The missing piece of Lean Portfolio Management

I am often asked how to do Lean Portfolio Management. Let’s consider what’s needed to do this effectively. The real issue is when different programs require the same limited capabilities. How do you decide which one is more important? Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF) is commonly used. But ‘business value’, a¬† key component of WSJF, means different things to different groups.

How can we decide what the business value is when people in different divisions have different views? This is where business leadership is needed: an explicit statement of what value the company wants from its investments. If multiple portfolios are present then an explicit statement of what we’re attempting to accomplish is critically needed.

Another essential aspect is what to do WSJF on. Cost of Delay needs to be on something that can actually provide value. Very often individual features are too small to do that. But doing WSJF on epics is not the right answer either. Epics are too large and virtually always have some subset of functionality that can be delivered and realize value. CoD should be on these.

We call this subset a Minimum Business Increment (or a Minimum Business Epic for those doing SAFe). These MBIs or MBEs must be tied back to the business value to be realized.

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