Pick the Right Projects!

So many projects are set up for failure right at the beginning. From that point on it’s a battle just to keep the project going. If the initial selection process had considered all the right factors and all the necessary financial and political support been obtained it would’ve greatly enhanced the chances of success for the project.

So how do you achieve this?

Well, there is always a pool of potential projects that you could do; these projects come from ideas, initiatives, opportunities and suggestions. They may all be great projects but you will probably find you have limited resources and need someone to choose only those ones with the greatest chances of success.

So first, make a list of all your potential projects you could do and apply the following steps.

Start by looking at your defined (and of course regularly updated), organisational strategy. Only choose those projects which align with and help deliver your strategy. Your strategy is a sure sign of your current and planned core competencies so choosing projects with align with it also ensure you have the ability and commitment to complete the project.

And don’t worry if you are simply too small an organisation to have to worry about things like governance and strategy (although you might be fooling yourself a little). Instead of thinking about your strategy, think instead about the things you are actually good at, and the things you actually want to do, and stick to those as your first step in choosing successful projects.

Once you have put your projects through this first filter you can then choose either or both of the next two filters.

A financial filter sets certain financial expectations of a project and you simply do not do any projects which do not meet these criteria. You can choose criteria such as payback period, net present value (NPV), internal rate of return (IRR), or return on investment (ROI).

A second filter you can use is non-financial criteria such as environmental, health and safety, market share or new products.

Develop a simple checklist of criteria that all projects must go through using these suggestions and you will greatly increase the chances of project success.

The truth is that most project managers get handed projects assuming they have been through this process already. It would be great that if you can’t actually be involved in this process (and I firmly believe you should) then you at least take the time to check that your project has been through a selection process to make your job a lot easier.

In summary, only do those projects that you have the skills and competencies to do, don’t go after the quick buck and spend time establishing the financial and political support for the project before authorizing it.