Agile Portfolio Management

If goals and activities transcend the project level you can use Agile Portfolio Management to manage them. Agile Portfolio Management is the way to work in an agile and flexible way with a directorate, department or at the program level.

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Want to know more about Agile Portfolio Management?

What is Portfolio Management?

We’ve all been there. The never ending to do list. The energy draining two hour meeting without anything concrete to show for it. Finding out your colleague is working on the exact same issue as you are and has that piece of information you have been looking for for a month. And, quite possibly, worst of all: having no idea what the purpose is of what you are working on. The key question is: how can we cooperate in a pleasant, energetic way and avoid the situations above? Agile Portfolio Management can support you in this.

Organize Agile has developed a unique form of Agile Portfolio Management for Teams (APM). It uses three striking concentric circles for visual management but there is much more to this way of working than that. APM is a way of working that allows teams to:

  • Gain insight into common goals and actions
  • Connect people, ambitions and activities
  • Focus, and prioritize what is truly important
  • Decide on strategic direction, make rapid decisions an execute together

For whom is Agile Portfolio Management?

APM is especially well suited to a directorate, or department, stable teams and teams who have a program to manage. Several hundreds of teams in the Netherlands and elsewhere are successfully using Agile Portfolio Management.

Teams in several different sectors and places in organizations are happily and successfully applying APM. Some examples include:

  • Staff teams (HR, Communication, Marketing)
  • Leadership Teams
  • Innovation teams
  • Business unit controllers
  • Public sector task oriented teams
  • Organizational development programs

What these teams have in common is that they are constantly aware of their joint priorities, they can make connections and are aware what is happening in their field. The teams grows into an agile team that achieves more together.

The Agile Portfolio Management Canvas

An essential tool when using APM is the Agile Portfolio Management Canvas. It is over two meters wide and is a distinguishing feature in organizations. It provides an instant overview of all team ambitions and initiatives the team is undertaking to achieve them. Any impediments, milestones and successes are also immediately visible. This enables the team to have a disciplined conversation about their priorities and their ‘why’s’. In this way the team constantly remains focused on what has priority and is most likely to yield the desired results. The team becomes agile.

Above and below the waterline

A common pitfall when using visual management based ways of working is to only focus on what is visible and on the surface. It becomes more about post-its than having a significant conversation. We prevent this by always minding the team undercurrent when working with APM. Relations, assumptions, and also affect team effectiveness so it is just as important to address these. Therefore team development is always part of APM. The facilitator and coach help to surface tensions, build trust and improve communication.

The team heartbeat: the Agile Portfolio meet-ups

After building up their portfolio the team meets at regular intervals to determine the current status and desired direction. The meet-ups take place weekly or bi-weekly. This cadence gives the team a steady heartbeat. Apart from discussing priorities and direction teams also these meet-ups to give share knowledge and reflect on team- and personal development. The meet-ups replace existing meetings. On top of this meet-ups provide an excellent opportunity to involve stakeholders in the work and ambitions of the team.

Clearly defined roles: key success factor to Agile Portfolio Management

APM helps team members focus their key ambitions and make strategic and tactical choices ever more effectively. The internal facilitator has a key role: he or she ensures the process runs smoothly, guards the time box, asks clarifying questions, and coaches the team. When starting out with Agile Portfolio Management we train this facilitator on the job. Another key factor is the role of program owner who can make decisions about the direction the team should go in. This role requires transparency and insight into stakeholders and context. Coaching this role is always part of Agile Portfolio Management.

Agile Portfolio Management for multiple teams: SNAP

Many organizations that have worked with Agile Portfolio Management find themselves in the situation that they want to make multiple APM teams work in parallel. This creates a scaling issue. How can we match Portfolio’s to teams and manage dependencies? To tackle this Organize Agile has developed SNAP: Scaled Network Agile Portfolio.

Agile Portfolio Management has helped us get a better overview and insight into our activities. This allows us to jointly prioritize and focus on achieving our desired results.

How to get started with Agile Portfolio Management?

Getting started with Agile Portfolio Management is always preceded by an intake. In this intake we will discuss the conditions that need to be in place for the APM team to hit the ground running. We consider team composition, the Portfolio’s deadline, and meeting cadence. The next step is to get hands on with the team. We compose joint ambitions and map the corresponding projects and priorities. We clarify responsibilities and practice how to work with the Portfolio. This is followed by coaching on the job in the regular meeting heartbeat.