Is your new project set for success or destined to fail? How do you know?

After planning for months or years, your executive team is ready to launch a major initiative. You have sized up the budget, talent, requirements, and all needed to guarantee project success. But how do you know if your organization is ready?

Having measurable insight into your organization’s ability to deliver a successful project is the first step to getting ready, followed by the team’s actual execution. Like a credit score that measures your ability to pay back a loan, having a deep understanding of a situation will reveal strengths and weaknesses. It should ultimately determine whether any effort is worth the risk.

Key domains should be measurable across any industry or type of initiative, creating insight free of bias that is applicable to any situation, much like a FICO score doesn’t care if you are a Fortune 500 CEO or a kid fresh out of high school. Developed by studies from MIT, Princeton, Ohio State and McKinsey, among others, fourteen domains should be analyzed for an organization’s strengths and weaknesses before any project receives a greenlight.

1 Alignment

Within a single measurement, consider three relevant themes: alignment to strategy, alignment to culture, and alignment to mission or market need. If one or two of these values are out of bounds for your organization, say culture, for example, misalignment will be an obvious red flag for people in your department.

2 Technical Capabilities

In today’s world, 80 to 90 percent of all projects have a technical component. Whether you are working on a new product or back-office optimization, technical capabilities are vital to the success of a project. Your team’s technical chops must be accurately assessed.

3 Management

You might have a great idea, but do you have the right people in place to lead the initiative? Do they have the emotional intelligence to inspire leadership?

4 Technical Environment

Have you migrated to the cloud, or do you still own your own servers and data warehouses? What personal information do you collect on people, and is that data secure? These are complex considerations that must not only comply with industry standards but are many times determined by statutes and regulations.

5 Priorities

Priorities shift over time. Can your major initiative change alongside your priorities? Do you have a way to measure your organization’s larger mission or put an executive’s changing priorities into a greater context?

6 Stakeholders

Leaders tend to narrow an initiative to the people they believe should be the stakeholders, and in the process, they watershed away anyone they think will be an interference. Even if they don’t do this overtly, their biases cause them to favor those who are advocates of the initiative. Narrowing stakeholder perspectives can limit critical feedback. Have you appropriately defined your stakeholders in an unbiased way in order to capture all types of feedback?

7 Business Process and Rules Maturity

In a company or back-office system that is more than five years old, most people tend to only understand the top layer of rules and processes. They lack a deep understanding of those rules and processes, which can become a major hindrance when attempting to implement an initiative. How can you deepen the understanding of these processes within your organization in order to effectively implement change?

8 Business Capabilities

When adding a new initiative, are you adding to the workload of a business unit that is already struggling to keep up? Will the added workload require new skills, capacity or knowledge that doesn’t currently exist in the business unit?

9 Governance

Do you have a governance process that is well-known by the people participating? Is it well-structured and well-articulated, or overly complex? Does it conflict with other decision-making processes or operating units? If the new initiative doesn’t follow established governance, it will cost the project valuable time getting everyone on the same page.

10 Decision-Making

Every organization, department and operating unit has its own decision-making culture and approach, so the effectiveness of that culture needs to be measured. You need to make sure you have a decision model that complements the initiative. If you have an initiative that moves quickly, but your operating unit has a decision-making model that is meticulous and slow rolling, you’re going to run into a problem.

11 Subject Matter Understanding

How well does your leadership or business understand the subject matter of what they are trying to achieve? If you are launching a new product, do you have a subject matter expert in-house? Because of biases, many people overestimate their understanding of what they are getting into, so this domain provides a clear metric on whether an understanding of the topic already exists or if more research needs to be done.

12 Organizational Adaptability

Depending on the type of business, this domain is where you tend to see a significant bias and impact. Suppose you are trying to move an organization from Point A to Point B. In that case, Point B may scare many employees because it’s changing their jobs and eliminating what they believe to be job security (such as their existing subject matter knowledge) or exposing them to a new way of doing things. Their day-to-day work can feel so disruptive that it results in resistance against the new initiative.

13 Criticality

How critical is the initiative in meeting the organization’s growth? How critical is it in meeting your intended targets? Some projects get prioritized over others, despite an initiative’s path to business viability or some other merit. Criticality provides a better understanding about how vital a specific initiative is to the overall vision of the organization.

14 Vision

Without a vision, an initiative just becomes an activity you’re doing on a daily basis. With a clear vision and the ability to articulate it, you will find it easier to get all participants fully committed and moving in the right direction together.

Research has shown that these fourteen domains identify critical points at which strategic initiatives fail. By harvesting data on these domains, you reveal your specific vulnerabilities so you can address them before moving forward.

This article is based on the book Measure, Executive, Win! by Alex Castro. 

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