With a qualified and well-prioritized pool of projects to work with, we are now ready to adopt a final group of projects for implementation.
It may or may not have been necessary to involve the Program Leadership Team in the project selection process to this point. However, as part of the next step, engaging the Leadership Team is critical. Leadership should contribute to and help make final decisions, as this will help generate the buy-in and support critical to managing change.
Selecting Projects for Implementation
Time and money are both limited, so it is likely only a subset of the projects under consideration can be selected.
Further, some highly prioritized projects may not be practical to adopt if they demand too large a proportion of the time and/or budget available. Opportunity costs are also at play here so deciding which projects to invest in will require some subjectivity.
Consider a project that has a $50,000 price tag and saves $30,000 in electricity expenses annually. The payback period is less than 2 years, and it would continue to save the organization $30,000 in perpetuity. It sounds ideal, but whether or not an organization adopts the project may hinge on the capital available. If a $200,000 budget were available, this project would be no-brainer, but a $10,000 budget would make it impossible. A $40,000 budget may demand making a difficult choice, depending on the circumstances and other projects being considered.
In the end, while there will probably be much discussion and debate about which projects are best to adopt, it is most important there is participation in the selection process. It may be helpful to develop a structured decision making process to ensure, at a minimum, the members of the Leadership Team can contribute and be heard. Make sure people support the decision making process, so even if some projects adopted don’t make everyone happy, you can count on support for the process itself.
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With a group of projects selected that puts the limited resources available to their best use, the next step involves developing a well-laid out implementation plan. To ensure smooth and successful project implementation, developing a plan is essential. Project management is a well-defined discipline, and many organizations have standard processes that should be consistently employed. For the sake of this document, we will highlight a few project management best practices to keep in mind as part of planning for implementation.
Having a clear and well-laid out plan is essential, but may demand some additional work and data gathering. At a minimum, the following measures should be taken:
- Create a structured breakdown of the tasks involved.
- Identify any deliverables that will need to be created.
- Develop a timeline for tasks to be completed.
- Select the individuals involved and clearly define responsibilities.
- Finalize the project budget.
- Make a contingency plan.
- Define approvals required at various stages.
It is important to keep in mind that a project plan should not be set in stone. Circumstances regularly change and may result in selected projects being put on hold, or even eliminated entirely. New opportunities may arise that warrant shifting resources to make possible adopting a project not originally considered.
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With a clear plan in place, execution is mostly a matter of accountability and coordination. Ensure people perform assigned tasks, manage timelines, and keep budgets in check. Try to detect problems early, provide support to individuals when necessary, and adjust plans accordingly. Being responsive and methodical is key. Not following a plan (or worse – not having one in the first place) can lead to any number of issues including:
- Delays, especially to “critical path” actions that will hold up other tasks.
- Misuse or overuse of limited project resources.
- Progress is not well-documented or clear.
- A lack of individual accountability.
Perhaps most importantly, remember that plans rarely play out perfectly. Stick with it, stay true to the most important goals, and remain flexible. Most things worth doing are not easy.