Do you know how many projects are underway in your organization? Make sure you include those that are still in gestation. If you make a list, you'll likely be surprised at how many there are.
You'll be even more surprised at how many of the early-stage projects — those in gestation — are "off the books" and therefore out of control. Many of these are simply impractical. They aren't bad ideas, necessarily, but they're out of reach of the organization or its customers.
Every project began when someone — or maybe a few people — thought of an idea, talked about it with others for a while, and convinced the organization to back it. While technical organizations, such as IT or Product Development, can usually generate a vast array of ideas for projects, those ideas have a predominantly technical slant. Some ideas are beyond the organization's capacity to exploit. At the same time, other simpler ideas that could truly transform the organization and its markets are overlooked.
A Project Nursery fosters collaborations of professionals from across the organization — technologists, marketers, customer service experts, account executives, senior managers, infrastructure specialists, and administrators. When all organizational elements help decide which projects to investigate, the menu they develop better suits organizational needs and capabilities.
The Project Nursery works, in part, because it provides ready access to three bodies of knowledge.Every project began
when someone thought of
an idea and convinced
to back it
- Market trends
- What customer need will the project satisfy? Will customers care? Will customers understand the offering, or will they need educating? Example: if we eliminate paper forms internally, and move to electronic signatures for internal requisitions, how can we ensure that people will stop printing copies for their files?
- Infrastructure trends
- What elements of the delivery, usage, or production context are needed for project success? Will they be present? At what cost? Does the customer have all the skills and facilities needed to make use of the output of the project? If not, what do they require? Example: We can put streaming video on our Web site, but do our customers have fast Internet connections?
- Organizational trends and capabilities
- Is the project in alignment with organizational intentions? If other ideas are competing for organizational resources, can we forge alliances somehow? Are the needed organizational capabilities available? If not, can we acquire them somehow? Example: Before we consider enhancing the Marigold product line with Internet options, are we certain that Customer Support has enough Internet capacity to support the enhancements?
Since all affected constituencies participate in the activities of the Project Nursery, the projects proposed are more likely to take into account the needs of those constituencies. And a project that has received good care in a well-staffed Project Nursery is less likely to later end up in the Project Emergency Room. Top Next Issue
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More articles on Project Management:
- Finger Puzzles and "Common Sense"
- Working on complex projects, we often face a choice between "just do it" and "wait, let's
think this through first." Choosing to just do it can seem to be the shortest path to the goal,
but it rarely is. It's an example of a Finger Puzzle.
- Shining Some Light on "Going Dark"
- If you're a project manager, and a team member "goes dark" — disappears or refuses to
report how things are going — project risks escalate dramatically. Getting current status becomes
a top priority problem. What can you do?
- Dubious Dealings
- Negotiating contracts with outsourcing suppliers can present ethical dilemmas, even when we try to be
as fair as possible. The negotiation itself can present conflicts of interest. What are those conflicts?
- Long-Loop Conversations: Asking Questions
- In virtual or global teams, where remote collaboration is the rule, waiting for the answer to a simple
question can take a day or more. And when the response finally arrives, it's often just another question.
Here are some suggestions for framing questions that are clear enough to get answers quickly.
- How We Waste Time: II
- We're all pretty good at wasting time. We're also fairly certain we know when we're doing it. But we're
much better at it than we know. Here's Part II of a little catalog of time wasters, emphasizing those
that are outside — or mostly outside — our awareness.
See also Project Management for more related articles.
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- And on January 31: Nine Brainstorming Demotivators: I
- The quality of the output of brainstorming sessions is notoriously variable. One source of variation is the enthusiasm of contributors. Here's Part I of a set of nine phenomena that can limit contributions to brainstorm sessions. Available here and by RSS on January 31.
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