Tag Archives: English Post


Happy to see that the article about TOAH and programs I wrote together with Henk Venema is not only available in English but in Portuguese too.

My virtual world tour in search for the best PMO

Today I finished my tasks as judge in the 2021 World PMO of the Year Award competition organized by the PMO Global Alliance. This was the third time in a row and every time I am amazed how many excellent high performing PMOs there are. It’s not only a judging process. As a judge you can learn a lot from those PMO presentations.

The regional award winners and finalists for the 2021 World PMO of the Year Award are:

  • 2021 Africa PMO of the Year Award Winner: City of Cape Town (SOUTH AFRICA)
  • 2021 Asia-Pacific PMO of the Year Award Winner: Dubai Municipality (UNITED ARAB EMIRATES)
  • 2021 Europe PMO of the Year Award Winner: Raiffeisen Bank (UKRAINE)
  • 2021 The Americas PMO of the Year Award Winner: One Link (EL SALVADOR)

I made a virtual tour around the world to see those excellent PMOs, with visits at:

  • Bulgaria
  • El Salvador
  • Indonesia
  • Iran
  • Ireland
  • Kuwait
  • Mexico
  • Spain
  • South Africa
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine
  • United Arab Emirates

PMO Global Alliance offers a PMO of the year award (worldwide, continent, country. See https://www.pmoga.world/awards). They don’t use a scoring mechanism but a single-elimination, knockout, or sudden death tournament. There are no separate assessors and judges. As a judge you assess and compare two PMO’s. The loser of each match-up is immediately eliminated from the tournament. Each winner will play another in the next round, until the final four match-up, whose winner becomes the PMO of the year. If you are the final one for a continent or country, you receive a continent or country PMO of the year award.

The PMO’s are evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • PMO’s journey: strategy, consistency, adaptability, leadership, and the path that made the PMO become what it is today
  • Client service: the services/functions the PMO provides to its customers and stakeholders
  • Best practices: how the PMO is delivering its services/functions, methods, tools and techniques
  • Innovation: usage of innovation
  • Community: engagement, encouraging people to share experiences and lessons learned
  • Value generation: Benefits and results delivered by the PMO to its customers, stakeholders, and the organization.

My congratulations go to the four regional winners. The final winner is yet to be chosen but my work is done, and I am already looking forward to the 2022 award election.

Review Successful Digital Transformation

In the book Successful Digital Transformation – A Survival Guide for Managers and Executives by Marc Beijen, we get a nice and practical overview of different possible and mutually reinforcing digital transformations that you can use when formulating your own digital transformation.

The book starts with a consideration of the digital revolution in the 21st century. What challenges lie ahead for organizations, what does this require from managers and executives, and what are the motivations for starting your own digital transformation. The author describes six clusters of drivers:

  • Emergence of new markets and business models
  • Customer needs and expectations are fundamentally changing
  • The changing relationship between man and machine
  • New technological developments offer new opportunities
  • Growing regulatory, privacy and ethical requirements
  • The increasing value of data.

To put the digital transition in perspective, the author uses a phase model containing three phases: past (product focus), present (customer orientation) and future (creating relevance and an excellent customer approach). This phase model shows that there are actually two different digital movements or phase transitions. The movement from phase 1 to phase 2 is aimed at changing from a product-oriented to a customer-oriented experience and thereby simplifying products, processes, systems, working methods and control. The second movement from phase 2 to phase 3 is aimed at realizing the company of the future (renewal, disruption and transformation). Phase 2 cannot be skipped but can/must be kept as short as possible with the right strategy.

Next, we get five chapters describing five digital breakthroughs or themes. These breakthroughs occur in both the first and second phase transitions. Depending on the organization, all five themes will occur to a greater or lesser extent. The five themes or digital breakthroughs are:

  • Data-driven organization: a data-centric organization uses facts and not gut feelings to manage.
  • Smart, digital processes: (re)design, streamline and digitize business processes, with advanced technologies dramatically improving performance.
  • Brilliant customer experience: delivering the right customer experience is a ‘business capability’, an ability that the organization possesses, consisting of a combination of knowledge, competencies, techniques, processes, and technology.
  • Agile and resilient organization: A powerful IT function that can help the organization take a prominent leadership role and ensure that the organization becomes fast, nimble, and agile.
  • New digital business models: Traditional organizations focus primarily on revenue and profit; platform organizations focus on attracting more producers and consumers.

The final choices of themes are reflected in the organization’s digital strategy. In addition to the themes, you’ll find the business strategy, drivers’ analysis, architecture sketches, a digital fitness scan and the digital roadmap. The author clearly outlines the framework for business transformation. For each theme or digital breakthrough, the author zooms in on the vision (why is it important?), the problems and challenges, capabilities (what needs to be ‘in place’ to become successful here?) and action (how and when will you do it, what actions are needed?). This is further explained with appealing examples.

The final chapter bridges the gap between digital strategy and execution. Here, the digital transformation is seen as a spiral of change cycle containing the steps digital strategy, change, run and learning & adjusting. Finally, several success and failure factors are discussed:

  • Digital transformation = business change
  • C-level ownership
  • Change under architecture
  • Work incrementally on business value as well as  digital capabilities
  • A good start is half the battle
  • Holistic thinking, autonomous action
  • Take a situational approach
  • It is also behavioral change!

Conclusion. The book is a smooth read. It gives a good and practical picture of the various possible and mutually reinforcing digital transitions (data-driven organization, smart digital processes, brilliant customer experience, agile and resilient organization, and new digital business models) and shows that organizations are going through two digital transitions (from traditional business to customer orientation and from customer orientation to the new world). 

What I find less highlighted is what such a digital transformation requires from management itself. We see many transformations fail and the culture or the missing mindshift in the organization is often to blame. I think this is an important task for management. 

The author further indicates that he was inspired in his phase model by McKinsey’s “Three horizons of growth model”. I would say that it is more in line with Marshall’s Right shifting model and that the ‘Three horizons model’ is translated into his three buckets of initiatives (maintain, growth and innovation).

But that doesn’t take away from the fact that the book is highly recommended for managers and executives to organize their thoughts and formulate an answer to the necessary digitization battle.

To order Successful Digital Transformation: managementboek.nlbol.com

TOAH and Programs

I am happy to announce a new article I wrote together with Henk Venema.

Programs are sometimes seen as a relic from the past; something from the time when we weren’t talking about agile working. In small organizations, this could very well be the case. Working together toward a commonly felt goal is easier when you must coordinate it with a handful of teams. However, in large organizations, the delivery processes are often longer and more complex. Even if autonomous teams with agile ways of working are already widely used, in the larger organizations many teams will soon have to work together to approach the common goal. And this is often so complex that even in such agile working organizations there is added value in working through a program towards the common goal. So even though there will be less of a need for a program approach, there will always be a need to organize certain complex changes through a program. But in a way that the benefits of a program organization go hand in hand with the benefits of an agile organization with autonomous teams working in an agile way. TOAH (The Organizational Agility Heartbeat) is a framework (https://toahframework.com/) that offers clear added value in that area as well. Where organizations with many teams need TOAH to allow the organization’s strategy to emerge through the agile teams via a quarterly rhythm, this same mechanism can be applied perfectly well to programs. After all, a program is designed to bring about a strategic change, a change that matters, a change that hurts an organization when things are not going well. Think of a change due to changing laws and regulations or a change with a fundamentally different way of approaching the market. The strategy can often not yet be specified ‘in concrete’. The ‘why’ and ‘what’ questions are often clear, but the ‘how’ question is certainly not yet. And that is precisely the crux of this article. A clear need for a new strategy interpretation in a way that we still (partly perhaps) must invent as an organization.

Experimentation and iterative and incremental work are deeply rooted in the agile way of working of autonomous teams. When this is coupled with a program execution where the delivery of the ‘how’ takes place along incremental paths, this also places demand on the way the program is executed. This will not have to behave along the classical axis of ‘requirements carved in stone’ but as a mechanism that periodically asks itself whether the way in which the change is designed ultimately also realizes the strategy. Or perhaps even make the original strategy change because of advancing insight. A wonderful symbiosis between program coordination and agile execution with a crucial role for TOAH.

This article will explain this through several aspects.

  • What is the essence of TOAH?
  • What are programs and what added value does a program approach provide?
  • How does TOAH connect program coordination with agile execution in the teams?
  • How can you use Obeya to make program governance work optimally with agile teams?
  • TOAH in collaboration with existing (program) approaches
    • AgilePgM
    • MSP
    • SAFe

The article leads to the following conclusion:

  • Even in agile organizations with agile teams, programs continue to have added value, provided that:
    • The program execution leaves the HOW to the agile teams
    • Program execution intertwines with scaled agile processes.
  • TOAH is the link between programs and agile teams
    • Both methodological (TOAH and agile program management)
    • As in practical execution
  • TOAH provides a pragmatic tool within existing program management methods such asAgilePgM and MSP to ensure a recognizable delivery pattern of business skills where tranches are synchronized and within tranches periodic adjustments are possible.

The article is available at:

Project Design Management: TOAH E PROGRAMAS:

Editor’s Choice Awards

Delighted to hear the news that two of my papers received an Editor’s Choice Award. Editor’s Choice Awards are selected each year by the Managing Editor of the PMWJ based on perceived importance to the project management field, perceived value or usefulness to readers, and quality of the writing, topic coverage and references.

  • A new bird’s eye view on the Agile forest received the 2020 PMWJ Editor’s Choice Awards in the Papers category
  • Project Creatures that accelerate and enhance a portfolio of projects, I wrote with Marisa Silva received an Honorable Mention for the 2020 PMWorld Journal Editor’s Choice Awards in the Papers category

Interviewed by Yu Yanjuan for PMR (China)

Honored to be interview by Yu Yanjuan, Journalist of Project Management Review (PMR, China). The interview is republished with the permission of PMR in the PM World Journal (PMWJ). To see the original interview with Chinese introduction, visit PMR at http://www.pmreview.com.cn/english/

PMR (2021). Agile is a Mindset: Interview with Henny Portman; Project Management Review; republished in the PM World Journal, Vol. X, Issue V, May.  Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/pmwj105-May2021-Yanjuan-Interview-with-Henny-Portman.pdf

Project creature articles 翻譯成中文

Honored to see that the two articles I wrote together with Marisa Silva regarding project creatures are now translated into Chinese and published in China.


Happy to see that one of the key chapters of my Dutch book Scaling agile in organisaties is now not only available in English but in Portuguese too. O GERENTE DE PROJETO SOBREVIVERÁ NO MUNDO ÁGIL? 

Together with the article Agile development – 100 mantiras de trabalhar com Agile – based on a shortened version of ‘the bird’s eye view in the agile forest‘ you now have access to the two key chapters in Portugese.

Will the Project Manager survive in the agile world

This article is based on one of the key chapters of my Dutch book Scaling agile in organisaties and now available for my English readers too. Together with the article A new new bird’s eye view on the agile forest you have the most important chapters of this book. All other chapters are summaries of the most common scaling agile frameworks. These summaries can be found on this blog too.

To read/download Portman, H. (2021). Will the Project Manager survive in the agile world? Commentary, PM World Journal, Vol. X, Issue IV, April.

Review 12.5 years AGILE in the Netherlands

Xebia published an interactive e-magazine Agile NXT12.5 years AGILE in the Netherlands – more than a decade of agile captured in compelling stories and next steps for the future’. In total seven interviews and five articles.

  • The first interview and 5-minute video is with Jeff Sutherland talking about the future of agile organizations, the importance of leadership and the use and impact of Scrum and Scrum at Scale (“It’s all common sense with an uncommon level of discipline” – Jeff Sutherland).
  • The article Structuring agile; paradox or silver lining by Thijs Wesselink talks about his balancing act between providing autonomy and creating structures when transforming organizations.
  • An interview with Bert Voorbraak (Raad voor Rechtsbijstand) about leading change within large enterprises, in this case the transformation within ASR where he opted for a holistic, integrated and step by step approach based on people, processes and leadership.
  • In the article Creating sustainable growth by investing in the workforce of the future by Riët Broekhuizen and Marianne Pot shows that that approach is much cheaper, helps your business to perform better but will also attract the talent you need tomorrow. Building communities of practice, using serious gaming and blended in-company learning journeys will encourage your workforce to learn.
  • The interview with Ron Kolkman, Director Joint IT Command Ministry of Defense, emphasizes on his pioneering experience with agile transformation leadership at the Dutch Kadaster (land registry) where the ‘us and them thinking’ disappeared and intent and purpose became key.
  • Rik de Groot and Daria Nozhkina explore the future by explaining the three steps that provide clarity to leaders in an organization, reduce the risk and increase the succes rate: 1) Digital & agile assessments, 2) strategic advice & design and 3) strategic exploration & preparation. 
  • The interview with Maarten van Beek, HR Director ING, is about trying and pioneering, fintech and bigtech as role models. It all started with the agile transformation in 2015 at ING Bank in the Netherlands where they moved away from functions and function houses, and match craftsmanship with the organizational strategy. He doesn’t believe in agile leadership exists. It’s all about situational leadership and a greater focus on results. It includes a link to the customer story Agile transformation at ING.
  • Keeping a grip on large international projects through transparency is the title of a next interview with Stan Bentvelsen, Pieter van Braam van Vloten from Nikhef and Theo Gerrits from Xebia discussing the agile transition within Nikhef by using agile principles instead of sticking to a standard methodology or framework. It includes a link to the customer story Agile culture change at Nikhef leads to more transparency and efficiency.
  • The interview with Martine Zeegers, HR director Unilever Benelux and Riët Broekhuizen, Xebia, describes the agile transition at Unilever Benelux as pragmatic, not too rigid, and a lot of experiments. It is the mindset that counts and not the method. Some teams only work with the mindset and some agile tools and other teams went all the way to the top. It includes links to the article People as the beating heart of change and the Unilever customer story.
  • Michael Maurer and Daniël Burm discusses in their article the data native organization (data quality, means to monetize, organizational capability, technology platform and governance to compliance are all in place) and the first iteration of the Xebia Data Native Organization Framework including a value circle and target operating model to become a data driven company. It includes a link to the article ‘Big data, but little value? How to embed data science in your organization?’
  • The interview and two-minute video with Charl Vermeer, IT Manager Dutch Kadaster, is the second interview regarding the agile transformation at Kadaster. In this interview the focus is on integrating IT, agile, cloud and data and the use of so-called culture guards.
  • In the last article Marianne Pot and Rik de Groot explain serious gaming and the impact of serious games during transformations. There are three types of serious games: problem based, trial and error and scenario-based games. It includes a link to the paper ‘Serious gaming’ from the same authors.

Conclusion. Definitely worth reading. Inspiration, insights, lessons from real life agile transformations and state of the art developments like the Date Native Organization Framework or serious gaming.

To read the e-magazine go to https://www.agilenxt.com