Prioritizing strategic initiatives and projects

This article is the fourth of an eight-part series to help you break through traditional growth barriers.  Any one of these eight lessons, applied with confidence and persistence, can make a difference.  Collectively, they can drive significant outcomes.   Are you ready to begin a journey of Breakthrough Growth?

In the last article, we talked about the action plan and how you will identify specific initiatives that will operationalize your strategy.  Let’s dig into the process for creating them.

In most companies there are more high priorities than there are resources to assign to them.  Many companies make the mistake of allowing individual departments to champion their own highest priorities and dedicate resources to them without looking at resource needs across the whole organization.  This typically causes some projects to be under-resourced, and produces conflicts among team members.

Step One: Assign a Champion to Each Initiative

To avoid this, assign each strategic initiative to a champion, and charge that champion with doing a deep dive into the projects that will implement the initiative.  The goal is to determine if the initiative will net the benefits the team hopes it will, how much resource it will take, what kind of obstacles it will face, and the timetable.  Resources include capital expenditures, human resources, and equipment.

Each champion should go back to the planning team with a list of projects that will achieve the goals of the initiative he or she is championing, and one of three recommendations:  go now, go later, or don’t go at all.

Step Two: Prioritize the Initiatives and Projects

Armed with this deeper understanding, the team now needs to prioritize the list of initiatives and the projects that will implement those initiatives.

The reason it is important to have a prioritized list of initiatives and the projects that implement them is that we are dealing with unknowns.  No matter how well a group scrubs the initiatives and projects before they dive in, something unexpected always happens.  Most times things aren’t as simple as they seem.

When we hit speed bumps…and we will…things might take more time and resource than we thought. If that happens, we need to know what to put on hold or cut from the list.  Never take some resource from all of the projects; this will cause all of them to fail.  Cut one project, the lowest ranked.  You have all agreed that of all the projects on the list it is the least in terms of making an impact.  It is better to do the rest well, with adequate resource, than do all of them mediocre with limited funds.

The Prioritized List

At this stage, the list of projects has been scrubbed and the priorization is owned by the team.  They all agreed the projects can be done, what the expected results are and what resources they will take.  Rather than departments fighting each other for resources and support they have all bought in to the high priority list and understand its implications for the organization.

One client told me that a side benefit of this clarity is that they completed their budget process one month faster because everyone understood and supported the priorities.  WOW!

Next week, we’ll look at setting the timeline for your prioritized projects.


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