in Mindset

Selecting the right projects

Project selection is all about answering two questions:

  1. What projects should we be executing?
  2. What projects can we execute?

In order to answer these questions, you will need to make choices. Making choices is never easy. Deciding which projects to pursue and which not to is also difficult. We always seem to have more good ideas than resources available to implement them. However, if we make good decisions here, the impact to our success can be very great indeed.

Last week we looked at getting the basic outline of our proposed projects. A project charter which is aligned with some of our overall goals. This applies whether we are talking about personal or business projects. If you follow this process, you will have a list of projects to pursue. A portfolio of possible projects.

Recently I completed a 13 week planning session. The purpose of the session is to plan my goals and associated commitments for the next three months. In this case, I was planning for Q4-2015. It started with a review of my goals for the year and how well I have progressed. With just one-quarter left, I was going to need to make some key decisions about what to go after, and what would need to be left until a later time. Where to start?

Outlining – what SHOULD I do?

Selecting the projects that you SHOULD do is all about mapping the projects that you have proposed against the GOALS/OBJECTIVES that you have. You need to consider arranging the projects (based on their charters) in terms of how they align with your goals. Think of a matrix. The vertical axis lists out all the projects that you are considering, while the horizontal axis has your goals listed out. Now map the projects against your goals. Done?

You may find that there are projects without any corresponding goals. What do you do? I would suggest that these are for the future! Unless of course there is a newly discovered goal which is compelling. Only you can decide which is the case. Either way, you need to make the choice of which it is. Either the project will not get executed at this time, or you are going the change your goals. If this is a business goal, then you will likely have to engage with other stakeholders and discuss why the new goal is essential and how it is going to help the business. Done?

Now it is also likely that there is a goal that has no project associated with it. This should be an area that you address, as your goals have been set based on what was likely a very involved process. Ask yourself if you need to develop a charter/concept for a project that can progress you towards your goal. Then develop the charter.

By now, you should have a matrix which align projects and the goal that they will aid in delivering. I refer to this as the portfolio of possibilities. That is, the list of possible projects that if you executed, would bring you closer to realising your goals. This is the list of projects you SHOULD execute. However, it is very probable that there are more projects on this list than you have resources to execute. Now you need to prioritise and choose which projects will be selected for execution. That is, what projects CAN you execute now.

Assessing what projects you CAN execute now!

In order to access what projects you can execute, you will need to characterise all the projects you have in your portfolio. The key attributes that you will need to access are:

  1. What needs to be done in terms of scope of work? Be specific and list each deliverable.
  2. When does it need to be done by? Identify for each deliverable.
  3. What resources are required? Think in terms of equipment, facilities, people and funds.
  4. How will the work be funded? By the business, from savings, if a grant application is successful? Be specific.

Develop as much detail as possible.

Now you need to assess the available resource to execute the projects and assign these resources to your portfolio based upon priorities. If this is a business, then it will be business priorities, if personal, then based on what is most important to you. This will define a sequence of execution (based upon priorities) as well as a list of projects that can be executed (based on resource capacity of the business and resource requirements of the project.

That’s it. in business, it is likely that senior managers will make the final decision of which projects are selected. If you are not on this team, them your job is to make the best case for your project as well as identifying the slickest model for execution your project.

For my own personal projects as well as my business endeavors, I follow this process on a quarterly basis and revisit the goals that I have set for the year, as well as the project which are both in execution and those I wish to kick off. Making choices is difficult. It is always exciting to start new projects. However, if you are not disciplined, then these new project may well put at risk the projects you have in execution. Choices need to be made. Reviewing these choices on a routine basis helps to confirm them, find any new opportunities and exercise the discipline muscle.

A few last thoughts to leave you with. This is truly an exercise in making and choices. A friend recently said to me that

The power of your yes is directly related to how often you say no!

And so it is with projects also. When you decide to pursue one, you need to go all in.

Next week I will take the discussion into the planning phase of project delivery and discuss several project which I have taken into this phase over the past number of months. If you have any comments or questions, I would really enjoy hearing from you.

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