Tag Archives: article

Project management maturity and excellence models: Stirring in the fruit bowl

Happy to see that the Project Management world Journal published my featured article Portman, H. (2022). Project management maturity and excellence models: Stirring in the fruit bowl; PM World Journal, Vol. XI, Issue II, February. In this article I look at different maturity and excellence models in project management. At this moment around 50 different models are included.

David L. Pells, Editor / Publisher PMWJ: “Five outstanding papers are included in the Featured Papers section. … And a late entry by Henny Portman in The Netherlands, “Project management maturity and excellence models: Stirring in the garden”, makes a significant contribution to the PM body of literature that should be read by every PMO leader worldwide.”

Why maturity models or excellence models?

The success rate of projects is still very low. If I look at the latest figures from the Standish Group (CHAOS 2020 – Beyond infinity) 60% or more, depending on your approach (agile or waterfall) is not successful. This is already for several decades the case!

To improve the way you are running projects, there are several paths to follow. You could look at the way your organization is doing projects. Or with other words how mature is your organization in doing projects? Some well-known maturity models are CMMI, OPM3, and P3M3. Another approach is to look at individual projects and ask how well this project was performed? Think about all those yearly contests that are running. E.g., the IPMA Global Project Excellence Awards, the PMO Global Awards, and the PMI Project Awards.

When you want to say something about maturity you have to look at the standards an organization has set and how they apply those standards to their projects. If one project is using the standards and another project uses a different or no standard this is a signal the organization isn’t mature in project management. You could even go further and compare the results found with industry average figures by using the same maturity model to understand your strengths and weaknesses compared with competitors. I also used maturity models to compare different business units within the same organization to find spots for improvement in one business unit and used ways of working of a better performing business unit in the same area. In this case you don’t need absolute figures, but relative ones will work too.

As an organization you could be less mature but still have an award-winning project. The award programmes are not maturity assessments!

To download the complete article Portman, H. (2022). Project management maturity and excellence models: Stirring in the fruit bowl; PM World Journal, Vol. XI, Issue II, February.

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:

Culture makes or breaks your agile transition

We all know Peter Drucker’s famous quote ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’ and I transformed that into ‘Culture makes or breaks your agile transition’. For me this is reason number one why so many agile transitions fail. In this article I explain what I mean with culture, I make some references to books or articles explaining culture and I make a reference to my Bird’s eye view on the agile forest and elaborate on the, what I call, culture targeted frameworks or ways of working.

This article was published in the Blue Striped Frog magazine. To read the complete Blue Striped Frog magazine or get a (free) subscription, see my review.

My “Bird’s eye view in the agile forest” article translated in Russian

I am pleased to inform you that my featured paper “A bird’s eye view on the agile forest” has been translated and published in Russian by the Magazine of COBHET (SOVNET), the Russian Project Management Association, with the title “ОБЩЕЕ ПРЕДСТАВЛЕНИЕ О ГИБКИХ МЕТОДОЛОГИЯХ”. To download: https://grebennikon.ru/article-nzgp.html

The original paper, which is an extract of one of the chapters of my Book “Scaling Agile in organisaties (Dutch)”, has been published by PM World Journal, and it received the “2019 PM World Journal Editor’s Choice Award”. Have a look at the latest updated version of this article.

50 shades of gray between agile and waterfall

50 shades (article picture horizontal)This article, published in Kwartalnik Project Management Institute Poland Chapter http://www.strefapmi.pl Wrzesień 2019 nr 26, is an updated version of the 50 shades of gray between agile and waterfall story I presented during the last NTPM 2019 conference in Gdańsk, Poland. Of course, an article cannot replace the pictures, sound tracks, movies and interactions I used, but it gives an impression of my message.

In this article I focus on five perspectives, namely the project manager, leadership, organizations, teams and culture. For each perspective I look into the traditional and agile view and what’s in between.

To download the magazine including my article and many more (mostly in Polish and some in English): Strefa-PMI-26-2019 (50 shades article Henny)

To visit the PMI Poland Chapter site: strefapmi.pl