Too many projects and not enough people. It’s a battle cry heard in organizations everywhere. A new article published in HBR (Harvard Business Review) titled “Too Many Projects: Why Companies Won’t Let Bad Projects Die” tackles the issue head on. Authors Rose Hollister and Michael D. Watkins offer key insights into the root of the problem, along with some practical, spot-on solutions.
The gist of the solution to project overload can be summed up in two words: Resource Management,
- the demand/capacity visibility and transparency that prioritization and resource planning brings
- continuously considering the triple constraint of demand, supply, and priority with every new project request, ongoing resource assignment, and project execution checkpoint.
Hollister and Watkins offer a few cautions as well.
They warn against prioritizing by function or department alone, lest silo thinking will sabotage enterprise prioritization efforts.
Likewise, they advise against simply instituting an overall prioritization process without deciding what to cut (i.e., planning without execution).
They also suggest avoiding uniform percentage cuts for each department because then organizational priorities aren’t considered.
The authors include four areas to assess before each new initiative is undertaken, all of which relate directly to resource management (which I propose includes balancing demand with capacity).
The four areas are (the parts in parenthesis are my added description):
- Analyzing the project (for goals and expected benefits)
- Assessing the resources (and the resource and cost impact on the organization vs. other work)
- Sizing up stakeholder support (for commitment and to validate priorities)
- Setting limits (and identifying tradeoffs needed in order to fit the work in)
For more on the causes and cures for project overload, I highly suggest reading their article.