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Simple Tips for Successful Project Selection
By Brittany Andrews

Have you ever made a decision you’ve regretted? Something that didn’t really align with the direction you wanted to take in life or didn’t consider all the potential solutions? If so, then you know how the time – and money – lost on bad decisions can really sting.

The same is true for organizations. Often times, even the most forward-thinking leaders have their minds set on a particular project, then pursue it full force without considering the alternatives or taking the time to stop and think about whether it is the best choice for their organization. One bad decision can cost a company or organization thousands, if not millions, of dollars–not to mention ruin the personnel morale. Adopting good project selection habits is key to ensuring the future success of your organization. Here are some key steps to successful project selection:

  • Work as a team

    Just as you might allow a few trusted friends or family members to weigh in on major life decisions, every organization can benefit from utilizing the unique perspectives of individuals with different responsibilities and backgrounds to make project selection decisions. As an added bonus, including your team members in these types of decisions makes them feel like they have a real stake in the success or failure of the organization – thus improving performance. You can create a standing Project Selection Board, or periodically select individuals to form ad hoc Project Selection Teams – it all depends on your needs. Either way, these individuals are entrusted with the important task of shaping the future of your organization, so choose wisely!

  • Consider all your options

    Would you buy a car without first researching the different pros and cons of different makes and models? Maybe – but you might end up choosing something that doesn’t fit your needs or spending way more than you should. So why choose projects without considering your options? The Project Selection Board or ad hoc Project Selection Team should actively solicit project ideas from all departments and levels within the company. Their job is to ensure that all project ideas are considered, and then narrow down the possibilities using agreed-upon criteria, such as cost, estimated timeline, estimated impact or likelihood of success

  • Ensure alignment with organizational strategy and values

    One of the most important considerations a project selection board or team will make when selecting projects is whether the proposal aligns to the organization’s strategy – the key moves that your organization must make to achieve its ten-to-fifteen-year goal. For instance, if the goal is a certain amount of total profit, one move might be to enter a new client space (e.g. federal). The project board or team must consider which of the different projects will help the organization reach its strategic goals. One other consideration is alignment to Organizational Values – the essential components that make your organization unique. For instance, does your organization value intellectual curiosity? Then over time the projects you select should allow your team members to learn and grow professionally every day!

  • Assign a project champion

    Sometimes we make the right choice, but never really put forth the effort to see them through. Naysayers or feelings of self-doubt take over and our good intentions are wasted. The same can be true for organizations if they don’t ensure that every project has a champion. Projects needs a go-to person to act as the project’s main evangelist within the organization, making sure all key stakeholders are involved, winning over skeptics and ensuring that naysayers don’t derail the team’s progress. This champion needs to have a clear understanding of the project’s objectives, requirements for its success, and potential land mines along the way. The project champion should work with the project leader (if they are not themselves the project leader) to develop timelines and ensure regular communication with key stakeholders. Typically, the best project champions are communicators, able to motivate, and have an aptitude for solving problems as they arise. They should also be relatively senior, or in a position to “win friends and influence people.”

Brittany Andrews is a program manager at Big Sky Associates, focused on supporting the U.S. Army G-2’s Insider Threat Program. In addition to her client facing work, Andrews has also led several internal company initiatives focused on project management. Andrews previously worked for SAIC, where she wrote, analyzed, and facilitated tabletop war games for the U.S. Intelligence Community. She holds a B.A. in International Relations and Political Science from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and an M.A. in International Relations and International Economics from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).

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