In the first part of this series, I discussed the symptoms of an organization at risk of being paralyzed by a backlog of initiatives. Now, let’s look at three concepts that can help manage that backlog.
- Re-visit (or create) your strategic plan. If you don’t have a strategic plan, you need one. If you do have one, it may need to be re-evaluated. What assumptions went into your original plan, and how has the environment changed since you originally defined them? What does your company look like now, what do you want it to look like in the future, and where are the gaps? What do you need to do to make that future vision a reality? This “to do” list essentially becomes your list of initiatives, or your portfolio of projects that you need to accomplish in order to realize your strategic vision. This is an important point—your strategic plan dictates the initiatives you undertake, not vice versa. Too many organizations maintain a long list of proposed projects and then try to fit them into the latest version of the strategic plan, which is easy to do, but counter-productive.
- Project Portfolio Management (PPM). The portfolio of projects required to achieve your strategic vision is likely too big to accomplish immediately, especially given limited resources. Objective prioritization is essential; which projects will produce the best results for your strategic plan? At its base, PPM requires thoughtful and ongoing analysis into the criteria and metrics that will define success for your organization. Wikipedia lists over 50 project management tools that can also help with PPM. Once underway, projects may complement each other and they may compete against one another for resources, often at the same time. Managing the points at which initiatives intersect is often overlooked, but it is extremely important in keeping all of your important efforts moving forward efficiently.
- Project management. Finally, when you invest resources in a new project, sound project management practices will help to keep that project on budget, on schedule, and in scope so that your teams are producing the quality results that will help you to grow and compete in the new economy. An experienced project manager (PM) will guide your team—and your project—through the five phases of initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing. Along the way, the PM will help to identify and mitigate risks, resolve issues, and communicate with all of the project’s stakeholders.
Coming out of a recession and shifting back into growth mode is clearly something to celebrate. But I think we all realize that some hard work and careful decision-making are required to successfully navigate today’s business environment. The ability to make the transition to growth in a thoughtful, organized, and strategic way will help leaders to capitalize on the opportunities ahead.