Our previous class featured much discussion about project selection. We studied the film prioritization case, choose 4 class projects and shared individual experiences. So I was curious to learn what a few common mistakes are in selection a project. Joni Seeber, a project management professional, authored a short article on project selection for the American Society for the Advancement of Project Management (http://www.asapm.org/asapmag/articles/SelectionCriteria.pdf). The article lists some key mistakes made.
One common red flag listed is “lack of strategic fit with mission” and the article also discusses leveraging core competencies. These points resonated with me after working with my group on our course project. We came up with a great idea but became bogged down in trying to brainstorm additional ways to generate revenue. Many of these ideas strayed from the stated mission. Ultimately, one teammate suggested we focus on the core goal and not dilute our resources or become distracted with other ideas/projects.
Another stated mistake was “lack of stakeholder support.” This is a big one. In my career, I have worked on a couple process improvement projects aimed at improving ease-of-use and efficiency for users. However, change can be very painful. In one instance, the project was less successful because the users were not willing to spend additional time up front and reap the operational rewards later. The next time we rolled out changes to this group of users, we spent a great deal of time of making the case to the users that the improvements were in their best interest. Frankly, the case made to users was more thorough than the pitch to management who green lighted the project.
An interesting insight from this article is “studies show early termination of a troubled project can result in a 900% return on investment.” This statement is fairly intuitive, but 900% is very surprising. This highlights the important of checkpoints and status updates. It can be difficult to kill a once-promising project, particularly with political implications. Essentially, the most profitable decision you can make is not waste additional resources on a failing project.