How To Make Plans That Work With Lean PPM™

In Data Governance, Data Management by IRM UK4 Comments

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Boxing legend Mike Tyson said it best when he exclaimed, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” While Tyson meant this quite literally, the sentiment is often felt in nearly every type of business. In my own professional experience, I have seen how quickly a company’s plans fall apart as soon as they get punched. This left me wondering, what if it were different? What if our plans could survive the first hit? What if our plans worked?

Dr. Christoph Hirnle, CEO of Meisterplan
Sandhill is in cooperation with Meisterplan, Sandhill presented at the IRM UK
Data Governance & Master Data Management Summit Europe 13-16 May 2019, London
The next Data Governance & Master Data Management Conference Europe will take place 12-15 May 2020 in London

The Pervasiveness of Bad Plans

I had seen first-hand the difficulties that companies experienced with their corporate plans, but I wanted to measure how pervasive the problem really was. With the help of my colleagues, we talked with over 1,000 professionals working in many different industries and roles. Because we wanted to understand the true depth of the problem, we didn’t just talk to people with the job title of “Project Manager” or “PMO.” We talked with anyone involved in projects whether it’s managing them, coordinating project portfolios, or making decisions on which projects to pursue. What we heard, time and time again, across industries and positions, was (you guessed it) – “Our plans just don’t work.” It was abundantly apparent from our interviews that plans that don’t work ARE a universal problem. What a tragedy.

We spend a huge part of our lives at work and we want our lives to be good, but constantly struggling with plans that don’t work is both stressful and disappointing. So, we started envisioning how plans could work. We began thinking of how plans that work would make a difference for the people that use them.

We envisioned a company where:

  • Everyone in the company values customers above everything else
  • Team members get credit and are appreciated for the insights they provide, not just the hours they put in
  • Project managers get credit for delivering great projects, not simply for flawless status reports
  • PMOs get credit for putting together a set of projects that brings the company forward, not for controlling budgets
  • Senior management gets credit for doing what’s best for the company when making tough decisions

Sounds great, right? This company isn’t a fantasy. What I just described can be a reality with a method we call Lean PPM™ (giving credit to the inventors of dynamic processes). Lean PPM™ is a method that makes project portfolio management easy. You can map the Lean PPM™ framework to what your organization is already doing and then fill in the blanks to ensure your organization has a complete project portfolio management process ready to go, as quickly as possible. Included in the Lean PPM™ framework are all the roles, tools and meetings your organization needs to manage your project portfolio successfully and make plans that work.

Who Should Implement Which Projects, When?

The purpose of project portfolio management is ultimately to provide a clear answer to the question “Who should implement which projects, when?” The Lean PPM™ framework answers this question by using a system that is divided into four areas of activity: Strategize, Collect, Decide and Execute. The activities within these areas run at the same time and are ongoing to reflect the dynamic nature of business.


During the Strategize phase, senior management determines the business strategy for the organization. That strategy is then translated into criteria which will be used for prioritization of projects.


In the Collect phase, new projects are proposed and prepared for decision makers. The goal of this step is to take new project ideas and develop them into full-fledged proposals. New projects will be developed with the help of a proposal coach to make sure the proposal can be evaluated against the criteria determined in the Strategize phase.


In the Decide phase, all other phases come together. First, a Pipeline Review Committee meeting finalizes all new project proposals developed in the Collect phase. Next, new project proposals are reviewed in a Portfolio Board Meeting. In this meeting, the portfolio board evaluates new project initiatives based on the strategic criteria and decides what projects to include in the portfolio based on the corporate strategy. Finally, the Portfolio Board Meeting also addresses new information from the Execute phase such as unexpected issues in current projects that could not be solved by project leads.

Execute The Execute step is the actual implementation of new project initiatives and the adaptation of projects in day-to-day business. Project managers and PMOs will recognize this phase as the heart of their work. It’s here that the interface to project management lies. In this phase, resource constraints, financial constraints or any other unexpected issues are constantly being assessed and resolved, if possible. Issues that cannot be solved are sent back to the Portfolio Board Meeting.

Why Lean PPM™ Works What makes Lean PPM™ so attractive and successful for companies is that your teams can still use whatever project management methods and tools they prefer. If your development team uses Agile with Jira – great!

If your HR department uses traditional project management – no problem. Lean PPM™ does not have software requirements or restraints. In order for Lean PPM™ to work, you only need teams to provide a minimal amount of information on projects which is then used to inform your portfolio board.

While portfolio coordinators and project portfolio managers are the individuals most likely to work with the Lean PPM™ framework, it’s important to understand that Lean PPM™ and its benefits apply to entire organizations. What makes Lean PPM™ so powerful is the ability to positively impact every corner of a company regardless of whether or not that department, team, or individual is actively engaged in the Lean PPM™ process. When you make plans that work, everyone wins, not just your management team.

About the People Who Make Plans That Work

Our goal is to help the people and organizations make great plans that work. We are only happy when we’re reaching that goal. That’s why we take the time to help our customers with the revolution or evolution of their project portfolio management. To help and support the adoption of the Lean PPM™ process we developed cloud-based software called Meisterplan. By using this and Lean PPM™ together, you get a visual roadmap that allows you to optimize the amount of work you can accomplish with your current teams and resources. This makes it easy to manage your project pipeline and stage gate processes from project initiation through to completion. When circumstances change, you can use real-time scenario planning to see the impact of those changes not only for that specific project, but also how it impacts all of your employees, your financials and the project portfolio as a whole.

About Our Head Meisterplanner

Dr. Christoph Hirnle doesn´t like IT when situations become unnecessarily hectic, because people didn’t put in enough thought beforehand, or they didn’t inform the right COLLEAGUES OR STAKEHOLDERS. He calls himself lazy because he doesn’t want to produce anything beyond what is required. Others call him efficient. His real passion, however, is helping people and organizations Make Plans That Work. That’s the reason he invented the Lean PPM™ method and is now CEO of Meisterplan. Dr. Christoph Hirnle has almost 20 years of professional experience, from being a project team member, to being a senior manager. He holds a PhD from Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich.

Copyright Dr. Christoph Hirnle, CEO of Meisterplan


  1. I’m still a bit surprised at the lack of a portfolio management framework in most organisations. We always complain when projects are late or over budget, but rarely take the time to properly review whether we have the capacity to do them all. Lean PPM can help!

  2. I love a lean approach to project portfolio management! My organization uses many different tools and there is no other way to pull all of our important data together.

  3. This is a topic I think anyone juggling multiple projects can relate to and this Lean PPM concept seems to be a good way to help get teams organized and focused. Great read!

  4. Great article Christoph. We adopted a lean PPM approach in our organization 12 months or so ago and it has been well received and hugely beneficial. Your readers may also be interested in taking a look at a tool called Kelloo. They are doing some interesting work around tools for resource planning and Lean PPM. We deployed it to assist with our Lean PPM initiative.

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