In December, the Harvard Business Review published an article by Antonio Nieto Rodriguez who stated that companies that start prioritising their projects can experience significant reductions in costs.
Rodriguez claims this equates to roughly 15% as less-vital activities are cut and duplicated efforts are consolidated, and identified 5 P’s that can help senior leaders embed effective prioritisation in their strategic projects.
Whilst on the face of it prioritisation is a hygiene factor, at a strategic and operational level it is often the variance between success and failure. In our own experience, it is an area where many companies struggle due to a lack of appropriate available resources and clarity of decision making. We often experience clients requiring project or process management for market entry or product launch initiative, where focus, cut through and a structured process are required.
There are many prioritisation theories and frameworks which all differ in their approach. Rodriguez has developed a tool called the “Hierarchy of Purpose”, targeted at executive teams and helping them prioritise strategic initiatives and projects.
The “Hierarchy of Purpose” is build out of 5 P’s:
- What is the purpose of the organisation?
- How is that purpose best pursued?
- What is the strategic vision supporting this purpose?
- Given the stated purpose and vision, what matters most to the organization now and in the future?
- What are its priorities now and over the next two to five years?
- Based on the answers to the first two points, which projects are the most strategic and should be resourced to the hilt?
- Which projects align with the purpose, vision, and priorities, and which should be stopped or scrapped?
These three stages should give clarity around the strategic priorities and the projects that matter most.
- Who are the best people to execute on those projects?
- What are the precise outcome-related targets that will measure real performance and value creation?
Traditionally, project performance indicators are tied to inputs. However, despite the difficulty companies have in tracking outputs, it’s the outputs that matter. Reduce your attention to inputs and focus on those instead.
“When it’s done correctly prioritising enhances the strategic dialogue and the alignment at the top of the organisation, from where it is then cascaded to the rest of the organisation. Once you lead the executive team to understand this, priorities become embedded in the organisation and its corporate culture.” Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez
CIO magazine has highlighted the dangers a company could face when not prioritising projects:
- You don’t have a shared view of what’s important and what’s not
- The portfolio may contain numerous ‘pet’ projects that have little ROI
- You plan to do too much
- You end up doing the wrong projects in the wrong order
- You over promise on the benefits of your projects
Once the company’s projects are prioritised, we recommend revisiting the list at least quarterly to ensure these are still on plan.
The final point to make it is that we often observe communication to be the route cause of any gap and lack of alignment between the corporate strategic objectives and the projects in different business units, departments, or functions. Well-communicated priorities can help to ensure alignment of projects and programs to the overall organisational strategy.