Why prioritize projects?

Projects are initiated to capitalize on opportunities (the Chinese character for crisis is the same as opportunity I've been told) that a company faces. However, not all projects are created equal.

To quote George Orwell's Animal Farm, "All animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others." Some projects are more beneficial than others.

Prioritizing projects is very much like managing investments. In fact, it is the same. How likely are you to perform due diligence before making an investment decision such as buying a bond?

You need to understand:

  • The anticipated returns
  • The potential risk
  • The timing of the returns
With this information you can perform a net-present value calculation to determine the value of one investment versus another. Combined with other factors such as your risk-tolerance and investment goals you'll choose the most appropriate ones for you. The purpose of all of this is to introduce objectivity into your decision-making.

Extending this principle to project prioritization means you should:
  1. Understand how important a project is to you. How well does it align with your objectives?
  2. Prioritize your projects early to allow for lead time for effective decision-making.
  3. Introduce objectivity into your prioritization process. Just because someone yells loudly does not mean his project is the most important.
Do not take the position that:
  • Prioritized projects must be executed sequentially. Some minor projects are dependencies for others. Some projects are easy to slot into non-peak times.
  • You only prioritize when you need to make a decision. The earlier you prioritize, the more potential problems you can avoid before they become critical.

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