Portfolio Manager at the Eye of the Storm

In principle, the portfolio manager is a critical component of fully functioning matrix management, Figure 1.  Senior management sets the strategy, being mindful of profit and culture setting.  At the bench level scientists generate great ideas that the corporation ought to pursue.  This is, however, where cost is also generated, but in the ideal relationship, senior managers, the lines and matrix managers are all in agreement as to how to blend all of these factors into a unified fully executed R&D strategy.  This is more likely in a small company where the senior managers can develop relationships with the staff scientists.

Portfolio Manager in a Perfect Relationship between Ideas and Strategy

Figure 1, Portfolio Manager in a Perfect Relationship between Ideas and Strategy (click on figure to enlarge)

More typically, strategy is one of narrowing options, developing focus on top priorities, which can lead to conflict between the idealism of the scientific staff and senior management.    This tends to occur in companies that are cost constrained, typically in larger companies.  The drama of this tension tends to get played out at the portfolio level, Figure 2.

Portfolio Management where tension between bench science and management gets played out

Figure 2, Portfolio Management where tension between bench science and management gets played out (click on figure to enlarge)

This disharmony can be mediated at the portfolio level if all line managers and matrix managers engage proactively in portfolio reviews where projects are prioritized and the portfolio is aligned to corporate strategy and the progress of all projects is tracked in an open manner for all stakeholders, Figure 3.

Portfolio Management can help to relieve tension between bench science and management

Figure 3, Portfolio Management can help to relieve tension between bench science and management (click on figure to enlarge)