An Optimized Portfolio “Pivots” Quickly to Respond to Change

An Optimized Portfolio “Pivots” Quickly to Respond to Change

Agile portfolios are flexible and can respond quickly to changes in business needs. This ability to change directions quickly is referred to as the “pivot”. (“Pivoting” is also a basketball term. It refers to planting your foot (the pivot foot) and then quickly changing directions.)

How quickly could your organization react if there was a sudden change in your business direction? What you should do is to start approving new projects that support the new direction. How do you staff these new projects? One way is to steal resources from other projects to work on the new priorities. This stretches out the current projects but it allows you to start the new ones. You could also cancel projects to free up resources, but this has the disadvantage of losing the business benefits of the projects that are stopped.

The better approach is to maintain an active portfolio of projects that is staffed optimally to start and finish in as short a timeframe as possible. This may seem obvious but most portfolios have too many projects in-progress. This results in projects being resource constrained. Resource constrained means that a three-month project might take six months, and a five-month project takes ten months. Since projects are not ending frequently, sponsors don’t want to wait until resources are available. Instead they want their projects to start now. However, starting projects by stealing resources from other projects makes all the projects stretch out even further.

Optimizing the staffing in a portfolio starts with realizing one key point – you don’t obtain business benefit when a project starts – but when it is completed.

This is an important concept and I will repeat it again. The business benefit derived from projects is not based on when the project starts – but when it ends. This means you should determine which projects are most important (prioritization) and then staff the highest priority projects so that they complete as quickly as possible. Having too many active projects delays the completion of the most important projects since they are sharing resources with less important ones.

This brings us back full circle. Optimizing project staffing allows projects to complete more quickly. Having projects that are ending within any given timeframe allows you to “pivot” quickly. As new priorities arise, the new projects can start quickly because there are always current projects ending and resources available.