Cultivating a Portfolio Mindset

By Jack S. Duggal, MBA, PMP

After a historic presidential election in the United States, officials and citizens are focused on the transition program and the initial priorities of the new administration.

In the context of a worldwide economic crisis, the pressing questions on people’s mind are: What new programs and projects will be initiated? What will be cut? How will the administration prioritize the campaign promises made to different stakeholders?

It will be imperative to cultivate and promote a portfolio mindset and apply the principles of portfolio management at every level to address these crucial questions.

Whether in government, your organization or department, or at a personal level, a portfolio mindset can provide strategic focus. It can ensure that you are working on the right projects with the right priorities, and are not being bogged-down, or stuck, on low-value initiatives.

According to the Standard for Portfolio Management, a portfolio is a collection of projects or programs and other work that are grouped together to facilitate the effective management of that work to meet strategic business objectives.

We received multiple requests for articles on portfolio management, including from Tammie Osborne, RN, BSN, PMP, who works in Knoxville, Tennessee, USA. She has been a nurse for almost 16 years and in clinical IT for over two years, with almost two years in project management.

Portfolio management focuses on the processes to identify, select, prioritize, govern, measure and report on the projects and programs to achieve specific business objectives.

A portfolio mindset requires that, at any point in time, managers:

  1. Inventory all of the projects and programs in the portfolio, and be familiar with them
  2. Focus on the big picture with clarity of purpose and based on strategic objectives
  3. Continuously assess and balance priorities based on the four R’s – reward (benefit), risk, resources and relationship (the impact of doing a project on other projects that are existing or planned).

While risk and reward are common considerations to evaluate individual projects in portfolio management, relationship risk is often overlooked. This risk derives from how one project relates to others in a portfolio including impacts on cost, schedule and resource demands and dependencies.

A portfolio mindset surfaces the relationship and impact on competing priorities and related projects.

Cultivating a portfolio mindset requires leadership to channel the entire organization to focus on the key strategic objectives and balance priorities at every level.

For the new administration, as well as for organizations, the challenge is not to come to grips with all the programs that they should do, but with the programs that they should not do.

Portfolio management can be a way of life. At a personal level, the portfolio mindset can help you make better decisions, such as when you are making a choice between expenditures.

At a professional level, your portfolio is a resume or curriculum vitae (CV) of all your projects and accomplishments. When is the last time you assessed your personal or professional portfolio? Perhaps the end of year is a time of transition and a good time to start applying the portfolio mindset.

Mr. Duggal is a PMI SeminarsWorld® leader, managing principal of Projectize Group LLC and leader of the seminar Building the Next Generation PMO and Portfolio Management. For questions on the content of the seminar, please contact Mr. Duggal.