Need clearly identified, budget available, owner committed, resources ensured, business case promising… The justification to initiate a development project seems to exist – or does it? Did anyone remember to check, how much effort from the operative organization is required in addition to all the other ongoing projects?
“There are so many changes and things to be implemented going on that I see myself as a bottleneck. I’m simply not able to do all this,” a middle manager from a large organization said to me a few years ago.
And this comment is not a unique one. His peers in practically all the organizations share the same feeling.
“When am I expected to run the business, make money and keep the customers satisfied while various change efforts consume a major part of my working hours?” a line manager from another corporation said.
These comments crystallize one of the major challenges of today’s business development and projects: naturally the business must be renewed and developed, but when enough is enough?
New dimension to portfolio management
Based on my experience many organizations lack one critical dimension in the program, project and/or development portfolio management – the dimension that considers how the development initiatives impact the businesses and key stakeholders, and what is the timing of the effort that is needed from these groups of people?
What happens to the business case when the delivery capability of the business unit starts suffering when the sales people are trained to use the new CRM system, account managers use their evening hours to clean the customer data, new organizational roles are being adopted, the executive management cascades the new strategy into their businesses, people are encouraged to use new collaboration tools etc.?
The impacts of individual projects are assessed in many organizations already, but this is not the case in the portfolio level: the identification of the impacts of the ongoing or prepared change efforts and the timing of the impacts is nonexistent. And even if the hunch would be that the organization can’t be stretched any more, how many leadership teams have guts make a No Go decision because there is no bandwidth available anymore?
One should have guts, because when enough is enough, nothing happens as planned.
When the capacity of the organization is one of the acceptance criteria for initiating a new development project or effort, the barrier for making also the No Go (or Not Yet) decisions is lower. The project is not allowed to move on before the project owner is able to prove that the organization has enough bandwidth during the planned time frame and the aimed benefits can be reached without burdening the business too much.
Tough decisions coming up
If you have gotten an impression that all the development should be banned, that is of course not the case. For sure the business must be continuously renewed and improved to perform better and towards the aimed direction, but it is not possible to have everything at once.
Prioritization is the key word in leading the portfolio when the organizational capacity is added to the picture. If an individual project must be started because of competitiveness, customer insight, production efficiency or other significant reason, could some other project be put on hold or even killed?
Not easy, I know. But leading business is hardly ever easy.