The CIO’s Guide to Breakthrough Project Portfolio Performance – Michael Hannan, Wolfram Muller, Hilbert Robinson Book Summary

The CIO’s Guide to Breakthrough Project Portfolio Performance – Michael Hannan, Wolfram Muller, Hilbert Robinson | Free Book Summary

The CIO’s Guide to Breakthrough Project Portfolio Performance – Michael Hannan, Wolfram Muller, Hilbert Robinson

A fantastic productivity resource on how to get more done when you’re managing multiple projects

The Premise: Breakthrough Portfolio-Wide Improvements

When we talk about breakthrough portfolio-wide improvements, we mean selecting much higher-impact projects, at least doubling the number of them that your organization can complete, and being able to deliver over 90 percent of them within plan—all within existing resource constraints.

Subscribe to Miniwise Newsletter (Free!)

Miniwise newsletter brings you one great bite-sized idea every day, curated from world's best non-fiction books, articles, podcasts..and more. An entire new world in just 5 minutes!


The Project Portfolio

The three most important objectives for any project portfolio are:

Free book, podcast summaries

  • Selecting the right projects.
  • Maximizing the portfolio’s throughput of project completions.
  • Optimizing the portfolio’s reliability of project completions.


CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration) focuses on improving the underlying processes required for successful IT project delivery.

PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) provides a set of foundational and “generally recognized good practices” that it reinforces via its certifications.

There is significant emphasis on what we would consider “input metrics”—such as repeatable processes and practices—without corresponding outcome metrics to assess whether this repeatability actually helps improve throughput or reliability.

The Theory Of Constraints

The Theory Of Constraints (TOC) says that in any system, there is one function, resource, process area, or process step that constrains the entire system’s ability to deliver on its mission.

Once an organization has identified its system constraint, it knows that any improvement anywhere other than at the constraint will have little or no impact on overall organizational effectiveness. Putting this concept into practice helps provide much-needed clarity on where to focus improvement efforts.

Effective Throughput

One way to think of throughput per constraint unit (T/CU) is in terms of “effective throughput,” which represents what is actually expected to be achieved given what is known about how the system constraint limits throughput.

One simply needs to get defensible estimates of T and CU for each project candidate and fund the highest-scoring ones for which one has a budget and available CUs to support.

Effective ROI

A somewhat improved project-selection metric is called “effective ROI,” as it calculates the actual ROI expected when taking into account the system constraint: throughput per constraint unit per investment (T/CU/I).

At some point, however, most or all of this hidden capacity will get used up, such that any further projects delivering new capabilities into operation will only serve to overload the constraint, degrading throughput. As a result, the only projects that make sense at that point are those that can actually expand capacity within the constraints.

More Projects With Minimum Resources

If you can find a way to get more projects done without adding resources, you will have a greater ability both to expand capacity at the constraint, and to use that additional capacity to drive up throughput.

We can boost highway throughput in a number of ways—here are some common ones:

  • We can keep the road free of impediments and in good working order.
  • We can increase traffic density (e.g., carpooling).
  • We can meter the on-ramps whenever their inflow slows the main flow of traffic.
  • We can recruit underutilized resources elsewhere.
  • We can try and make the cars go faster.

Project Management As Traffic Management

In PPM, we tend to focus mostly on trying to make the cars go faster—even when the highway is all jammed up, sometimes causing accidents and usually frustrating everyone on the highway who can’t get where they want to go. We also tend to jump right to trying to add a lane or two—which is rarely quick, easy, or inexpensive, if it’s a feasible option at all.

While speed is important and adding capacity may well be in order, let’s start by getting traffic flowing.

Project Staggering

For CIOs, IT Project Portfolio Managers, and other senior executives looking for a more practical, hybrid approach for improving the throughput of project completions, project staggering is the first step.

It is important to note that task switching is slowing us down a lot—by a whopping 40 percent, according to many studies. If all we do is stagger our projects and execute them with a single-task focus, we can more than double portfolio throughput.

Too Much Bloat

It turns out that this is higher than normal, but not by much—seasoned process engineers will tell you that the typical business process contains 70 to 90 percent bloat. The challenge is to devote time, energy, and the right talent to improving processes before software-enabling them.

By combining project staggered execution, single-task execution, and the elimination of task- and sprint-level commitments, we see that we can now more than triple portfolio throughput—and none of these techniques is complex or difficult to learn and apply.

Get the book!

Sign Up for nextbigwhat newsletter

The smartest newsletter, partly written by AI.

Download, the short news app for busy professionals