The latest thoughts and opinion from APM

Portfolio leadership and the chief projects officer

Is it perhaps because the most recent and influential publication on portfolio management came out of the OGC stable, moving upstairs from PRINCE2 and MSP, that there seems to be a focus on process and support office functions?

Having been responsible for the portfolio of several organisations, and advised on a few more, the most important factor to me is leadership, particularly at this ‘directing’ level.  After all, in the Governance SIG we always asserted that the Board, perhaps via its nominee, is accountable for the portfolio of investment projects. Who appears to be accountable for the portfolio in your organisation?

Although many organisations now have a CEO, CIO, CTO and COO, and some even a chief engineer, few to my knowledge have a CPO, as in a chief projects officer, with responsibility for oversight of their investment portfolio.  This task of ‘doing the right projects’ often falls to a CAPEX (capital expenditure) committee, usually reviewing projects as they arise rather than looking across the portfolio.  How does your organisation select the right portfolio of projects?

But what of responsibility for capacity, capability and standards across project delivery. Who is responsible for this, i.e. continuous improvement of portfolio delivery, in your organisation?  Do you do the right projects right? (Every time, as the maxim goes).

Fortunately, more organisations are appointing heads of capability to set policy and to manage these issues.  Many of APM’s corporate members and most major government departments now have one and we are starting to see a step change in professionalism.  Career development is going beyond knowledge of process to encompass development and assessment of competence, e.g. via APM’s Registered Project Professional (RPP) certification.  Who in your organisation is responsible for the career path of your project professionals?  Do you have a route to be the next (first?)  chief projects officer?

Competence frameworks in use, including the APM’s, consider the behavioural aspects, as well as those for techniques and context.  Just as well.  To quote Chris McLean, head of Fujitsu Project and Programme Academy, from his letter to Project  in June 2011, ‘The business view from ‘C level’ remains that soft skills and emotional intelligence can be the difference between success and failure’.  More importantly, assessment for RPP asks about leadership of others in the competences (with the emphasis on lead rather than manage, or even supervise). Where is the leadership in your projects function?

The Women in Project Management SIG ran their conference in June with the theme ‘Re-thinking projects leadership’.  I spoke on evolution of leadership theory, from schools of trait to 'Emotional Intelligence' (EI), and discussed the most appropriate styles for different contexts in the project environment.  Though the dissonant styles (i.e. Authoritative and Pacesetting) have their place in turn-around situations, the resonant styles (visionary, coaching, affinitive and democratic) seem more suited to creating and building capability and consensus.  Of these leadership styles, which one do you think is most appropriate for a future chief projects officer in your organisation?  Do you know how to adopt and develop this style?