Passing Your PfMP Board Review

The PfMP Exam is for senior executives who have reached a point in their career where they are part of the council within an organization that decides which projects get funded next. The PfMP is short for Portfolio Management Professional, and is a certification offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI).

Once you've met the criterial for experience and training, you must submit an application detailing your experience, to be reviews by a board of existing PfMP holders at PMI.  This is a challenging process and often applications are rejected.

The rejection letter appears to be somewhat vague, and is actually a standard form-letter. Something a bit confusing is that because it is a rejection form-letter, the reasoning given in it is not always accurate.

What the board is looking for are details of your portfolio (size, types of outcomes, projects, programs), and also what you did to establish the PfMP process, if it did not already exist, and what you do to govern it.  How often you mmet with the portfolio committee, etc.

Portfolio Management is critical within a company because organizations grow through projects.  Project spending actually sets the strategy for a company.




Book Review: Crossing the Chasm

I've heard people make references to Geoffrey A. Moore's Crossing the CHASM book for several years now but had't read it until this past week.

Moore's book is a must-read for any IT company trying to launch a new product.  Although the concepts in the book are not novel (so admit's Moore) the book brings a vocabulary and metaphoric dictionary to the readers allowing marketing groups, investors, and techies alike to communicate about the playing field in a proactive manner.

Moore discusses the importance of delivering continuous innovation, instead if discontinuous innovation.  Our new innovations need to help people do what they are already doing better, and not force them to abruptly change something that kinda works for something that they are not sure about that may possibly work better.

Moore introduces the Technology Adoption LifeCycle, complete with five categories of market segments.  He discusses how to market in succession to each group:

  1. Innovators

  2. Early Adopters

  3. Early Majority

  4. Late Majority

  5. Laggards

Finally, Moore introduces some business concepts you may have heard of by now, like the bowling alley, the tornado, and the fault line.

If you haven't heard of these, then you need to get reading!

Mi Berry

Great Mission Statements

Jack Welch, in his book, Winning, talks about how to create great mission statements.

He says most mission statements are dull, uninspired, and even unhelpful.  Most groups write their mission statement to describe only what they are in business to do.  While this is not wrong, it creates a whole bunch of mission statements that all look the same among competitors, and are not really valuable.

Welch suggests that a good mission statement not only describes what the company is in business to do, but how they are going to succeed at it.

For example, "We are going to sell lots of chickens," is not as effective as "we are going to sell lots of chickens by growing the largest free-range chickens and advertising their value to the industry."

Following his logic, I did some research and found some interesting comparisons:

Ford Motor Company in Europe's mission statement (couldn't find the U.S. mission statement anywhere online) is:

"Our Mission: we are a global, diverse family with a proud heritage, passionately committed to providing outstanding products and services."

OK, so Ford's mission is noble, but there is no explanation as to how they will succeed at their mission.  Compare this to Toyota's mission statement:

"To sustain profitable growth by providing the best customer experience and dealer support."

Toyota's mission statement expresses their intention to make money by providing the best customer experience and dealer support.

Indeed, their mission statement tells what they are doing and how they will succeed.  This is an example of an effective mission statement.

There is a business principle at hand here:  Ambiguity is the enemy to progress.  It's nice Ford wants to provide outstanding products and services, but there is no formula or direction given in their mission statement as to how they plan to do this.

Toyota states it will succeed by providing the best customer experience and dealer support.   Are they succeeding at this?

In 2007, Toyota became the largest seller of cars in America.  As customers, we vote with our money.  It seems then,  that they are providing the best customer experience, and are fulfilling their mission statement.

On a lighter note, Enron's mission statement is/was:

"Respect, Integrity, Communication and Excellence."

Mike J y

Book Review: Reinventing Strategy

I just finished reading Willie Pietersen's book, Reinventing Strategy: Using Strategic Learning to Create and Sustain Breakthrough Performance.

Pietersen first sets the stage for the rest of the book by underscoring the need for organizations to be adaptable.  He paraphrases Charles Darwin, concluding that is it not the largest, the strongest, or even the most intelligent of species that survive, but the most adaptable to change.  He explains that corporations need to start thinking beyond doing things right, to thinking about doing the right things.

He explains that vision is different from insight.  Vision is what the leader has in mind for the group.  Insight is what the group learns about their customers needs, through studying their customers.

Pietersen describes a four-step process he calls the "Strategic Learning Process:"

  1. Situation Analysis (Learn)

  2. Strategic Choices (Focus)

  3. Align the Organization (Align)

  4. Implement and Experiment (Execute)

This process provides the basic toolset for gaining insight, and turning that into vision.  Continuous learning is essential, Pietersen says, and he quotes Arie de Geus's observation that a company's "ability to learn faster than competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage" they have.

He continues, "Nature, in effect, suffers from two massive learning disabilities.  When nature fails, it doesn't know why; and when it succeeds, it doesn't know why...therefore strategic learning is at the heart of successful adaptation"

Pieterson's goes on to offer a formula for initiating change.  His formula is:

D x V x P > C

D = Dissatisfaction with Current State
V = Clear Vision for Change
P = Process for Getting it Done
C = Cost of Change

His formula suggests that if D,V, or P are not strong enough to collectively overcome C, change will not occur.

Pieterson concludes his book by suggesting Strategic Learning can be applied to our personal lives to enable personal growth.  Appling it to such topics as Emotional Intelligence, and Personal Renewal, the Strategic Learning process can help us throughtout our life.

Mike J Berry

Book Review: Optimizing Corporate Portfolio Management - Part 2

I finished reading Optimizing Corporate Portfolio Management: Aligning Investment Proposals with Organizational Strategy, by Anad Sanwal.  I mentioned in a previous post that this book's forward was written by Gary L. Crittenden, CFO of CitiCorp, and a friend of mine.

In his detailing of the evolution of Corporate Portfolio Management at American Express, Sanwal makes a great case for the need for CPM in any corporation.

He explains how real strategy is linked to investment, and how investment is really any discretionary income a corporation spends.

He presents a four-step process for implementing CPM, and in the latter part of the book, gives case studies from many large U.S. organizations that have successfully implemented CPM.

I found this book an excellent read, and a must for anyone studying the relatively new disipline of Corporate Portfolio Management.

Mike J Berry

Book Review: Optimizing Corporate Portfolio Management - Part 1

I just bought a new book on Portfolio Management called Optimizing Corporate Portfolio Management: Aligning Investment Proposals with Organizational Strategy, by Anand Sanwal (Wiley Press). To my amazement, the forward commentary is by Gary Crittenden, a long-time friend of mine. Gary and I lived near each other in Munich, Germany years ago. I believe my girlfriend at the time was a nanny for his kids. He led a group of us on a 5 day bicycle trek across Austria. Amazing experience. We went skiing together often in Der Schweitz.

Gary worked for Bain at the time, and later was the VP of American Express, and now has the CFO chair at CitiBank. (If your reading this, Gary, Here's a big 'Hello!') I'm eager to read the book because it details the challenges, solutions, and results American Express faced as it went through a Portfolio Management Revolution. Internally, they call the process Investment Optimization (IO), but it is known throughout the industry as Corporate Portfolio Management (CPM). This process scales very well to the software industry, except that only about 50% of all software companies in America have any kind of Portfolio Management process. Of those, few target Customer Value as the main driver for success. So there is a lot of work to be done in the software development industry in this area.

Mike J Berry