Unlocking Business Agility by aligning strategy to execution
August 26th, 2020

“If you want flow, stop the flooding”Sally Elatta.

Do you recognise any of these traits in your organisation:

  • Is business sustainability and strategic execution of key concern to you?
  • Is the possibility of project delivery failure threatening your ability to compete or survive? 
  • Do you know if the most valuable initiatives are top priority for implementation??
  • Are you spending your money and effort on the right things?
  • Do you wonder what is keeping your workforce so busy?
  • Is change demand exceeding your ability to supply?
  • Are you innovating in response to market pressures, but failing in execution? 

If you answered yes to any of the above, then it may be time to consider revisiting your portfolio management approach. The reality is that these challenges have existed or may exist regardless of whether you are applying Agile ways of working or a more traditional approach. What we have found is that as organisations are scaling agility in their delivery teams, these challenges are becoming more visible and prevalent and in the journey to Business Agility Maturity, Lean Portfolio Management is the next step to unlocking real Business Agility. 

What is Lean Portfolio Management (LPM)?

Lean Portfolio Management is designed to create an intake system for how Enterprise Portfolio work flows to teams, how it will be governed and most importantly, how it will align from strategy to execution. Both models within Enterprise Business Agility (AgilityHealth) and Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®) apply the same basic patterns and practices to enable Lean Portfolio management. This focus on strategic intent and alignment, Quarterly demand and capacity management, Agile portfolio operations and Funding and governance. 

Why LPM? 

Traditional portfolio management approaches were not designed for the global economy, nor for the impact of fast-paced disruption. The ability to adapt to change through enterprise strategic agility may provide you with a competitive advantage. This has increased the pressure on enterprise to work faster, deliver more value and adapt whilst dealing with massive uncertainty and disruption (COVID-19 anyone?)

The challenges with traditional approaches include:

  • delivering value whilst being organised in silos with temporary project teams
  • big upfront, top down, annual planning, and budgeting
  • funding projects and project-cost accounting delays
  • centralised, unlimited work in-take and overload
  • overly detailed business cases based on speculative ROI, and
  • phased gate governance

Getting Started – what are the considerations within the Lean Portfolio Management toolbox?

  • Align the organisation on clear strategic themes, imperatives and objectives across the levels that meet the needs of the customer. 
  • Establish a balanced portfolio leadership team that is steering the definition, assessing the benefits of investing in ideas.
  • Define and visualise the portfolios and map the most important value streams clearly, and make them visible.
  • Establish an operating model that demonstrates the structural flexibility required to maintain and sustain your current business offerings, whilst exploring those essential for growth.
  • Establish the guardrails to support and govern the initiatives that you have prioritised for investment.
  • Create visibility of the state, size, and sequencing of important portfolio initiatives in progress or next up through a Portfolio Kanban system.
  • Gear for continuous innovation and experimentation for initiatives that appear most valuable and promising.
  • Enable the portfolio Product / Value Management Office (P/VMO) for agile operations and governance.
  • Measure the right set of metrics across the portfolio ensuring that there is continuous improvement built into the system.
  • Evaluate the contracting approach for services and suppliers and move toward the managed investment contract that provides the flexibility and protection for agile organisation.

The benefits

  • Removal of hand-offs between silos that inhibit the flow of value
  • Take the most important work to the people for implementation leveraging long lived teams whilst the present value
  • Empower leaders and teams with the content authority to flex scope to meet desired business goals and outcomes, removing cost centre and project-accounting delays
  • Ultimately, allowing the organisation to achieve desired business results

Let’s be clear, LPM cannot simply be installed. Target problems that are communicated by executives, perform a competency or business agility assessment, and target these elements of LPM. 

At IQbusiness, we have built a model that will apply the best pattern practices from industry including the AgilityHealth Enterprise Business Agility model, the LPM core competencies of SAFe® as well as some proven traditional best practices. IQbusiness can support your organisation on the journey of Business Agility through our Lean Portfolio Management Accelerator that includes discovering and assessing your current maturity, co-creating a roadmap for implementation, creating aligned language and terminology through training (e.g.) The SAFe Lean Portfolio Management training, consulting services as well as the provision of a set of practical toolkits and playbooks.

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