How do you know your working on the ‘best’ project for your business? In a previous post I took you through an overview of the entire Project Management Process. Today I want to focus on the first first step in the process – Project Conception & Initiation.
When I ask entrepreneurs how they know they are working on the ‘right’ projects in their business I’ve heard all kinds of things! Some of my favorites are …
“It feels good.”
“It makes us happy!”
“Our customers / students / clients have been asking me for this!”
Rarely, do I hear this. In fact, if I’m honest, I never hear it. “I identified the problem I’m trying to solve, brainstormed some possible solutions, developed ranking criteria to sort the projects out and I’m now working on fleshing out the top contender.“
So I started wondering “Why?”.
And then I questioned is a process even really necessary?
I tried to convince myself that this is my ‘corporate’ side coming out and that in this entrepreneurial world the rules are different.
And then I questioned that belief!
Here’s where I landed – some of you might ‘wing-it’ and be ok; for others, you crave a process and just don’t know what it is. Neither is right or wrong; they are simply two different lenses through which you view your situation.
So today we’ll address this “I didn’t know how to do this or that I was even supposed to use a system to determine what projects would benefit my business the most” right here; right now. Going forward we’ll eliminate this as an excuse entirely.
Process Steps for Project Conception & Initiation Phase:
- Clearly identify the problem (product, service or process) you are trying to solve.
- Brainstorm solutions
- Develop ranking criteria
- Evaluate solutions against the criteria
- Select the top one (or two) solutions and move forward
1. Identify the Problem
First and foremost with any project, services or process you would like to create you must clearly identify the problem or issue you are trying to solve and for whom. Start with writing your problem statement.
Target Audience: Entrepreneurs with businesses that are 2-5 years old
A brief description of the problem: Entrepreneurs are wearing too many hats in the business & suffer from a lack fo clarity and focus taking time away from the life they want to live and lowering overall productivity.
Cost of Problem: It is estimated that up to a 40% loss in productivity occurs when people are overwhelmed, unfocused and are continuously multitasking. Business owners should be focusing on tasks that are $100/hr or higher depending on the stage of business. A typical day of work would have a value of at least $800, therefore the cost of being unfocused and multitasking is at least $320 per day. It is realistically much higher.
2. Brainstorm Solutions
Next, we want to brainstorm ideas to solve the problem we just identified. For my example, I started to think of some ways that I could help entrepreneurs ease the overwhelm and start learning strategies and processes which will help them stay focused. Of course, your list will look different than this, however, it should help you start to visualize the process for your next project.
- Online course
- Facebook group
- 1:1 Coaching
- Do Nothing (trust me here)
I’ll explain the “do nothing” option. It is critical that you evaluate all your options against just doing nothing. Now, it shouldn’t come out as your number one option very often, but if it does, you need to really dive into your problem statement and potential solutions because there is probably a bit more work to do before you move forward and start spending money!
3. Selection Criteria
From here we move on to the selection criteria. This is going to be a fluid list and will most likely change from project to project. Once you have it set up it can easily be used on future projects and may even help you get to a decision faster if you have a similar problem to solve later on down the road.
For my example, I’m going to use these evaluation criteria. Again your list will likely look different.
- Length of time to develop & market (shorter time is better) – Weight 30%
- Effort and resources required to develop & market (less is better) – Weight 15%
- # of people reached (more people is better) – Weight 30%
- Cost to develop (less $ is better) – Weight 15%
- Is this a unique offering in the market (more unique is better) – Weight 10%
When developing this list ask yourself “Are these criteria equal in weight?” “Is there one or two which I place more importance on?”. You can see my weighting above, it will come into play in the next step when we work in the Project Selection Matrix. Again there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to do this. What is important to you and YOUR business – that’s what maters.
I hope I haven’t lost you yet, we are nearing the end and I know you have it in you to stay with me just a little bit longer!
4. Project Selection Matrix
The last step is to input all of the options and all criteria (with their weights) into the Project Selection Matrix. (Yes, you can download a copy of file at the end of this post!)
Once you have the options, criteria and the weights entered in the worksheet you next step is to rank the options. I think the fastest and easiest way to do this is to just rank them relative to each other. I have 5 options in my example so my ranking is from 1 (worst) to 5 (best). If you had three options you would rank from 1-3. From here you let the technology do the work!
HINT: A true test to see if you have a robust project is to play with the weighting and see if it drastically changes the project in the lead. No change to lead project = a sure winner which you should seriously think about executing on!)
5. The Results
I guess I better get started on the Facebook Group huh??
I really can be this simple to sort through the ideas you have in your head. Who knows, maybe you will tackle all of the possible projects … eventually. You have to start somewhere so start where it makes the biggest impact on your business with the least amount of effort!
“All things are created twice; first mentally; then physically. The key to creativity is, to begin with the end in mind, with a vision and blueprint of the desired result”
Here’s to making smart choices about where to spend your time and your money!
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