An article in “Business Week” on improving board performance discussed the case of an oil and gas company Board of Directors that complained about the preparation material they received from the CEO. They didn’t like it’s detailed nature and that it focused on the financial considerations of a project. The CEO responded by simply asking the board what they wanted:
“What you sent us all focuses on the financials,” the board said. “We’d prefer you to present it this way: First, how does this acquisition jibe with the corporate strategy—the rationale for the deal. Then, give us information on the geology of the properties that will come with the acquisition. Finally, give us the financial information on the deal.”
To summarize: 1. Ask the audience what they want and 2. Listen carefully- you will typically get a clear “1, 2, 3” about what to do.
I’ve found that this is very typical of C-levels. Ask a direct question and you will get a direct answer including the steps to carry it out. But you have to listen carefully before saying or doing anything. So, what did we hear? “Jibe with the corporate strategy”- any project that a company considers should do this- unbelievably most don’t. Notice that key information related to the business resources required was also addressed- in this case “the geology of the properties”. Only after these two items were addressed were the financials up for consideration. The sequence of information is remarkably similar to what a PMO should provide it’s governance board in order to manage a portfolio of projects:
1. Strategy alignment
2. Key information related to resources required
3. Financial value
I find it fascinating that a board is rarely asked what information they want. Plus once asked they simply state what any good governance board might ask a PMO to do to support project evaluation.