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  • Writer's pictureBill Holmes

Standing up the Portfolio Management Office (PfMO) Part 8 – Measures (Part 1)

Project, Program and Portfolio Management meme
There is often resistance to establishing measures withing the PfMO

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Peter Drucker

“The first rule of management is delegation. Don't try and do everything yourself because you can't.” Anthea Turner

Developing measures will most likely be one of the easiest activities in standing up the PfMO from a technical perspective, but one of the most difficult politically. And make no mistake, the politics will be extraordinarily challenging!

The basis of the PfMO’s measures should be the triple constraints.

Are you surprised? So much of the magic of project management comes from the triple constraints.

Here is the broad framework for developing the measures within the PfMO. For the sake of discussion, let’s assume the strategic priority that this portfolio is aligned to is “Have a robust online retail presence”. That is certainly a reasonable strategic priority. Now let’s assume that one of the channels of work in this portfolio is to amass a large online following on social media.

You ask the leaders responsible for this work stream these three simple questions. What is the work you are doing? How much money do you need to do it? What does your schedule look like?

In any other situation, these would be reasonable questions. Here you will likely get push back. How can they possibly know how they are going to amass a large online following until they get started? Easy answer – by research. Have you ever heard of Twitter? Instagram? Snap chat? Facebook? You need a plan. Dare I say a project plan. A plan that defines (even if in broad terms) the scope of the work.

One of the most common mistakes I see when establishing the scope is to include outcome-based measures as part of the scope description. People want to focus on the proposed outcomes of the work, not the work itself. The scope can’t include to “have 1 million social media followers” because that would be an outcome of the work that was done. If you include outcome-based measures in you scope, you can't measure progress by established project management tools and techniques, resulting in significant governance issues and people not being held accountable.

For this example, you could define "scope" as establishing a robust web site that utilizes the best in class Search Engine Optimization techniques. That web site will be linked to social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snap chat. Furthermore, a team of content providers will be established to provide new, interesting and relevant content according to a set schedule.

How can you be certain that this will meet the strategic goal of amassing a large online following?

Because there is a science behind all this! If you have interesting, relevant and frequent content that is well executed and fed through good infrastructure, you will gain followers.

But what if you don’t? The answer is a binary. Either you didn’t executive something properly, or this is a flawed strategic goal for your business. That is why we use an iterative process. If something doesn’t work, you try something else.

Remember, these are tactical measures. The PfMO ensures that the promised scope for this particular work stream is delivered. The effectiveness in achieving the strategic priority is measured somewhere else.

Next – Cost and Schedule


I often wonder if in 200 or 300 years people will look back on our current civilization and wonder why we turned our back on the Enlightenment. That period when educated people looked at what occurred through history and applied reasoning and common sense to answer the questions of the day. Take climate change. Is the climate changing? Of course! The North American Great Lakes were made by massive glaciers covering most of the continent, and there are fossils in Antarctica that shows a tropical climate. Much more recently, the “Little Ice Age” caused abnormally lower temperatures from the 16th to the 19th century. Now it is getting warmer. If you question the cause, you aren’t a “denier”, you are just questioning the cause. Isn’t critical thinking as opposed to rigid dogma the whole point of the Enlightenment?


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