In Game of Thrones, the North is in conflict with the South, which can teach us lessons about PPM.

Game of Thrones (GoT) is an epic world full of stories about power, magic and imposing battles. A combination that makes all fantasy fans hearts beat faster. Even if you don’t understand the hype over the show, it’s still worthwhile to get into Game of Thrones because giants and wildlings have a lot to do with your project portfolio.

The series is much more than a mere costume spectacle. The GoT world is a huge chessboard where the characters carefully plan their next moves and distribute their resources to the best of their ability. That is basically project portfolio management, which also happens in nearly every company. Neither in Game of Thrones nor in the real world does project portfolio management always work perfectly.

Let’s take a look at:

  • what Jon Snow can learn from the battle with the Wildlings for the upcoming war against the Night King.

  • and what you can learn from the previous conflict between the Night’s Watch and the Wildlings for your PPM.

Don’t make your problems bigger than they are


Many Resources = Successful Projects?

Most GoT fans will surely remember the battle at the wall. For everyone else, imagine a group of thousands of attackers (Wildlings). Their goal is to occupy the fortress at the wall to reach the other side. The wall and fortress are defended by just 100 men of the Night’s Watch, whose goal is to keep the Wildlings out.

How do you think the story goes? We can tell you this much: the Wildlings failed despite their superiority in numbers.

You can imagine the Wildlings as a group of people from different nations. They can not be more different. Giants work together with cave people and the ice-river clans. Each group pursues different interests, speaks its own language and has different ways of working. Chaos is inevitable.

In your company, you probably don’t have giants and clans, but there are a lot of different stakeholders and departments. Each department also has its own technical language, various tools and workflows are used, and each department wants their projects to be implemented. The corporate strategy does not always take everyone into consideration equally – it is easily lost sight of or  not clearly communicated.

Without a clear goal definition, however, multi-project planning isn’t possible – both in the attack at the wall and in the achievement of company goals. If the Wildlings had planned the attack in advance and determined who should achieve which targets, the battle might have gone differently. In contrast to the Wildlings, the Night’s Watch is positioned much better. The members of the Night’s Watch pledge to keep the protection of the wall as their top priority:

  • Hear my words and bear witness to my vow.

    Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death.

    I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am … the shield that guards the realms of men.

    I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.

All activities of the Night’s Watch are aligned with this goal and prioritized. The Rangers, the Stewards and the Builders all have different projects and tasks, but they all work toward the overall objective. The small team of the Night’s Watch managed to withstand the attack of the Wildlings long enough despite few resources. The forces of the Night’s Watch focused on the gate, the only entrance in the huge ice wall. The Wildlings can also climb the wall from the outside, but the gate is the biggest weakness in an attack. A similar scenario exists in many companies as well. There is always a large number of promising projects and ideas, but too few resources to implement them.

Another problem that the Wildlings have that many companies also experience is an inconsistent information base and problems in communication. For the Wildlings, different languages led to communication problems. For companies, data often comes in different formats or employees have no access to relevant documents.

Through Coordination to Successful Project Portfolio Management

So how can you solve the above identified problems in your company?

Clear Goal Definition

First of all, it is important that you define company-wide goals and ensure that employees know and understand them. Only if the company’s goals are realized and taken into account in project planning can they ultimately be achieved.

Multi-Project Planning

Without comprehensive project planning, corporate goals cannot be effectively achieved even with a large number of employees. At this point, project portfolio management comes into play. Develop a unified process to decide when which projects will be implemented. Don’t just go for it, but plan how you can overcome your walls.

Consistent Prioritization

Prioritization is the magic word. Focus only on the most important projects instead of dealing with circumstances that arise. This is the only way to successfully manage the project management trilemma from high quality standards, few resources and little time.

Consistent Information Base

You should also ensure a consistent information base. Make sure your employees have at least the minimum amount of information needed to process their projects. And keep an overview of your employees, skills, resources and projects by requesting the necessary – and only the necessary – information.

4 GoT Tips for Your PPM

Whether you are a GoT fan or not, the series gives you valuable tips that you can implement in your company. Here is a summary of the four most important PPM tips from GoT:

  • Clear goal definition: Define your corporate objectives and communicate them to your employees.

  • Multi-project planning: Ensure that projects are planned across departments and that there is a consistent process for project selection.

  • Consistent prioritization: Don’t waste your resources on unimportant projects, but focus on the projects that are truly relevant.

  • Consistent information base: Ensure that the minimum necessary information for project portfolio management and project management is consistently available.

If the South heeds these tips, we can hope for the best for the last season. Because the South and Jon Snow are now facing similar problems, as the Wildlings did in previous seasons. Only with wise use of resources and the right “projects” will the Great Houses with the Wildlings and the dragons together be victorious over the Night King and his Army of the Dead.

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