Project creatures that accelerate

and enhance a portfolio of projects



By Marisa Silva and Henny Portman

Portugal and The Netherlands




As you might recall, last year we (Marisa Silva and Henny Portman) went on a safari to hunt the project creatures that could negatively impact a portfolio of projects [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.[1]]. While it was not as exciting as doing it in Kruger Park, we can fortunately say that it was also not as dangerous and we returned sound and safe despite all the white elephant projects, pet projects, and unicorn projects we encountered in the way!

Almost one year after that experience, portfolio management got us thinking again. If portfolios are always a mix of “good” and “bad” projects, those that are well planned and those that are included without any thorough rationale, some that are carefully studied and others that are pure opportunistic, could it be that there are also project creatures that could accelerate and enhance the success of a portfolio? The quest for project creatures continues!

In the animal kingdom there will be animals that are at the top of the system, the apex predators. Also, in your portfolio you will have projects who could play the role of apex predator. It is these predators who will consume your scares resources. To make sure you feed the right projects (‘doing the right projects’) you have to prioritize your projects and assign resources to those projects that enhance and accelerate the value delivery of your portfolio.

Assume you are a portfolio manager or PMO professional and overseeing your portfolio. Compare yourself with a falcon with super sharp eyes who can spot the right project, or do you want to be a seagull that appears from high, swoops in, eats all the projects, makes a lot of squawking, shits on everything and disappears as fast without even noticing if you captured the right ones.

Armed with our experience and the support of other “project hunters”, we found a few. In this article, we present our findings, strategies to capitalise on such beautiful creatures, and why it is so important that at least some of them are in your portfolio of projects.


Project creatures out there:

  1. Cheetah Project

What is it? A small project with a clear goal that could be achieved very fast. Just like cheetahs who are very slim and very fast to catch on their own or in very small groups their prey.

How to capitalize? As long as the goal is in line with the company’s strategy you could handle these types of projects as low hanging fruit. They are not consuming a lot of resources, are small and can deliver results in a short timeframe. When it is simple and the goal is right there, you zoom to it to catch it quickly without any further complication. In fact, you eat an elephant one bite at a time and the same principle applies here – use the decomposition technique to break down your large elephant-projects into smaller but quicker, clearly defined pieces of work – cheetah projects.

  1. Lion Project

What is it? A lion project is a project where the sponsor is the king of the jungle. However, be aware that a lion project could be a pet project too. In that case you have to kill it.

How to capitalize? If the project is not a pet project you have a project with natural authority, unlimited sponsorship that could turn into an easy project! Don’t be afraid to use it, providing that the project passed the test of prioritization and is indeed the right project to be done. You can build a lion project by finding it a vested sponsor, with skin in the game, and by clearly presenting its strategic importance to the organization.


To read entire paper, click here

How to cite this paper: How to cite this paper: Portman, H. and Silva, M. (2020). Project creatures that accelerate and enhance a portfolio of projects; PM World Journal, Vol. IX, Issue IX, September. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/pmwj97-Sep2020-Portman-Silva-project-creatures-that-accelerate-and-enhance-a-portfolio-of-projects.pdf



About the Authors

Henny Portman

The Netherlands


Henny Portman is partner of HWP Consulting. He has 40 years of experience in the project management domain. He was the thought leader within NN Group of the PMO domain and responsible for the introduction and application of the PMO methodologies (portfolio, programme and project management) across Europe and Asia. He trains, coaches and directs (senior) programme, project and portfolio managers and project sponsors and built several professional (PM(O) communities. He is an accredited P3O, PRINCE2, MSP, MoP, PRINCE2 Agile, AgilePM, AgilePgM and AgileSHIFT trainer and a SPC4 SAFe consultant and trainer too. He is a P3M3 trainer and assessor and PMO Value Ring Certified Consultant. On behalf of IPMA, he assesses mega and large projects for the IPMA Project Excellence Award. In addition, Henny is international speaker and author of many articles and books in the PM(O) field and blogger (hennyportman.wordpress.com).  Henny can be contacted at henny.portman@planet.nl.


Marisa Sliva




Marisa Silva, the Lucky PM, is a PMO and PPM advisor, trainer, and international speaker, with a track record of building capabilities in complex organizations undergoing transformational change. A passionate advocate of the value of PMOs and project management, Marisa is the Chief Community Officer at the PMO Global Alliance, author of “Bedtime Stories for Project Managers”, and a Senior Consultant at Wellingtone, a leading project management consulting firm dedicated to enable step change in organizational PPM maturity. Highly committed to the project management community, she was Programs Director at Project Managers Without Borders, Secretary of the APM PMO SIG, Head of External Affairs at IPMA Young Crew Portugal and the co-creator of ground-breaking training courses in the industry (PMO Practitioner, PMO Leader, and Assurance Practitioner). In 2019 she became one of the youngest Fellow members of the APM, in recognition of her contribution to the profession and in 2020 she was awarded the distinction of Young Project Manager of the Year by the APOGEP/IPMA Young Crew Portugal. Marisa can be contacted at marisa.silva@wellingtone.co.uk.


[1] https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/pmwj86-Oct2019-Silva-Portman-creatures-that-slow-portfolio-delivery2.pdf



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