Making the argument for portfolio management

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I have been talking a lot recently about enterprise change management, the need to manage all the changes that an organisation is implementing, and not to treat each change initiative as separate and distinct from its counterparts. This is becoming a critical skill, as the volume of change continues to outpace our ability to resource our ambitions.

A core element of effective change management is a rigorous process of portfolio management which includes:

  • Horizon scanning to keep searching for potential changes so that the business is notified well in advance and not surprised by change.
  • Agreement on what changes are to be tracked in a portfolio and which are to remain within the remit of the team implementing them.
  • Application of prioritisation criteria that ensure only the most valuable, beneficial and useful changes are implemented at any one time.

Without portfolio management, staff will continue to feel overwhelmed by change. We know that stress levels are work are increasing, and in part that is because we keep asking staff to do more within the same amount of time. The most common issues are:

  • A feeling of hopelessness as there are so many things to manage at once, everything gets a little bit of attention, but nothing ever gets finished.
  • A feeling of not delivering the best quality, because there is no time to do a proper job, just the minimum before moving onto another issue.
  • Productivity dips because doing a little on one task before moving onto other tasks causes confusion when returning to the original task and trying to remember what had been done leading to duplication of effort.
  • Staff leaving because this unrelenting pressure and lack of a feeling of achievement is unsustainable.

If you are having difficulty getting your Sponsors to become interested in addressing these issues, you might find the principles in the UK Corporate Governance Code useful in highlighting the need to resource change effectively – principle 3 has some useful wording:

1.      A successful company is led by an effective and entrepreneurial board, whose role is to promote the long-term sustainable success of the company, generating value for shareholders and contributing to wider society.

2.      The board should establish the company’s purpose, values and strategy, and satisfy itself that these and its culture are aligned. All directors must act with integrity, lead by example and promote the desired culture.

3.      The board should ensure that the necessary resources are in place for the company to meet its objectives and measure performance against them. The board should also establish a framework of prudent and effective controls, which enable risk to be assessed and managed.

4.      In order for the company to meet its responsibilities to shareholders and stakeholders, the board should ensure effective engagement with, and encourage participation from, these parties.

5.      The board should ensure that workforce policies and practices are consistent with the company’s values and support its long-term sustainable success. The workforce should be able to raise any matters of concern.

Here is more information on change overload, and here is a guide to effective portfolio management for change professionals.