Beauty isn’t the only criteria needed
to judge which projects are best for
an organization’s portfolio.
BY TERRI KNUDSON, PMP
B“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” doesn’t apply only to romance and fashion. Even in portfolio management—the land of objective measures and data-driven decisions—there’s room for subjectivity. In portfolio governance management processes in particular, the “beauty,” or strategic alignment, of a project has the potential to be highly subjective. Many leaders, motivated consciously or not by their own agen- das and pet projects, may assess the value, risks and priority of projects or
programs in the portfolio through a subtly skewed lens.
The objectivity of numbers, weightings, rankings and scores should
streamline the selection process, but any project manager can employ the
right tools to make his or her project strategically align.
That’s why I’ve long been stuck asking: What measurement tool—
blinded voting, categorization, risk assessment, etc.—works best for the
To answer that, break down your questions
into categories. Does it…
n Make money?
n Enhance customer service?
n Improve market share?
n Save lives?
Clearly, the categories depend on the orga-
nization’s industry, but using pointed, specific
questions will offer a more encompassing view
of what a project can achieve.
Risk assessments may also help organizations
see how much organizational oversight will be
needed for each project. The higher the risk,
the greater potential for failure, and the more
attention needed to confirm all project tasks are
going as planned.
The answer, I’ve learned,
n The organization’s project
n The availability and
transparency of project
n The organizational and
My organization has tried
numerous selection methods
in search of the tools that
work best for the project
Most selection tools can
work, as long as they answer
the right questions. And, no,
“Does this project align with
our organization’s strategic
plan?” is not the only question. You must also ask:
What is the impact?
THE UGLY DUCKLING
Projects that rarely tie to organizational strategy,
such as those linked to compliance efforts or
business continuity issues, are more difficult to
assess. These projects keep business humming
along, and they’re needed to reduce risk, improve
efficiency or replace outdated functions.
While they’re unlikely to be the most attractive or most enticing projects up for discussion,
they’re essential. What I’ve learned at my organization is that the selection process for these
types of projects has to come down to honest
dialogue and accurate information. Without
both, these projects, which don’t dazzle anyone
like an innovation-focused project would, risk
not getting the attention that they deserve.
Whatever method you use for governing
your portfolio, keep in mind another adage:
“Beauty is only skin deep.” The “prettiest” project on the outside may not always provide you
with the greatest value on the inside. PM
Teresa (Terri) Knudson, PMP, is the director of the
enterprise portfolio management office at the
Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA. She can
be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.