Creatures that slow down portfolio delivery and how to kill them

Drawing: FreshTown Graphics
Proud to see that the PM World Journal published the article that Marisa Silva and myself wrote.
It started with a simple post from Marisa Silva on LinkedIn about a few project creatures. I replied and added a few more, as other people on LinkedIn did too. Reading all those comments, I suggested that the two of us could write an article about this topic.


Many organizations struggle to finish their projects on time, on budget, and within scope. If you look into their portfolios, one of the first things to notice is the huge number of projects. I remember an organization with more than 600 projects. It was firefighting all over the place. Problems in one project were solved by resources from other projects and as a result the problem project is not at risk anymore (but delayed) and by using resources from other projects, these projects are now at risk too. And this approach was continuously repeated. Furthermore, the portfolio had independent projects delivering the same benefits (on paper) or delivering the same output. 100 percent resource utilization in optima forma and as a result a ‘traffic jam’ in the portfolio pipeline. After rationalization the final portfolio contained less than 100 projects and all of a sudden it was possible to finish projects and deliver benefits.
Portfolio management helps to solve these kinds of problems. Portfolio Management supports management by answering the following four questions:
  1. Are we doing the right projects?
  2. Are we doing projects the right way?
  3. Are we getting projects done well?
  4. Are we getting the business benefits?
In this article we want to focus on these questions by visualizing projects as specific creatures with their own behavior. For example, a pet project is a project that can be seen as a ‘pet’ or personal favorite from a senior manager and is not contributing to the organization’s strategy. This is not the right project (question 1) but by running this project you are absorbing scarce resources and change budget. The sooner this project is killed the better.
For each project creature you get one or more examples to understand the creature, to which question it relates, who must act, and how to kill the project creature or transform the creature into a project that fits in the portfolio.
The following project creatures are discussed:
  1. Pet project
  2. Watermelon project 
  3. Mushroom project
  4. Submarine project
  5. Cockroach project
  6. Ghost project
  7. Zombie project
  8. Tsunami project
  9. Pufferfish project
  10. Holy cow project
  11. Peacock project
  12. White Elephant project
  13. Prambanan project
  14. Groundhog Day project
  15. The Fake Nose project
  16. Octopus project
  17. The Elephant in the Room project
  18. The Unicorn project
To download the complete article: Silva, M. and Portman, H. (2019). Creatures that slow down portfolio delivery and how to kill them; PM World Journal, Vol. VIII, Issue IX, October: pmwj86-Oct2019-Silva-Portman-creatures-that-slow-portfolio-delivery v1.1
And for a more complete Russian translation see
Please let me know if you are aware of other creatures in your organization?

3 responses to “Creatures that slow down portfolio delivery and how to kill them

  1. Pingback: New PM Articles for the Week of October 7 – 13 | The Practicing IT Project Manager

  2. Pingback: Project creatures that accelerate and enhance a portfolio of projects | Henny Portman's Blog

  3. Pingback: Project creature articles 翻譯成中文 | Henny Portman's Blog

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