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The Change Acceleration

Marlowe founder and director Deborah Feakins is fresh back from presenting at this year’s APM Portfolio Management SIG and AGM Programme Management SIG joint conference where she talked to ‘The Change Acceleration.’ Here are the key points from her presentation.



Leading a significant portfolio, programme or project has always been demanding and challenging.

The traditional role of the portfolio or project manager was to understand and deliver the benefits of the change portfolio, to engage, to influence, to collaborate, to risk bust, to remove blockages from the path of change, to report and to support audit activity.


None of this has changed but plenty else has in the last two years and if anything, this post-pandemic hybrid is going to get a lot tougher and faster. Now is the time to be thinking differently about the way we work, for ourselves, the companies we are working for and the people we are delivering change to.


The five new roles of the Portfolio Manager


1) Connection

Employees are feeling disconnected from their organisations, their leaders and from the changes happening beyond their own sphere of activity. Change programmes need to be rooted in and driven by organisational vision but have you checked that your programmes are aligned to the emerging post-pandemic vision and narratives that you are being told today? Do your teams believe in the new narrative because if they aren’t engaged in the organisation how can you expect them to lead and embrace change? Our recent (Re)building Organisational Connection article explains more.


2) Wellbeing

The pandemic has put even greater emphasis on our physical and mental wellbeing. At Marlowe we recommend that wellbeing becomes a workstream in its own right to understand the full impact of the changes being introduced. We recognise that wellbeing is not something we all automatically know how to manage, support, or indeed recognise so consider the mechanisms that need to be in place for employees to raise any concerns. Leaders should also think about undertaking wellbeing training, but there’s nothing better than being present, if you can’t see your team members face-to-face then remember to call – your presence makes a big difference for morale.


3) Motivate and retain your workforce

The ‘Great Resignation’ is the term being coined that says it’s an employee’s market. Organisations need to attract and retain their best people but are they, and are we adopting the best techniques? We need to stop thinking about ourselves as temporary delivery structures that come alive at one point in time before dispersing and moving on to something new. As portfolio leaders we need to think carefully about development opportunities and career progression for the longer term for our talented teams.


With those opportunities come an opportunity to widen the perspective in our work. Diversity of thought is as important as experience. It is our gift as managers to put the mechanisms in play to bring this multigenerational and multicultural workforce to the table in terms of thought and execution. Think about a network of change agents from generations, cultures, backgrounds. Why not ask your junior members to have a voice around the senior management table and even some reverse mentoring? We need to make our teams feel motivated and help them to explore the skills they wish to gain.


4) Governance

The one element of programme management that can make or break a project! Since ‘going virtual’ it has become a challenge to ensure that governance meetings are not about ticking boxes and rubber stamping across a virtual screen. These meetings should be full of good debate because the decisions taken in these meetings can impact hundreds if not thousands of people and they contribute to significant investment decisions. We now need to consider far more intentionally how we leverage and collaborate with people on governance boards to become more connected and an accountable part of the change. Your leadership in this space and the ability to influence change in governance is key.


5) Developing as a leader

There is a lot more we now need to think about and it’s not going to end here. The pace of change, the new world of work and ever shifting priorities will keep coming at us and broadening our roles and responsibilities. We need to be prepared for when those new risks, challenges and opportunities come our way. It’s important that you plan to continue your own development and growth and support your organisation through your own skills development. A 2020 report on the Future of Jobs tells us that there are TEN areas for leaders to focus their training – you need to determine where to focus your efforts to match the skills that are required in your role and see where the gaps are.


To conclude

Change has accelerated and will continue to do so but what does that mean for you? You have the chance to make a difference and Deborah’s top recommendations are:

  • Keep your portfolio teams connected with the organisation and with the change work itself.

  • Create shared team values which people identify with alongside a supporting narrative that people confidently believe in.

  • Create personal moments to ensure that you know how people are feeling and encourage people around you to do the same.

  • Review current and future career paths for your team.

  • Ensure you have the mechanism to deliver inclusive and diverse decision making and discussion within your portfolio and governance models.

  • Create better, more engaging governance.

  • Keep learning. If you don’t focus on your development, how will you be able to keep up with this accelerated pace of change?

  • Look after you, you’re very important.


About Marlowe

Marlowe Consulting specialises in business change and change communications to support organisations who are undergoing transformational, technological, and cultural change.

Please contact us to see how we can support you with your change requirements.