Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 2, Issue 4;   January 23, 2002:

Start a Project Nursery

by

In a Project Nursery, professionals from across the entire organization collaborate to conceive of new projects. When all organizational elements help decide which projects to investigate, the menu they develop best suits organizational needs and capabilities.

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.

Stuffed bearsYou'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
the organization
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. Go to top Top  Next issue: Become a Tugboat Captain  Next Issue

Rick BrennerThe article you've been reading is an archived issue of Point Lookout, my weekly newsletter. I've been publishing it since January, 2001, free to all subscribers, over the Web, and via RSS. You can help keep it free by donating either as an individual or as an organization. You'll receive in return my sincere thanks — and the comfort of knowing that you've helped to propagate insights and perspectives that can help make our workplaces a little more human-friendly. More

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We know we're in firefighting mode when a new urgent problem disrupts our work on another urgent problem, and the new problem makes it impossible to use the solution we thought we had for some third problem we were also working on. Here's Part II of a set of suggestions for getting out of firefighting mode.

See also Project Management for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

stacks of gold coinsComing January 27: Cost Concerns: Comparisons
When we assess the costs of different options for solving a problem, we must take care not to commit a variety of errors in approach. These errors can lead to flawed decisions. One activity at risk for error is comparing the costs of two options. Available here and by RSS on January 27.
A vial of COVID-19 vaccineAnd on February 3: Cost Concerns: Bias
When we consider the costs of problem solutions too early in the problem-solving process, the results of comparing alternatives might be unreliable. Deferring cost concerns until we fully understand the problem can yield more options and better decisions. Available here and by RSS on February 3.

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