruptive. Be ruthless. And no egos. Thank you. Because that sort of there’s a lot of egos flying around, which is why things don’t get prioritised. Right, I think you have to be, you have to be disruptive in the way that we think about this. And ultimately, not every project is going to win. So you got to be ruthless. What do you guys sort of come up with?
I’ve just got some words, outcome driven, collaborative, but support what comes out? So what stays and what comes out of that room? Even if you didn’t completely agree with it, you toe the line? Yeah, stay tight, stay tight, and you communicate that way.
I think I think mine is company wide. It’s as simple as that everyone is involved with it. Everyone knows their part in it. It’s absolutely critical. Either starting from the from the top with the executive board, you know, they are, they are the audience for the delivery of the portfolio. And that is informed by the CIB. So everyone is feeding into the CMDB across the business.
Yeah, I just wanted to say, I’ve been working with Andrew and Mandy, I’ve seen the way that they run portfolios, I’ve seen in detail the way that they approach prioritisation and I would implore any exec any senior leader who doesn’t have prioritisation, or is, is, you know, needing some sort of validation of prioritisation, get in contact with me. Because you should be talking to one of these two, if not both of them. Because the amount of money that you will save from getting this right, let’s just call it 5% of your current portfolio, if it was 100 million quid that’s 5 million quid that you are leaving on the table. And, you know, we talked about culture, we talked about driving culture of an organisation, making, you know, making your organisation happier because they know why they’re delivering, they know what they’re delivering. They’re pulling together, they’re rowing in the right direction. These are all reasons that you guys cannot sit on your hands. leave your ego at the door, please. And just come and be open and have a conversation with us. And you know what, I’ll do it for free. I’ll do my part of this. As someone who facilitate this, I will give up my fee to a charity of your choice, right? Because I’m passionate about making sure that prioritisation is at the forefront of delivering your strategy. So right over to you Chief execs