Do you have a portfolio? If you usually have several programmes running at the same time, or even just several concurrent projects, you have a change portfolio. How well you manage it is a different question.

It is not uncommon to hear comments like, ‘We don’t need MoP because we use MSP’. Or questions such as, ‘What can MoP give us that MSP doesn’t?’

This suggests to me a lack of understanding of the purpose of each approach and the benefits of adopting MoP, or perhaps an immaturity in the implementation of MSP and not yet having realized that there is still something missing.

MoP is a top down approach to the management of the totality of change across an entire organisation to achieve its strategic objectives. Whereas, MSP, though strategically aligned, is a means to manage a particular aspect of transformational business change. The portfolio comprises all the organisation’s programmes and projects but any one programme manages only those projects contributing towards its vision or end-goal.

A key difference between a portfolio and programme is that a portfolio is a permanent structure, though its change initiatives come and go over time, whilst a programme is a temporary organization structure which exists only until it achieves its vision or must close prematurely.

A common misconception is that the introduction of MoP requires a high level of maturity of programme and/or project management. MoP can have a positive impact even when there is no well-established approach to programme and project management.

MoP can/should drive improvements to an organisations PPPM capability. A portfolio is often the best means to do this as it has organisation wide implications.

If I were faced with the choice of which to tackle first, MoP or MSP, I would opt for MoP in a simple form as this would give me an oversight and control of the total investment in change across my whole organization.

MoP does not have to be complex, it can be simplified. It is not the theory or the course that is difficult but doing it can be. It needs the commitment of senior executives who support and buy in to the process. Commonly the cause of failure of portfolios, programmes and projects is the lack of quality leadership and decision making not the method or the tool.

Let’s squash some common myths and consider some of the beneficial features of MoP.

MoP is NOT



Just another
process, system or overhead

Is an approach to
support management board decision-making and organizational governance

Makes decision
making more transparent


A group of
‘project people’ who sit in isolation to produce a plan

Is a decision
support function which coordinates its activities with BAU


Programme or
project management on a larger scale

Has a focus on
doing the right things i.e. choosing the initiatives which will realize
benefits that contribute to agreed strategic objectives


Just reporting

Creates a
transparent evidence based environment


A rigid
bureaucratic constraint on management decision making

Is a collection of
flexible activities to enable more effective and informed decision making


Just a list of
existing programmes and projects

Provides value
from the actions taken as a result of knowing what programmes and projects


A bureaucratic
process that prevents or stops programmes or projects for no good reason

Provides a review
of the continued viability and business value of initiatives

Ensures the
portfolio reflects the best use of resources in the context of strategic


So, what does that mean for your organization?

MoP could help your organization:

  • Choose more of the ‘right’ programmes and projects including removing redundant or duplicate initiatives, resulting in greater financial benefits and measurable contributions to strategic objectives
  • Implement programmes and projects more effectively by managing dependencies and constraints including resources and skills
  • Make more efficient use of resources
  • Realize greater benefits
  • Enhance transparency, accountability and corporate governance
  • Improve engagement and communication between stakeholders especially senior managers
  • Improve awareness of aggregated risks across the portfolio and BAU
  • Improve the quality of debate and decision making from senior managers
  • Improve cross organizational collaboration in pursuit of shared goals
  • Drive improvements to PPPM capability.

Paul Atkin