Focusing Our “Grow and/or Improve the Business” Initiatives

Most of us already have too many active “grow and/or improve the business” initiatives to be able to focus on bringing the really important ones to fruition efficiently.  These initiatives can be projects that we’re doing to improve our productivity, projects to add a new product or feature to our set of offerings, or sales pursuits of new markets or customers.

Recently I was working with the executive team of a successful company with a reputation for bringing innovative product features to market.  We were hard at work prioritizing the more than fifty active initiatives that each required the investment of scarce engineering resources and capital.

This process included drawing the line between those that would remain active and those that would be placed on hold.  As you can imagine, the discussion became heated as the champions campaigned for projects in which they had a vested interest.

The team was finally able to agree on the set of projects whose completion would bring in the revenue boost they were seeking, and, once completed, free up the resources necessary to be able to complete many of the partially completed projects.

However, this didn’t happen until the team realized that it’s not how many projects you have going on, but how many you complete that has a positive effect on the bottom line.  Trying to do them all at once, particularly if the projects are using shared resources of any type, delays completion of the projects and subsequently the receipt of associated revenue.

Having too many ongoing projects also adds risk that we’ll miss an early warning sign that there’s an issue that needs to be dealt with or, when we detect an issue, we won’t have the organizational bandwidth to develop the best solution.

There are three components to put in place to align the organization on how they will spend the resources they have available to grow or improve the business:

  • A Chartered and Facilitated Governance Team that Operates on a Regular Cadence: A team who understands the importance of aligning the initiatives across the organization and facilitation of that team.
  • A Portfolio Management Process: A process for determining which projects will be sanctioned, how they should be ranked, and how resources will be allocated.
  • A Gating Process: A standard process for completing projects and ensuring they’re supported throughout the organization.

Over the next several weeks we’ll explore each of these components in detail.

Leah Ward-Lee is a management consultant and business writer based in Dallas, Texas and the author of $1,000 Start-Ups.  Her next book, The Executive’s Toolbox, will be released in early 2017.