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The balanced portfolio – it starts with your goals

Big Pond

These days, when people think about balancing their portfolio they most commonly worry about their bond to stock ratio but, as a company, your investment portfolio is more likely to be a suite of initiatives.  So, how do you decide which projects fit best in the portfolio so that you maximize your ability to achieve your long-term goals?

In many organizations, a list of initiatives is developed by multiple people across business units based upon both long-term objectives and immediate needs.  Each initiative may seek to achieve a specific objective and, hopefully, these are aligned towards Corporate Goals and have a strong Business Case supporting their need.  What is often missing from this picture is an evaluation across the portfolio to ensure these initiatives will work together to meet your long-term objectives.

Performing Strategic Portfolio Management should provide you with new ways to look at your investment portfolio.  Based upon your Corporate Goals, determine what is important to your organization and then evaluate each project based upon how it will support these goals.  Do you seek to be innovative, reach new customers, launch a new product, support existing products, improve internal efficiency, reduce costs?

A balanced portfolio should allow you to achieve multiple goals.  If you have Corporate Goals that are unsupported by initiatives in your portfolio, how do you plan to achieve them?

Executing Your Strategy – It Doesn’t End with a PowerPoint Deck

Identifying a successful strategy for your product or organization takes a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck.  Far too many organizations act as if the hard work is over once the strategy is developed.  You’ve spent time and energy to identify your strategy and now you must expend the effort to make it happen.

All too often, an organization’s leadership becomes interested in finding the next shiny object / strategic idea before the first is ever realized.  It is assumed that if a team is put together and told to implement the strategy, they should be able to do it on their own.  However, during the execution phase of a key strategic initiative, leadership support is needed more than ever.

A strategy is a guidepost, not a detailed map

It is typically at a high enough level to provide overall direction, but the devil is in the details.  The strategy must be interpreted, revised, and enhanced as you move through implementation.

For example, if the strategy is to outsource a specific back-office process to reduce costs but the vendor’s fees are higher than expected, the team needs to re-evaluate if the cost reduction goal can still be met by outsourcing.  Maybe outsourcing isn’t the best option for cost reduction and the team needs to evaluate other alternatives.

The team implementing the strategy needs the support of leadership to ensure they understand “Why” this is the strategy, not just “What” the strategy is so that they can make the thousands of detailed decisions and adjustments appropriately.

A strategy should evolve as new information becomes available

We often need to make a series of assumptions based upon available information.  During implementation, new information becomes available which clarifies the assumptions and may impact the original decisions that were made.  Initial customer feedback may conflict with market research, a component of cost is higher than expected or new requirements are uncovered.  The team needs the focus of the organization and leadership so that as new information becomes available it can be evaluated and strategic adjustments can be made.

In too many organizations, it is assumed that the “Strategic Thinking” ends once the PowerPoint deck is finalized and that defining a great strategy will inevitably lead to success.  If your strategy is important to your organization you must go beyond the PowerPoint deck and make implementation a priority so that your team can turn its promise into a reality.

-          Adam Schwartz