Many of my clients struggle with how to determine the best way to tackle strategic opportunities as they arise through the strategic planning frameworks that I've help them to institutionalize. They ponder questions, like:

  • "Does the new proposed effort lend itself to being managed as a project?
  • "Does the work at hand deserve to be designated as program in order to achieve the desired results?"
  • "Should we use 'lean' or some other process improvement technique to get the job done?"
  • "Will some sort of 30 day 'quick hit' technique accomplish the goals for this initiative?"
  • Can we just add new job responsibilities to somebody's current role and assign them with responsibility for delivering the results for the organization?"

The dilemma arises so frequently that I've decided to develop a selection screen (see infographic) which can be used to help a management team land on the best approach among the options for any given opportunity.

It's simple to use. Just answer a few questions about the opportunity that you're considering and the screen will lead you to a suggested approach for the effort. Here are the questions:

1. Does the scope of the proposed opportunity require the efforts of more than one work unit or department from within the organization?

If yes, go to Question 2.

A "no" response to this question leads to the next question: "Can the results required be achieved by comfortably adding additional responsibilities to an existing job class(s)?" If so, then consider modifying a job class(s) to meet the needs of the organization. If not, go to Question 2.

2. Is the proposed work related to improving or redesigning a business process?

If yes, go to Question 3.

If it's not, another question needs to be answered: "Is the work being considered likely to spawn additional follow-on projects" If so, then consider using a program design approach to handle the opportunity (for our purposes here, a program is defined as being comprised of a series of related projects). If not, go to Question 5.

3. Is the scope of the effort limited to the examination of just one process?

If yes, consider using a "lean technique" comprised of a 5 day workshop to get the best answer for the enterprise.

If no, you must ask: "Can the process work be accomplished in 5 days, or less?" If so, then consider using a "lean technique" to get the job done. If not, go to Question 4.

4. Is the work being considered likely to spawn additional follow-on projects?

If yes, consider using a program design approach (i.e., define the series of projects that make-up the program) to handle the opportunity.

If no, go to Question 5.

5. Can the work be completed in 30 days or less?

If yes, consider using a "Quick Hit" technique that enables a quick, time-boxed approach to be utilized to execute the initiative.

If not, use a "Project Management" approach for the work at hand. Be sure to create a project plan, schedule and engage executive participation to ensure success.

To close, the screen presented here is simple, but, effective. I've instituted it at many of my largest clients and it has held up remarkably well--shedding some needed light on an often bewildering subject area. I hope that the screen works for you, too. Please be sure to let me know how you fare.

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