A Powerful Project Portfolio Progress Report

A Powerful Project Portfolio Progress Report

A Powerful Project Portfolio Progress Report

Executives as well as all project portfolio sponsors need to make critical decisions. They need indeed real-time forward-looking visibility on their strategic initiative or project portfolio status. Yet, consistency across their organization in reporting this status is important.

So, here is the example of a progress report form that I like most.

Who uses this report? Primarily the executive committee members, the portfolio sponsor, the portfolio manager, each portfolio component accountable.

A PMO (here a Portfolio Management Officer) makes the portfolio component leaders update, report, and explain their component status. They have also the opportunity to ask for help (a key decision, additional resources, a scope change…) when they need this help.

The figure below shows such a report.

Each line tells:

  • An explicit strategic initiative title
  • The name of an accountable
  • A forward-looking traffic light reporting on progress expected at completion
  • A forward-looking traffic light reporting on impact expected at completion
  • A phrase telling What it is Important to do Now (the “WIN”) to guaranty that the expectations will be met.

Here is a great example of a project title: “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth” pronounced by President Kennedy on May 25, 1961.

The Traffic Lights and Their Meaning

For each traffic light, the initiative accountable (with the advice of the PMO) evaluates two performances:

  • The Year-to-Date performance (are we on target now?) Yes-No
  • The Reforecast performance (will we be on target at the end of the project?) Yes-No

The answers to these questions drive the choice of the traffic light color.

  • Green means that we meet or we will meet the target, and that we have solid reasons justifying our level of confidence.
  • Yellow means that we have not met yet or will not meet the target, but that it will be met, and we have no need for special management attention.
  • Red means that progress or impact does not satisfy plan and requires special attention from management on difficulties to solve. The project team needs help.

The PMO supports the data / color updates by the project accountable. It makes sure to detect and fight a famous bias. This bias is the watermellon effect: the outside is green while the hidden inside is red. The PMO also works with the portfolio steering committee and the executive team to make sure that it is OK to present a “red” traffic light. It is OK because “red” does not mean “you are faulty”, but “I need help to succeed”.

The Most Important Information For Discussion Is the WIN*

WIN* means here: What it is Important to do Now.

This is a forward-looking statement established by each portfolio component owner. It tells what it needs to make the component successful and the benefits expected attained. Comments are mandatory for each yellow or red traffic lights.

If the initiative accountable writes it in black, there is no special need nor decision expected from the executive committee.

If the initiative accountable writes it in red, there is a need for help from the executive committee. It requires a decision and an action.

To Your Continued Success


Philippe Husser

Advancing Transformations in a Complex World

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