Manage With a Portfolio Mindset

Managers often deal with organizational work that is separate from each other. With this work in its own silo, it’s sometimes hard to see or manage the possibility of innovation or skills across the enterprise. This article by Ron Ashkenas on Harvard Business Review is decidedly focused on business, but the   tips he brings up can certainly be applied in the realm of the CIO. For instance, Ashkenas explains how innovation can be achieved through thinking of the organization with a portfolio mindset: Companies that continually innovate — such as Google, Intuit, 3M, P&G, and Apple — don’t put all their eggs in one basket. Instead they create portfolios of innovation projects of different types, technologies, and markets, with large numbers of early stage projects and smaller numbers over time. The companies then actively manage these portfolios by allocating resources differentially, periodically killing some projects while doubling down on others. Conversely one of the reasons that companies struggle with innovation is that they don’t manage the portfolio of projects with enough rigor or discipline, allowing poorly-performing efforts to continue while starving those with more potential. So how can this apply to the CIO’s world? Consider how agile the above strategy is and perhaps how strategic it would make IT were it possible: having varying projects active over the same time, changing the focus to meet business need rapidly, and identifying projects that are underperforming. These are all valuable efforts to pursue in any IT organization. Ashkenas also points out a valuable piece of advice for any leader: you’ve got to manage your people, too. This applies to CIOs in regard to resource planning: you can’t simply put your best people on a single project — effective resourcing requires your best performers to be mixed with new or under-experienced employees.  Your projects will move at a better rate collectively and you’ll be able to more easily determine what team members aren’t pulling their own weight.

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