Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 2, Issue 4;   January 23, 2002: Start a Project Nursery

Start a Project Nursery

by

In a Project Nursery, professionals from across the entire organization collaborate to conceive of new projects. When all organizational elements help decide which projects to investigate, the menu they develop best suits organizational needs and capabilities.

Do you know how many projects are underway in your organization? Make sure you include those that are still in gestation. If you make a list, you'll likely be surprised at how many there are.

Stuffed bearsYou'll be even more surprised at how many of the early-stage projects — those in gestation — are "off the books" and therefore out of control. Many of these are simply impractical. They aren't bad ideas, necessarily, but they're out of reach of the organization or its customers.

Every project began when someone — or maybe a few people — thought of an idea, talked about it with others for a while, and convinced the organization to back it. While technical organizations, such as IT or Product Development, can usually generate a vast array of ideas for projects, those ideas have a predominantly technical slant. Some ideas are beyond the organization's capacity to exploit. At the same time, other simpler ideas that could truly transform the organization and its markets are overlooked.

A Project Nursery fosters collaborations of professionals from across the organization — technologists, marketers, customer service experts, account executives, senior managers, infrastructure specialists, and administrators. When all organizational elements help decide which projects to investigate, the menu they develop better suits organizational needs and capabilities.

The Project Nursery works, in part, because it provides ready access to three bodies of knowledge.

Every project began
when someone thought of
an idea and convinced
the organization
to back it
Market trends
What customer need will the project satisfy? Will customers care? Will customers understand the offering, or will they need educating? Example: if we eliminate paper forms internally, and move to electronic signatures for internal requisitions, how can we ensure that people will stop printing copies for their files?
Infrastructure trends
What elements of the delivery, usage, or production context are needed for project success? Will they be present? At what cost? Does the customer have all the skills and facilities needed to make use of the output of the project? If not, what do they require? Example: We can put streaming video on our Web site, but do our customers have fast Internet connections?
Organizational trends and capabilities
Is the project in alignment with organizational intentions? If other ideas are competing for organizational resources, can we forge alliances somehow? Are the needed organizational capabilities available? If not, can we acquire them somehow? Example: Before we consider enhancing the Marigold product line with Internet options, are we certain that Customer Support has enough Internet capacity to support the enhancements?

Since all affected constituencies participate in the activities of the Project Nursery, the projects proposed are more likely to take into account the needs of those constituencies. And a project that has received good care in a well-staffed Project Nursery is less likely to later end up in the Project Emergency Room. Go to top Top  Next issue: Become a Tugboat Captain  Next Issue

Rick BrennerThe article you've been reading is an archived issue of Point Lookout, my weekly newsletter. I've been publishing it since January, 2001, free to all subscribers, over the Web, and via RSS. You can help keep it free by donating either as an individual or as an organization. You'll receive in return my sincere thanks — and the comfort of knowing that you've helped to propagate insights and perspectives that can help make our workplaces a little more human-friendly. More

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See also Project Management for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Passing the baton in a relay raceComing January 24: Understanding Delegation
It's widely believed that managers delegate some of their own authority and responsibility to their subordinates, who then use that authority and responsibility to get their work done. That view is unfortunate. It breeds micromanagers. Available here and by RSS on January 24.
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The quality of the output of brainstorming sessions is notoriously variable. One source of variation is the enthusiasm of contributors. Here's Part I of a set of nine phenomena that can limit contributions to brainstorm sessions. Available here and by RSS on January 31.

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When Person-to-Person Communications: Models and Applicationswe talk, listen, send or read emails, read or write memos, or when we leave or listen to voice mail messages, we're communicating person-to-person. And whenever we communicate person-to-person, we risk being misunderstood, offending others, feeling hurt, and being confused. There are so many ways for things to go wrong that we could never learn how to fix all the problems. A more effective approach avoids problems altogether, or at least minimizes their occurrence. In this very interactive program we'll explain — and show you how to use — a model of inter-personal communications that can help you stay out of the ditch. We'll place particular emphasis on a very tricky situation — expressing your personal power. In those moments of intense involvement, when we're most likely to slip, you'll have a new tool to use to keep things constructive. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:

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Most Ten Project Management Fallaciesof what we know about managing projects is useful and effective, but some of what we know "just ain't so." Identifying the fallacies of project management reduces risk and enhances your ability to complete projects successfully. Even more important, avoiding these traps can demonstrate the value and power of the project management profession in general, and your personal capabilities in particular. In this program we describe ten of these beliefs. There are almost certainly many more, but these ten are a good start. We'll explore the situations where these fallacies are most likely to expose projects to risk, and suggest techniques for avoiding them. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:

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Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:

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