Unfocused projects steals your resources
Your organisation may be world-class when it comes to executing projects – BUT are you confident that all of your projects compliments the current strategy? And, are you confident that your organisation only spend resources and time on projects that are truly needed?
Personally, I have yet to met an executive, that with any strong confidence will say “yes” to these questions… And, it does not get better when I then ask to the last time they killed a project unsupportive of the strategy – the answer reveals itself during the long pause it takes to find an example.. to be fair, the vast majority of projects in an organisation, are managed under delegated authority far from the CEOs or even their executive teams.
Executives expects (or hopes) that every project in their organisation are somehow supporting the strategy or at least addressing compliance issues – the reality is often very very different! We find lots of unneeded and “rouge projects” stealing management focus and vital resources away from what really matters.. your strategy!
Research have shown that close to 70% of all new strategies fail or fall short of their targets. An identified key driver is a lag of management focus on strategy execution – this is then closely tied to the notion that many organisations have an unfocused portfolio of projects.
What to do?
One way to stop these “rouge projects” from draining resource and stealing strategic focus, is to facilitate a thorough project portfolio review, reviewing all current and planned projects throughout the organisation, and then take decisive action to refocus on current strategy.
The vast number of projects surfacing under such a review, will most likely come as a big surprise! And then quickly followed by questions along the line of: Why do we have this many projects? Why are we doing XYZ, when we need to do ABC? What can we do to prioritise? What projects are not/most critical for strategic success? etc.. All are questions that must be addressed to realign with current strategy.
In a review process, we will find a number of resource demanding projects, seemingly not in support of the strategy, and when the project owner is confronted, arguments are many – This is why we have introduced the “CEO Challenge” as a key item in our project portfolio reviews.
At the “CEO Challenge”, all the projects that falls inside a defined “gray zone”, must be argued in front of the CEO and the executive team, who will dedicate one or two full days for this session – to our experience, most projects do not make it out alive or with the scope intact..
We realise that the “CEO Challenge” is an aggressive approach to force prioritisation and kill projects – And just to be clear; we do not suggest this to become a recurring event in your organisation going forward. On the other hand, this is a great first step to kickstart a deeper transformation of an organisations approach to project portfolio management, as it can demonstrate strong commitment from senior management. Plus it outlines clear expectations from the executive team, to be considered for any future projects.
Build a strong culture
The number one priority in a project portfolio review exercise, is to top tune the organisation towards successfully executing the chosen strategy.
A secondary, but almost equally important priority, is to prevent this exercise from becoming a recurring yearly event (although, it may need one or two repetitions). Therefore the next steps are to build and embed a sustainable and strong project portfolio management culture in the organisation.
To support a sustainable and strong culture, I believe, it is important to first establish a solid framework as foundation to build on; e.g. by introducing a project management office (PMO), issuing new guidelines and policies, implementing a project portfolio management system, setting up a project review committee etc.. Naturally, these actions must be tailored to address the specific learnings coming out of the review.
*CEO Challenge” – Depending on where in the organisation a project portfolio review takes place, the CEO and the executive team can be exchanged with regional/country MD, Functional Head, CFO, CIO, COO etc.