Pivotal Resources talks to leaders all the time about their efforts to change or improve their businesses, and while they all seem sincere about wanting to do the right thing, it’s clear many are struggling. For example, the senior vice president of operations for one of our clients, a leading technology company, once remarked in exasperation to a group of his colleagues: “We’ve got 10,000 change projects going on out there, but no one knows what they are.”
While the numbers may vary, I hear similar comments from many leaders. To achieve balance and flexibility, the Change Leader needs to adopt a common sense portfolio management approach to guiding change: think of your efforts as an investment you are responsible for managing and optimizing. This portfolio approach will be a theme connecting many of the skills of Change Leadership as it applies to driving effective change.
Among the features/benefits of a portfolio approach:
- Improved awareness of your investments. As the “10,000 projects” comment indicates, there’s rarely any clear picture of exactly what’s being invested and how. There are new product efforts, IT initiatives, departmental projects, etc., but little collective information on the complete portfolio. Even at a department or smaller unit level, senior leaders often are unable to describe what the full slate of activities/investments is.
- Better “asset allocation.” Goals, diversification, risk, return are all concepts anyone with a retirement account is likely to be familiar with. Changes in investments tend to be made based on narrower criteria and not in terms of fit for the entire portfolio (which is understandable if the various investments are not tracked).
- Performance tracking and rebalancing. Not every investment is a winner. Different types require different levels of scrutiny. As needs change, your allocation may need to be reevaluated. All these analogies apply to your effort to keep your organization effective, profitable, and competitive. You probably don’t want to behave like a day trader, but a leader needs to be an active shepherd of his or her investments and to understand how they fit into the larger organizational portfolio.
The vision of the portfolio management approach we are suggesting—which will take time to build and refine—is to more effectively connect your “strategic goals” and your “project list” to a cohesive investment strategy leading to greater returns and fewer losses for your business.