Sunday, February 24, 2008

Pick the Right Project and Get It Approved

I once attended a Project Management seminar where the instructor reminisced at one point about the “good old days” at a former employer. He described life as a PM in a global conglomerate, planning and building all kinds of facilities projects. Trouble was, many of those very well executed projects were the wrong ones, and the resources that were allocated to them were then unavailable to help cure real and systemic problems troubling the company. I am sure you have similar experiences, don’t we all? How then do we pick the right project and represent it to decision makers so that it gets approved? Here are a few starter thoughts, I am sure you will have more to add.

Projects should be evaluated on their merits, not assumptions or agenda. Define both the problem/opportunity and solution sides of the equation with data and analysis that is structured in the language of your organization.

Don’t forget to calculate and value the benefits of a project. Too many business cases quantify cost avoidance but do not anticipate or promote other positive implications of the proposed project.

Understand how your company conducts financial analysis and present your project proposals in the same manner. Use the same tools and methods. For example, our CFO always games various options to a significant issue in a decision tree format he particularly likes, depicting the timing and NPV of each option. When we began presenting project briefs showing options in the same format our success rate went up, the decision cycle time was shortened, and our frustration equivalent went way down.

Shareholders trump stakeholders. Remember who and what our decisions are really intended to benefit. Often, as in the case of the seminar leader, projects get approved and executed because of their own momentum or who the sponsor is, not because of their real benefit.

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