Are your strategic projects likely to be successful?


Anders Kjellberg & Mante Kvedare

Deploy a disciplined project process

Planned change is highly dependent on strong project execution. Deployment of a disciplined project process can help reduce project failure rates. Four key factors to focus on to improve success rates of projects are:

  • Control initiation: The organisation must control the initiation of new projects, managers and executives can’t start a new project whenever they wish
  • Prioritisation: The organisation must prioritise the major strategic initiatives to ensure they get the attention and resources they need
  • Resources: The organisation must allocate resources to projects based on the priorities they have established. Without this, hundreds of “puppy projects” that produce very little benefit will use up to 40% of the organisation’s project resources
  • Scalable methodology: The organisation has to use a consistent methodology for all projects that is scalable for the size and importance of the project. If not, small projects will be buried in too much paperwork.

Pressure test the project portfolio to ensure higher implementation impact

To increase the “stickiness” and likelihood of implementation of a plan, in addition to making sure to have a clear purpose, involving key stakeholders, setting reasonable targets and following up on plans, it is advised to “pressure test” the plans prior to approval to move forward – as part of an organised project planning process.

Why should we pressure test our strategic plans?

  • To assess if the plans will generate desired impact;
  • to identify the main execution risks;
  • and to increase the likelihood of implementation success.

By asking and scoring answers to some very simple and yet very powerful questions and establishing an official approval process, robustness and implementation ability of the plans will increase. In fact, asking simple questions ahead of launch can dramatically increase likelihood of success since it front loads implementation issues that probably would have been discovered too late (e.g. “Do we have realistic targets?” or “Have we have clear sign-off from sponsor and stakeholders?”). The chosen readiness pressure tester questions should be customised to the overall company strategy and situation, and should include questions that ensure high likelihood of success.

Below is an example of a pressure test to be considered. When pressure testing plans – it is advisable to apply a binary approval approach, i.e. is the question fulfilled or not – no middle ground. Either the targets are realistic, or they are not, either the scope is clear or it is not, etc. In this way it becomes very clear how many/which of the plans that have the right prerequisites to succeed.