A lot of my time has been spent recently thinking about the criteria that define which projects should be terminated.
However, merely taking the opposite of these criteria will not define what makes projects valuable in this economy.
Here are a few ideas for what ideas might be worthwhile:
1. “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black” – Projects that help companies differentiate themselves sufficiently in a very short time such that they can capture and retain more market share – we all love these “game-changing” projects, but they are few & far between. These don’t necessarily have to directly drive incremental revenue, but can also focus on retaining existing revenue.
2. “Cash is king” – projects that help companies reduce their monthly cash flow over a sustained period of time with a minimal up front investment.
3. “Plan for the future” – companies that only execute life-support projects when they can afford to do more are asking for trouble. We will eventually see the other side of this economic downturn and the companies that took some measured risks will distance themselves from those that were completely conservative in their project investment decisions. This is not advocating the reckless project decisions that were made in the 90′s but rather guidance to carefully examine discretionary projects that have low upfront investment (so as not to impact cash flow) but also limited short term returns (which would normally eliminate them from consideration) to see if they would “boldly go where no one has gone before”. Remember that these are the projects that will keep your star performers energized as they perceive broad-based cost cutting across your organizations. These are the “incubator” projects that can turn into the transformational gems of tomorrow.