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:
- Communication Traps for Virtual Teams: I
- Virtual teams encounter difficulties that rarely confront face-to-face teams. What special challenges
do they face, and what can we do about them?
- Scope Creep and the Planning Fallacy
- Much is known about scope creep, but it nevertheless occurs with such alarming frequency that in some
organizations, it's a certainty. Perhaps what keeps us from controlling it better is that its causes
can't be addressed with management methodology. Its causes might be, in part, psychological.
- On the Risk of Undetected Issues: I
- In complex projects, things might have gone wrong long before we notice them. Noticing them as early
as possible — and addressing them — is almost always advantageous. How can we reduce the
incidence of undetected issues?
- More Obstacles to Finding the Reasons Why
- Retrospectives — also known as lessons learned exercises or after-action reviews — sometimes
miss important insights. Here are some additions to our growing catalog of obstacles to learning.
- Defect Streams and Their Sources
- Regarding defects as elements of a stream provides a perspective that aids in identifying causes other
than negligence. Examples of root causes are unfunded mandates, misallocation of the cost of procedure
competence, and frequent changes in procedures.
See also Project Management for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming December 13: Contrary Indicators of Psychological Safety: I
- To take the risks that learning and practicing new ways require, we all need a sense that trial-and-error approaches are safe. Organizations seeking to improve processes would do well to begin by assessing their level of psychological safety. Available here and by RSS on December 13.
- And on December 20: Contrary Indicators of Psychological Safety: II
- When we begin using new tools or processes, we make mistakes. Practice is the cure, but practice can be scary if the grace period for early mistakes is too short. For teams adopting new methods, psychological safety is a fundamental component of success. Available here and by RSS on December 20.
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