Thursday, July 09, 2009

Maximizing Activities that Matter to the Business

How would you define activities that matter? I am sure most of us have been involved in projects that did not produce intended revenue, and that is certainly a long list of activities that did not count. Activities that matter will produce the intended results, and in our world, the results must be profitable revenue. At the start of any project (improvement or product development) we generally build a case to convince ourselves that the projects activities will have a financial impact. Somewhere along the way the alignment to profitable revenue may fade, and in many cases this transformation goes unnoticed. Below are some concepts to guide you towards maximizing the activities that matter to your business.

Broad and Diverse Involvement
The only way to ensure your direction is sound is to make sure you have broad and diverse involvement. The shortest path to activities that will not matter is by way of a small team of like disciplined same-thinkers. Stir up the pot and involve those who will make things uncomfortable, the ones that are not members of the same-thinkers camp.

Commit to Continuous Alignment to Revenue
There is only one result that counts - revenue. If your proposed activities can't be successfully aligned to a financial business impact this should be a clear warning. Product development activities are generally always tied to revenue, whereas improvement activities are not. Any improvement activity must have a defined impact on revenue, as in a return on investment (ROI). Monitor the revenue assumptions on a regular basis. Are they still valid as the project progresses? Put a system in place to keep tabs on evolving assumptions and is prepared to kill a project that falls out of favor with revenue impact.

Understand the Past
Why did you put so much effort into activities that did not matter? Project history is extremely important and is the key to a better future. If results of a product development or improvement project were unsatisfactory, it is essential to understand why. Get to the root reasons and make changes in your process to mitigate these reasons for future activities. Failure to understand the past will guarantee a continuation of wasteful activities in the future.

Have a Clear and Engaged Sponsor
Any project needs someone to carry the flag high, keeping the team excited and focused on the benefits of a projects success - a project sponsor. The importance of this is even greater where the activities are related to an improvement project. Only engage sponsors that will ensure the continued reality of business benefits for the project and will be prepared to make a case to bail out if the advantages fade.

Application of these four concepts will definitely improve the impact of project activities, when honestly applied. These are not easy and will push you and your organization into uncomfortable territory - with results that will be noticed.

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