Why you need Strategy to make your Project Portfolio work


By Inken Lasar 

Dubai, UAE

Strategy nowadays is a buzz word. Everything is considered “strategic” which is used synonymous with “important”, yet no one really knows how a successful strategy should look. The first pitfall consists in having a common understanding about the term “strategy” and what it should deliver.

The origin of “strategy” dates back as far as 500 BC. It comes from the Greek word “στρατηγία” which depicts the military status of the “troop leader; office of general, commander”. Strategy is considered the conceptual plan of how to achieve a goal – i.e. victory over the adversary – under dubious conditions.

A common source of confusion is about mixing the end goal as such, which is captured in the company’s or individual’s vision (i.e. the “What”) and the strategy to achieve this goal (i.e. the “How”). Many strategies fail because the end goal is not clear and stakeholders are unable to take decisions on what to do and, more importantly, on what NOT to do. While the development of vision and end goal lies normally within the realm of the strategy department, the prioritization of decisions is the typical job of the senior portfolio manager. In immature organizations, however, these decisions are determined by decibel management or politically astute individuals. Very often, this produces a considerable gulf between the stipulated vision and the projects which the company invests in. Hence, inadvertently the senior portfolio manager becomes the leading strategist.

The following is a step-based model that guides you through the “jungle” of strategy development and shows how the Strategy and Portfolio Management Teams should closely co-operate in this process.

Step 1: Adopt a clear vision

The first step in the strategy development process is to get clarity about where you want to go. This goal should be motivational enough in order to allow sufficient room for development of the organization. That is why the typical year-on-year increase in sales numbers by x% or the simple goal “I want to make money” is not sufficient to qualify for a real aspirational goal. What the goal looks like in practice is known as the vision.

This vision needs to be re-validated by the executives at least yearly in the competitive context of that company. This will become the “anchor” for the portfolio manager and it will be used to measure feasibility of the company’s project work.


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About the Author

inken-lasarflag-germanyInken Lasar

Dubai, UAE

Inken Lasar is a business strategy consultant with more than 13 years’ experience in the areas of business and commercial strategy, management consultancy, marketing and portfolio management. She excels in driving business results through the establishment and successful operation of the corporate planning process.  Currently, she is heading the Project Portfolio Management division in a leading telecom player in the GCC.  Inken can be contacted at [email protected].