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I was talking to an executive in a smaller company recently about his project investments. The company’s sales are booming, and they are madly trying to support this growth. As a result, more and more projects are getting assigned to teams. And, they are simply overloaded. Life in their organization is not fun, even if the revenues support growing salaries every year.

So, what is the problem? One of their problems is that they are trying to do too much. People can only take on so much before they break.

When projects are routinely cancelled mid-way through and replaced by something else, it is demoralizing for teams. When software code enhancements are written but not deployed, the programmers scratch their heads. And, when procedure manuals are re-written, but never effectively introduced to the team, people are inconsistent in their processes. It can be tempting to think that you can do it all, but you can’t.

You too probably have more project ideas than you can effectively implement. There are many management strategies that you can implement on projects that will increase the success of your project portfolio. But this blog is specifically about the project selection strategies that will boost your investments. Here are five ideas.

Have a documented process for selecting projects.

Even if you have a really small company with an owner who calls all the shots, it’s helpful to have a documented process that guides project selection. There are many different approaches, including many viable benefit realization methods. To keep things simple, here are eight questions that you might consider for each project proposal.

  • How does this project carry out the mission and/or objectives of your organization?
  • Is this project required by law?
  • How much will the project increase revenues?
  • How much will the project reduce costs?
  • Will this project result in environmental improvements?
  • What is the payback period? Or, ROI or NPV?
  • How will the project improve customer satisfaction?
  • And, how will the project improve the organizational or team culture?

You can create a way of scoring the answers to these questions, and compare projects using this scoring.

This process doesn’t take into account the need to separately compare projects which effectively compete against each other to accomplish the same outcomes. So, you need to really understand those competing projects and rank them separately.

If the size of your organization warrants, use a project selection committee.

Using a well-respected project selection committee gives the process some sense of independence and validity. Your organization may or may not need a formal committee but having a process that is independent of one person can boost your performance.

Align projects with your corporate (or entity) strategy.

This can be accomplished in how you weigh the scoring of whatever process you use. But it also needs to be a core part of your philosophy. It is an essential starting point for any project selection strategy.

Have a selection strategy which increases project focus.

Project focus is rarely improved by throwing projects at teams every time a new idea is proposed. You can use a Kanban like approach where you limit the number of projects that any team is working on to a reasonable number.

Some groups allow employees to vote on projects by posting project ideas on a dashboard, and letting available teams choose which projects they want to work on. The disadvantage of this approach is that some projects will not feel as compelling as others. The advantage is that teams are more excited about the projects they have selected. But you may have trouble drumming up enthusiasm for projects that are required by regulatory bodies.

Project focus will be improved when teams really understand success and failure criteria. Make including those in your project proposals part of your process.

Focus on your people.

It’s great when an organization puts a strong emphasis on selecting the right projects, but that’s not all. You need to consider people in your project selection process. And that focus doesn’t stop when the projects are selected. Here are some questions to ask:

  • How will this project impact your customers and what are they saying?
  • How will this project impact your employees and what are they saying?
  • Do you have a strong project team that is excited about this project?
  • And, how committed is senior leadership to this project?

Be careful about simply looking at the raw scoring data. People are critical.  You need strong executive buy-in. An excited project team is essential. And, you will need to build enthusiastic support from key stakeholders.  One of your first steps in focusing on people is to select a strong project sponsor (or champion) to advocate for your project team.

Organizations lose their effectiveness when they fail to select and execute effectively on projects that will boost their project investments. Need help? Sign up for my newsletter for more tips.