You Can't Do All the Work. Now What?
In the last Pragmatic Manager newsletter, you met Trish, a project manager attempting to manage two programs and three projects. She was able to transition two of the projects to other project managers and had realized she could not manage both programs and the one project at the same time.
When she discussed the situation with Ted, her manager, she helped Ted rank the relative priority of each project. Because she only had one project and two programs to discuss with Ted, she decided to ask about the projects relative to each other, a pairwise comparison.
“Ted, here's the list of three things I need to do. They are two too many. I need your help in deciding what to do and what not to do.”
Ted frowned. “Trish, you know we need everything done, right?”
“Sure, but do we need them all done now?”
“Oh, no, we don't. In fact, we need Program1 done as soon as possible. That project and Program2 can wait.”
“Ted, are you sure?”
“Yes, why do you ask?”
“Because our CEO discussed Program2 just last week in the weekly chat. Are you sure it can wait?”
Ted explained how the realities had changed in just a few days. Then he and Trish discussed how to show progress on Program1, in case the organization decided to release it early.
You probably have more than three projects to rank. In that case, pairwise comparison is not good enough. In that case, I recommend using points to rank the projects by business value.
When you use points, you first see how many projects and programs you're trying to rank. If you have more than 10, first see if you can bucket them in any way. It's easier to compare like projects than disparate projects.
Within each bucket, or for the whole group of projects and program assign a unique number of points. I like to start with 10,000 points, and show the relative business value of each project or program. If there's a single project that must be done before any other project, that project gets 5000 points. Now, if there was just one other project, I could assign it 4,999 points, assuming it's next in line and quite important. But, if I assign it only 1000 points, I may be leaving room for another project to be next.
If you have 8 must-do projects, you might start ranking them with points as 2,000, 1800, 1600, 1400, 1200, 1000, 500, 499. Now you assess the projects and their points, and see if the points reflect the actual business value of the project. Once you think the points reflect the business value, you are done.
Sometimes, the people who rank the projects need more points to reflect the business value. That's fine. If you have a lot of low-ranked projects, it may be time to look at your mission and who benefits from your projects.
There are other ways to rank, and I find that points help people see relative value easily.
Trish and her program team are now humming along with their program. Because she and all the sub-projects are fully focused on this program, they are making great progress. And Ted is happy that Program1 looks like it will release on time.
Manage Your Project Portfolio
I'm happy to announce that Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects is shipping in a variety of softcopy versions as well as print. Several readers have emailed me to tell me how much it's helping them decide what to do first, second, third, and not at all. If you read it and like it, please do post a review. Let me know where the review is and I'll link to it.
Only 6 Spots Left at AYE
AYE, Amplifying Your Effectiveness is a few weeks away, and we only have 6 spots left. Take a look at the schedule, or the birds-of-a-feather plans. We have a special offer for teams of three: a day of consulting from one of the hosts. I hope you join us.
Take a look at my blogs for my most recent writings:
Managing Product Development
Hiring Technical People
Thanks for reading, and please do send me your comments.
(c) 2009 Johanna Rothman