Green thumbs


Spur excitement about portfolio management in your organization by planting this idea.


Growing up on the family farm, I acquired an appreciation for hard work and the rewards of a successful harvest. It's an admiration that continues today in my garden—and my portfolio management career.

I also find that comparing a familiar task like gardening to portfolio management is a great way to simply explain the benefits of the profession to stakeholders within your organization and generate more excitement and understanding for what we do.


A portfolio is basically a garden of projects. But in a portfolio, what gets planted and grown aren't flowers, trees and shrubs. Instead, executives and leaders plant ideas—seeds which should blossom into projects under the right guidance.

Portfolio management provides the tools to help organizations identify, evaluate, select and prioritize these ideas—and then grow and nurture the projects to reap the benefits.


Pests and adverse conditions can affect both plants and projects. Bugs, rabbits, deer and storms are detrimental to gardens; disengaged sponsors, technical difficulties, vendor issues, lack of resources, competing projects and upset stakeholders can be harmful to projects.

To address these portfolio challenges, portfolio managers need a number of skills, the most important being communication. This ensures transparency of project performance by obtaining and sharing project information about how the garden is progressing and what pests may be impacting success.

As with any garden, extra effort might be needed to water the project with additional resources, prune the scope or stake it up with extra support. All of these will help ensure a healthier portfolio for your organization.


Many plants flourish in the wild without human supervision or attention. The same is true of gardens and portfolios. But the results can be somewhat unpredictable—so why leave anything to chance? A good gardener and portfolio manager plans ahead, learns from others and stays actively engaged.

To yield the best results, both portfolios and gardens need good growing conditions. Whereas gardens need sun, water and fertilizer to grow, project portfolios need the support of senior leadership, a talented project management team, and resources such as time and money.


This landscape can be used to illustrate to executives and others throughout an organization how portfolio management ensures proper, controlled cultivation of an organization's portfolio. Just like a well-tended garden, a well-managed portfolio will produce a bountiful harvest. PM



Teresa (Terri) Knudson, PMP, PgMP, is the director of the enterprise portfolio management office at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA. She can be reached at [email protected].




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