Irrespective of when the financial year starts, every New Year most organisations start with an optimistic list of projects and initiatives they want to achieve over the next 12 months. There is usually high enthusiasm and energy to get started because people’s personal objectives, performance measure or even bonus is aligned with the tasks that they have been charged with delivering.
The first days back in the office are like a race as resources are gathered and leaders seek to gain momentum and get ahead of their rivals for support and priority. It is often easier to canvas support for a project in-progress than ones still on the starting blocks, even if budgets are already allocated to them both.
This often results in a small armada of projects setting off in all sorts of directions. In theory, they will be well aligned to the business strategy but often they appear without any obvious coordination or control.
Is this project in your top 3?
We have done a few ‘project rescues’ and one question we ask the senior management team or key stakeholders is “Is this in your top 3 things to get done this year?” Invariably a project that is failing for lack of funding, resources, decisions or support is one that isn’t in the top 3 of the key people responsible or accountable for its delivery.
One of our team worked with an organisation with 53 projects scheduled for delivery and realistically only enough change capacity for 5 projects at best. The consultant explained that doing 1 project at 100% is better than doing 100 projects at 1% each, and they needed to be more robust about prioritising based on strategy and operational fit.
Getting the senior management into a room to rank and prioritise (see below) you are quickly likely to find that people are operating in silos with no idea of other projects and the interdependencies between them. This includes any logical sequence of projects or utilisation of common resources.
Rank and Prioritise Projects
There are many ways to rank and prioritise projects, but my preference and recommendation is to use some form of objective scoring system against Key Performance Indications (KPIs), strategic objectives or operational needs. These will be different for every organisation. Something that will greatly improve quality may be a priority in one organisation but reducing cost may be the imperative in another. Increasing revenue for some is key, whereas improving market share for others is their priority.
Designing a system to rank and prioritise is a creative process that demands the participation of the senior management team and key stakeholders, but it pays dividends in making transparent the priority criteria and the method for scoring.
The key issue is that you should not do a project because it is a good idea, you should do it because it is the best idea given the budget and resources and the needs of the business as a whole.
The role of the PMO
In some businesses there is a Project or Programme Management Office (PMO). This function or team can be used to facilitate the scoring of projects so that there is a clear programme for the year. I like to think of the PMO as rather like Air Traffic Control. It is not responsible for each project, but it is responsible for making sure the project is cleared for take-off, avoids any mid-air collisions whilst inflight, and finally land safely.
It remains with the senior management team or key stakeholders to devise the strategy and identify the projects which will deliver the strategy, but it is the PMO that provides the governance and oversight, monitoring and reporting to deliver in a coherent way that is suitable, feasible and acceptable taking account of all the projects and the business-as-usual demands within the business.
If you are finding yourself in the position of having too many projects for the amount of resource you have available then something has to give.
Either you need to increase the amount of resource you have available or you need to trim your ambitions and cut down the list of projects you want to achieve.
We can help in both of these situations, with the provision of flexible project resourcing or targeted consultancy to advise on project prioritisation. We can also provide ongoing project management support through our virtual PMO service.
Contact us through our website, on social media or directly via email. The first step will be to arrange a free discussion where we can provide you with some immediate advice based on our experience.
Act now before the year really starts to avoid the ‘wrong projects’ being given too much attention. Make sure you are doing the right things that will provide the optimum benefits for your organisation.