People Engagement in Portfolio Management

Most of us already know what is Portfolio? How the portfolio level contributes in organizing the Lean-Agile Enterprise; providing the basic budgeting; governing the mechanisms to manage the enterprise investments to meet the Strategic Themes -- this is something you’ve read, I have read too. But why do most of the organizations feel insecure about portfolio level decision makings and change? Why does the idea fall apart in the stage of practice?

The organizational portfolio builds the system and solutions with people being the center of any change development. So, having issues with people engagement has a lot of impact on Enterprise. Getting people engaged or re-engaged in Portfolio management, we need to have knowledge on many dynamics.

People will do more to avoid loss than to gain benefits

If you are already doing portfolio management this is the idea that will take you to a next level. When people used to do things in one way, they develop a pattern. When you introduce change, it causes more uncertainties in people. Because change is uncomfortable for people’s mind and behavior. To avoid that, show others how staying where you are can’t be considered as a safe option anymore, and doing nothing will result in disaster. Look for the problems that you need to have attention on.

Have you heard the story of burning platform?? A worker of a North Sea oil rig who woke up one morning by hearing a loud explosion. The man was shocked to see the platform being consumed by fire. The man has only survival chance, e.g. to jumping into the frozen water (which was also covered with flaming oil). Even if the choice was not good, still the man jumped into the water. Because he understood staying there would only invite death and finally, he survived. This news had a lot of impact on many big change leaders of that time. Like Nokia’s Stephen Elop (Ex-CEO), who changed the company's ways of leadership to stay competitive in the market. Though they couldn’t able to implement properly and struggled a lot.

This kind of strategies takes the time to bear fruit. For example, There are some organizations who came out of critical stage by introducing new changes. Amazon’s kindle was not a popular product when it got launched in the year 2007. But that was a signal of a burning platform (A bigger change). After that many companies like Barnes & Noble, Nook tried changing their strategies on the book retail platform. The most interesting part is, If you see the recent market, you can understand the popularity and likable the product (Amazon kindle) is among the consumers.

Getting People’s Commitment to do things

People always don’t honor commitments. When asked to do something, all of your subordinates may raise their hands (Showing their eagerness) but in the real time they just back out. Why does it happen?

There could be many reasons:

  • There is no proper realization of benefits.
  • People make decisions by looking at many references. So they may get confused in which one to choose.
  • The favor based decisions.
  • Authority and credibility issue in the mindset.
  • Doing the same thing as others (even if they are mistaken), not having your own views or not willing to use your brain for something extra
  • People usually do things they have the self-interest in.

These are the things that can be the obstacles of success but with the right use you can bring dramatic changes too. Such as: in your organization, most of the employees are driven by self-interest. What would you do then? The answer would align their goals with your organizational objectives. As a change leader, you should know how to influence the intrinsic motivation of your people.

Creating your approach to Portfolio Management

Here is the list of things to make the Portfolio process more clear, simple and satisfactory:

  • Everything starts with new fresh ideas (or Diverse thoughts). If you are a person who manages the organizational portfolio, then you should look for the ways to add values from idea generation.
  • Do a proper analysis on the potentials and problems of your organization. And make sure everybody understand that.
  • Making the process fair and transparent.
  • Take responsibility for the Enterprise changes, at least until the implementation is assured.
  • It is necessary everybody in Portfolio to understand the shared goal or common objective or the common ground to focus on.
  • Manage the flow of work and make sure to have a trusted relationship with Stakeholders.
  • Make the best approach for investment or budgeting plans by considering your organization’s ability to take the risk.
  • Know how to use the most available information in favor of your organization.
  • Stop blaming the consultants for negative impacts and take credits for positive things. Remember it is always about people working and taking responsibility together.
  • Listen to the views of others -- give attention on the insights of the analysts and leaders.
  • Solve your immediate challenges.
  • Build a long-term strategy by securing lasting commitments for portfolio management.
  • Resolve conflicts and influence collaboration.
  • Stop assuming that mistakes or changes wouldn’t occur when estimating work or benefits.

As you can see, in Portfolio management, human dynamics play the key role to manifest change. So it is recommendable to get your people focused on the compelling Vision by co-creating a highly engaged environment.


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