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


I was sitting in a KFC eating lunch, reading the slogans muraled on the wall.  This particular KFC is supposedly the first KFC in America.  Yes, it's in Utah.  Along with some chicken legs and a drink, you can enjoy a small exhibit showing Colonel Sander's original briefcase, white suite, shoes, etc.

One mural read, "Somehow we'll do it, by the principles of thrift, honor, integrity, and charity."

I thought for a moment.  Some of the financial service companies I've worked with would fail if they valued charity.  Then I thought about how trust is a wonderful interpersonal dynamic, but the companies I've worked with in the medical field allow no latitude for trust.  Everything must be written down and authorized by a credentialed physician.  Walk into a pharmacy and you'll need a signature on piece of paper to get a prescription filled.

Hmmm, just like charity is an anti-value in the financial services industry, trust is an anti-value in the medical industry.

I spent the day thinking about this new concept.  I owe the title of 'Anti-Value' to the Discovery-Channel documentary about Anti-Matter I was watching the night before.  I  guess I'm coining the phrase here, but it makes a lot of sense to me.  Normally, a value is something our society charish's, yet in a particular situation, or line of business--it becomes the wrong thing to do.

I started seeing how this concept can be applied all over to help clarify the decision making process.

I remembered taking third place instead of second in a Maryland school-district programming competition in high school because I let the guy from our rival high school cut in line in front of me to turn in his test.  When the results were announced we had both scored the same grade, but because he handed his paper in first, he won second place and I won third. (I beat him in the State programming competition the following month.)

I've never forgotten this experience, and actually now that I think about it, offering your competitor any leeway is an anti-value.

Some business meetings I've been involved in are a collage of participants cutting other participants off mid-sentence to make their point known.  Rude? Yes.  But, in fact, politeness may be considered an anti-value in these types of situations.

I think the concept is fascinating.  Just as a good value system should be in place to help an organization, department, team, or individual govern their decisions, an anti-value system can compliment a value-system by providing additional clarity for the decision making process.

One example of this is the U.S. government's policy on dealing with terrorists.  The government values having a "no negotiating with terrorists" policy.  As a disincentive to future terrorism, they have an additional policy to provide or produce exactly the opposite of what the terrorists are demanding.  The notion--to give them what they want--really becomes an anti-value, and is an additional input to the decision-making process.  So, in fact, their policy is set by values, and anti-values.

I hope you find this concept as fascinating as I do.  It was the best $7.79 I've spent on lunch in a while.

Mike J. 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

3 Dimensional Value Systems

What is a value system?

As of late, corporations have discovered that mission-statements are only somewhat helpful in providing direction to a company.  Being strategic in nature, they don't provide enough detail to govern tactical decisions made by the corporate employees on a daily basis.

To answer this need, value-statements, and value-systems have come into vogue.  Many companies have value-statements to underscore their mission statements.

Just as some mission statements are more effective than others, some value-systems are more effective than others.

The simple approach to establishing corporate, department, or team values is to get everyone together in a room and have them suggest values the team should adopt.  Voting happens, and the group committs to their agree-upon values.

After one of these sessions, the group might come up with a list like:

  • respect

  • trust

  • excellance

  • high performance

This list is a start, but only representative of a one-dimentional value system.  These values, by themselves, realy don't project any context or weight.

A more effective approach would be a two-dimensional value system.  A two dimensional value-system provides a greater context fabric.  For example, you could say your group values:

  • respect over cynicism

  • trust over hope

  • excellence over heroics

  • high-performance over sub-optimization

These comparison value statements proved direction and context.  This represents a two-dimensional value system, and is more effective that a simple list of values.

A three-dimensional value system is a prioritized list of these comparison statements.  For example, you could say your group values these statements in this order:

  1. trust over hope

  2. excellence over heroics

  3. high-performance over sub-optimization

  4. respect over cynicism

This list shows that trust is the highest factor in inter-departmental dynamics.  It shows that excellence is more important than high-performance (so no cutting corners!), and that the group values trust, excellence, and high-performance more than respect.

Every group will have their own values and differences in priorioties, but putting a three-dimensional value-system in place with your team is a great step forward in building functional team cohesion.

Once in place, a reward-systems can be built around your value system to promote it' ectivness.

Mike J Berry

Book Review: Winning

Jack Welch, together with is wife Suzy, have a Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestseller with their book titled Winning.

Following Jack Welch's direct, no-holds-barred style, he presents quite plainly the road-map to successful management.

He talks about constructing corporate values and effective mission statements.  He talks about the importance of candor, respect, and effective reward-systems.  He continues with topics on Crisis Management, Change, Strategy, Budgeting, People Management, and finally Work-Life Balance.

This book is full of take-aways and insight.  It's a real wonder to be able to take decades of Jack Welch's experiences and have them condensed into a single book.  If you haven't read this book, you should.  Soon.

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: Value Innovation Portfolio Management

I Just finished reading Value Innovation Portfolio Management: Achieving Double-digit Growth Through Customer Value, by Sheila Mello, Wayne Mackey, Ronald Lasser, and Richard Tait.

This book discusses implementing corporate project portfolio management by focusing on insight gained from your customers as to what they value.  I like this because I agree with their premise.  They call it the VIP approach to Portfolio Management.

This group of authors is a consultancy which has developed a methodology for gathering customer insight and applying it to their clients organizations strategy plans.
One novel offering that suggest is that while most of the industry is using bubble-charts to express strategy dynamics, they suggest using a radar-chart instead because it compares more than three axis.

The book goes on to discuss various portfolio "models" for understanding customer value in product development including Grounded, Relevant, Intentional, Optimized, Measured, Supported, Actionable, Fortified, Dynamic, and  Sustainable models.
I enjoyed reading the book and found the most valuable part of it to be their model of gaining customer insight.
Mike J