In the conversation, it slipped out that development roll-outs are often slow because the business team can’t process too much change too fast. So, why are they fast-tracking all of this “maintenance” work? Will that new ERP tool they are building ever be ready?
How can we use projects to help deliver organizational strategy? Here are five ideas that might help.
Identify the single biggest organizational problem you have and develop a plan to fix it.
Growth sounds wonderful, but unmanaged growth can result in chaos. Mergers and acquisitions can result in improved results from achieving economies of scale. If not managed carefully, they can also result in excessive waste in the ensuing months and years. Expanding demand for your product(s) is a nice problem to have, but can you meet that demand?
Stagnation is the opposite problem. But what is the root cause? Is it a people problem, a product problem, or a delivery problem? Is it an industry-wide problem, and if so, are you subject to global swings? People problems can be some of the hardest problems to solve. All of the IT development in the world won’t make the average person enjoy change.
Once you’ve identified the single biggest organizational problem, adopt a good project management methodology to address the problem. I’ve written on the Smart Project approach here. You may or may not be able to truly fix your single biggest problem, but you can come up with a plan for living with it.
Focus on thematic goals.
Years ago, organizations had 10-year plans. Then, they shrunk them to 5-year plans, then 3-year plans. As fast as technology changes, a lot of organizations have concluded that a detailed 3-year plan is still too much. Some groups have begun to adopt a single thematic goal that is time bound. It may be six-months, it may be eighteen-months – the point is to get everyone in the organization behind the goal.
Select a theme. It might be an effort to streamline operations, or re-design retail stores, or to overhaul the hiring and on-boarding process. It might be an IT challenge that impacts everyone, or the need to respond to a major competitive or industry change.
There is great power in doing one thing, and only one thing. That focus can dramatically improve your results. You cannot be all things to all people. Pick one theme – and focus on that theme. Get your entire leadership team to understand that focusing on that one goal trumps anything in their individual departments.
Align your projects with your organizational strategy.
You need to know your organizational strategy first. Perhaps the first two suggestions have helped with that.
Then, you need to really assess how each project aligns with your strategy. It helps to have a sound project selection methodology. As you look at your project backlog, how many of them are nice to have features or changes but have nothing to do with your organizational strategy?
Scrap them. You can’t do everything. Focus your efforts in areas that will move you in the direction you want to go.
Group smaller and related projects together and manage as one.
Do you have a list of all of your projects that you want to accomplish for the next year or so? Are you noticing that some of them are going to take one person a day or a week, while others are going to take a team of 8 to 10 people a year? Sometimes, it’s those little projects that can kill you. Everyone does a concerted job of focusing on the big stuff. But that new online form that you developed for the sales team to use with prospects? Somehow, it’s been six months since it was finished, and no one is using it.
It may make sense to group some related smaller projects together and tackle them as one. It may simplify communications if people are focused on a roll-out of changes every quarter, rather than a new email each week – announcing yet another change.
Assess what benefits you plan to realize from the project and how you will measure them.
As you look at your project investments, are you clear about what kinds of benefits will be derived from all of that work? I see so many groups investing in new locations, new machinery, new people, and new processes, without any plan for knowing whether their investments are successful.
Many times, the benefits from a project investment are realized over a period of months or years following project closure. You need to put together some metrics on how you will measure these benefits, and who will do it. Keep it simple or you will eat up your savings in monitoring your savings.
Making sure your projects actually deliver the strategy of your organization requires some effort. Do you have good people making sure it’s happening? If you need some help, sign up for a phone consult.