6 Elements for Effective Project Portfolio Brainstorming

6 Elements for Effective Project Portfolio Brainstorming

Clearly having successful supply chain improvement projects leads to company success. In a world where it’s difficult to predict project outcomes, it pays to have a diverse project portfolio to offset any projects that end up underperforming expectations. Creating large project portfolios successfully isn’t as simple as jotting down the ten hottest buzzwords that your competitors are already doing. To be better than your competitors you must develop a project portfolio that’s well thought out, specific and original. To achieve this requires a guided brainstorming session that can deliver unique points of view. Below are six key elements of an exceptional project brainstorming event that’ll generate a project list to blow your competitors away.

6 Elements for Effective Project Portfolio Brainstorming

1. Generate an Appropriate Invite List

Having the right invitee list is crucial to brainstorming success. It’s important to pull in people who are close to the day-to-day with many different expertise backgrounds; from planning to sourcing, marketing and sales, through warehouse and transportation. Using points of view from all corners of the operation will open eyes and ears to new ideas through cross-functional information sharing. One thing that’s important here is to not reach too high in your organizational structure. Higher levels of management often have trouble developing detailed ideas and backing them up with specific examples because they’re too far removed from the daily activities and tasks.

2. Facilitate Effective Communication

The one factor that takes a good brainstorming session and turns it into an exceptional one is having effective communication. This needs to be the focus from the first interactions with the invitees, all the way through to session conclusion. Kick-off the engagement right by providing the participants with a thoughtful invitation package that provides background, desired outcomes, and preparation instructions. Next, in the weeks leading up to the brainstorming event, we recommend providing a project overview session that gives the participants a high-level view of the overall project. This will help the participants understand the scale of the project and how it impacts the many corners of the organization. Finally, utilize collaborative technology that can easily be shared and reviewed between the team. As an example, cloud-based spreadsheet programs that can support multiple users at once can quickly summarize team communications, which allows the official communication record to be generated in real time and enables other participants to collaborate further.

3. Create Organized Brainstorm Categories

Prior to your brainstorm event it’s important to assign participants to specialized sub-teams, create brainstorm categories, and assign the categories to the teams. The specifics of teams and categories are enterprise- and scope-dependent, but always strive to create diverse teams that use subject matter experts and divergent thinkers from other functions. Pairing these diverse teams with thoughtful, focused, brainstorming categories will not only keep the discussion within the realm of possibilities, but also will generate new ideas that may have been overlooked previously.

4. Utilize a Collaborative Meeting Venue

The chosen venue should have a good combination of structure and free space to allow teams to come together and have room to be creative. Don’t be afraid to utilize unique spaces outside of the confines of your office.  Getting the participants into a collaboration space on neutral territory will break down walls, keep participants engaged and make new connections.

5. Use Predefined Leadership Roles

Identifying and engaging brainstorming leaders prior to the event allows you to coach them on the desired approach and them to plan for their own success. These leaders serve the important role of coaching the defined specialized teams and facilitating their brainstorming efforts by encouraging them to explore uncharted territory. Using coached leaders will also help scale you brainstorming session strategy over a much larger group.

6. Brainstorm Documentation

While the act of brainstorming is where the real value is created it can’t be realized unless there is a well-designed documentation plan. This is the essential mechanism that will be the keystone deliverable from the session, will serve as the official record of the event, and will be used to drive project results for the current year and years to come. As discussed above the use of cloud-based collaboration technologies should be explored as a means for efficiency and creating higher-level results.


Generating a robust supply chain project list that will reduce cost and generate results in the future is paramount to company success. Furthermore, it’s not enough to throw a few ideas on a list to generate real results. It takes a thorough brainstorming event to really shake loose great ideas. And by exploring the six elements above in detail, your company will be positioned for long-term success.