Agile Portfolio Management:
Building Alignment on Personal and Portfolio Goals
Agile Portfolio Management concerns itself with making a variety of choices: what programs, projects, initiatives, epics or value streams should be funded.

Unfortunately, prioritization efforts can fail to produce the best results if the team is not aligned on strategic issues or operating goals. 

Accordingly, we believe that a key step, and often the first step, in the budget prioritization process is to confirm that you're aligned before you start to allocate your budgets.

In this newsletter, we'll explore how to test and build alignment within and between teams - because the more you're aligned, the more likely you'll unlock the door to high-performance.

And as typical for Conteneo, I'll close this newsletter with a discussion on how we're using these techniques to build alignment instead of division in the political process (so please do NOT share this newsletter with the social media companies who'd rather make money on dividing us instead of aligning us).
Introducing Knowsy ®

The Cisco CSR team was facing a portfolio challenge: how to best allocate their budget to meet their strategic needs?

Even though the team was embracing Participatory Budgeting (see last newsletter) the results were frustrating: the team just couldn't reach agreement on the right set of investments.

So, I called a timeout and suggested that we instead play a few rounds of Cisco Knowsy to help create alignment in the team (this story is also shared in our Scrum Alliance® Collaboration at Scale Series - click here for more details).
Knowsy is a powerful, patented online application that we skin to meet the unique needs of each client. A Knowsy forum consists of five to eight players who try to predict each other’s rankings of items in fun and serious topics. The person who predicts the ranking of the other players scores the most points and "wins" the "game".

The resulting discussions reveal the deeper meanings and values that drive prioritization choices and gives the team the opportunity to develop the foundation needed for effective prioritization discussions.
You can't use the Cisco version of Knowsy, but you can try Gazelles Knowsy here!
For Cisco, the results were amazing: In our first few rounds of Knowsy we surfaced key differences in perceptions of strategic priorities. These differences were the source of the portfolio funding challenges. However, through discussions and multiple rounds of Knowsy, the team arrived at a powerful place of both internal and external alignment. This alignment, in turn, enabled them to reach agreement on their investment choices.
Internal and External Alignment

Knowsy reveals two kinds of alignment: internal alignment and external alignment.

Internal alignment means that each person on the team rank orders a list of items the same way. You can think of internal alignment somewhat like “preferences” in foods – if you and I were to rank order our five favorite kinds of Dessert, then we could say that we were “internally” aligned on food choices.

Internal alignment alone is insufficient for high team performance, precisely because the act of working together means that I must be able to make predictions as to the work that other members of the team are doing, in part because effective communication and work processes rely not only on actual behavior but also on the expectations of behavior created when the team agrees on an activity.

Therefore, we define external alignment as the degree to which each member of a team can accurately predict how each other member of the team orders a set of items. Continuing with the food analogy, we can say that we externally aligned if I can predict your favorite Pizza toppings and you can predict my favorite Bagels.

High-performing teams, and high-performing organizations, therefore, are both internally and externally aligned.
Knowsy Your Neighbors

Every summer Conteneo hires several interns to help build our next generation of collaborative leaders. We try to align their interests with Conteneo and/or Every Voice Engaged Foundation in a way that creates an extraordinary experience.

This summer, one of our interns, David Pantera, used our board game version of Knowsy during National Night Out to help build stronger communities in his home town of Half Moon Bay, CA.

The result was an enormous success and we're now planning a similar event in Santa Fe, NM.
Every Voice Engaged Foundation uses the board game version of Knowsy to build stronger communities.

San José Knowsy

What if we could scale this? What if we could help build alignment in every community? every state? every country?

Conteneo is all about Collaboration at Scale, and Knowsy is no exception. We've experimented with an online version of Knowsy tailored to meet the needs of communities in San José, CA.

The results are promising and we're going to continue these experiments. I realize that this approach flies in the face of what the social media companies are doing, but let's face it: we need approaches that align us rather than divide us.
This newsletter series is focused on Agile Portfolio Management. Hold me accountable if I miss sending you one of these - and let me know if you want me to add something to the series.

Aug 27, 2018: Kickoff: Essential and Advanced Roadmapping
Aug 30, 2018: Participatory Budgeting and Stakeholder Engagement
Sep 6, 2018: Building Alignment on Personal and Portfolio Goals
Sep 13, 2018: 5 Core Frameworks for Product Portfolios
Sep 20, 2018: Multi-team Engagement
Sep 27, 2018: Reserving and Allocating Budgets