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Recently, I wrote a blog about improving your project investments through better selection strategies. There are multiple philosophies about how to build an effective project portfolio. Part of the answer depends on the size of your organization and your industry. So often when I read about portfolio management it is about using projects to increase your bottom line. Aren’t there other factors that should drive our project selection strategy? Is the almighty dollar really the only driving force?

Krista Tippet recently interviewed Anand Giridharadas about some of the themes in his new book, Winners Take All. He believes that we, as a society, are ready for new reforms similar to what we went through about 100 years ago. He notes that there some big questions facing our society. Should everything be driven by money or does love matter? He talks about the need for a civic spirituality that balances the need to create wealth against the need to care for each other and our world.

How does this impact how we manage our project portfolios? In this blog, I’ll discuss three viable kinds of projects which will not directly improve your bottom line in the short-term. I’ll also include some questions that you should consider asking about these projects.

Regulatory projects

Some industries are regulated, and thus, some of their projects will be regulatory in nature. That’s simply a given. But the regulatory process may well disclose other project ideas that would improve processes, improve accountability, or make the regulatory process easier.

How well do these projects align with your long-term strategy? 

As you assess these ideas against your project portfolio, perhaps you should ask how they tie into your long-term strategy.  While you may not have a lot of negotiating ability with regulators, you should question the project if it is inconsistent with your mission and vision. For example, do your values center around transparency to your clients? Then assess whether the idea posed by the regulators might increase transparency.

Culture improvement projects

It starts with understanding what kind of culture you are trying to build in your organization. Yes, your mission, vision, and values are a start. But where do you go from there? You may be looking at a project to improve health care coverage for employees, or building improvements to make life better or safer. There may the hope of improving productivity.

If you are a publicly traded company, your culture may be more driven by improving stockholder results. And if you are a government organization, you may be focused on taxpayers, transparency, or national security.

Does the culture in your organization seek to make life better for everyone, or just some segment of the population? Do you have a realistic sense of humanity and the dark side? There are these big cultural questions. But, there are also more mundane culture questions as you undertake culture improvement projects.

For example, is that highly convenient coffeemaker that doesn’t require someone in your office to do major cleanup really bad for the environment?  Is the requirement that your employees drive into the office every day valuable enough to your productivity that it offsets the contribution to air pollution problems and oil needs? So, for culture improvement projects, what’s one question to ask yourself?

Is this project consistent with your values?

I can’t offer correct answers on many of the questions that you might face. These are messy discussions that we need to be having. Each organization needs to figure out its own culture; i.e, what its most important values are. And then, ensure that new projects are aligned with its values.

Branding projects

As organizations grow and evolve, there is often the need to figure out a better way to tell their stories. The hope is that this will drive sales or engagement but there may be an awareness that it won’t happen overnight.

For example, a college may elect a new president who seeks to put her/his mark on the school. A strategic planning project is initiated. The website and marketing materials are all changed. It may be several years before benefits are realized.

How will you measure the long-term benefits of this project?

It’s pretty easy to measure the benefits of a project that is designed to boost revenues by 10% or net income by 5%. But sometimes our project benefits are less tangible or more long-term. That’s okay. You just need to understand the process and have someone in your organization charged with measuring the benefits that have been realized.

For branding projects, this measurement process may not start for a year or two, and it might go on for a few years. So, what metrics are you using, and who will do the measurements?

Everyone hopes their project portfolio consists of projects that will boost the bottom line, but sometimes we need to think about other things too.

If you’re interested in the factors that go into project portfolio management, I’d love to talk with you. Will you set up a time to talk on my online calendar?

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