How to select a project to work on

Becoming a Performance Excellence Organization:

Selecting a Project

To implement performance excellence in your SMB or non-profit, you need to identify where your problems are and manage how you address them.  Prioritizing projects for selection is a task that needs to be approach in a systemic way.  Just picking a pet project will not necessarily lead to success for the project or the organization.  In fact it will probably have a negative impact. 

The basic steps to selecting a project to work on:

  1. Gather input to reveal top issues - To get a clear view of the issues, you need to gather the Voice of the Customer (VOC).  Talk to staff, clients, and volunteers.  This will tell you a more complete picture of what your main constituents are thinking and where they see the issues. 
  2. Select a project that can be completed within a realistic time frame – If the project is going to take 6 months or longer,  it probably is not a good one to start with.
  3. Select a project which can be measured in real results – If you can’t measure the results in terms of savings, cycle time reduction or other quantifiable terms, the project is not worth doing most likely. What gets measured gets done.
  4. Make sure you have the right resources and skills to complete the project 
  5. Identify the activities with the greatest potential return.
    • Is there a feeling for a need to act?
    • What keeps you awake nights?
    • What is keeping you from meeting your goals?
    • Which of your processes need the most attention?
    • What are the top client problems?

     First create a list that identifies the problems that you are facing.  After this, you need to prioritize them.  There are two basic ways to prioritize and select what problems to work on first.  You can identify the issue(s) that are giving you the most problem(s). One way to determine your biggest issue(s) is to ask these simple questions and then answer truthfully.  Where is the pain? What keeps me awake at night?  This often reveals the top of mind problems that appear to be keeping you awake but not always the key issues that need to be worked on.  The other way to prioritize is to work on any low hanging fruit.  Low hanging fruit are projects that are easy and quick to solve with high visibility to those you need to impress.  

     Don’t start with the question “What will give me the biggest bang for my buck?” as the primary one for selecting a problem.  This is a question that should be asked during the selection process but again it is not the primary one.  The reason for this is, until you have established what you are trying to achieve, you really don’t have the criteria to determine what the biggest bang is.  For instance if you want to make a fast impression, the biggest bang might be low hanging fruit.  If your organization is facing a dire problem that needs to be fixed or there are tremendous negative consequences, then that is going to give you the biggest bang. 



    Four box matrix for selecting a project(129579)
    Credit: Michael McDonald