Every project stems from an organization’s need to accomplish something—to increase production capacity, for example, or to reduce costs across a process or within a department. No matter the type of need that launched it, each effort is expected to return some kind of value back to the company.
If the company doesn’t receive the full value from each initiative, it could lead to trouble. Long-term strategic plans often rely on the results of today’s projects to power tomorrow’s innovations. Any reduction in the value delivered by these efforts may make it difficult for the organization to stay on track with their future endeavors.
A key component in project management is understanding the anticipated value for each project and how it will help to drive the business forward. Achieving true project success requires PMs to prioritize this value and ensure it comes to fruition.
Understanding the impacts of poor project performance
The effects—both in the near term and across the longer time horizon—will vary, but it’s crucial that PMs have insight into the consequences of failing to deliver the expected value from each and every project they execute. Of primary concern for most leadership teams is the risk that the company’s profitability could be hindered. Stock prices may also drop as result, as investors process disappointing earnings data and reevaluate their opinion of the company’s prospects for future success.
Another possible consequence is that the organization’s competitive advantage could evaporate if a project doesn’t produce the anticipated level of value. Its position in the marketplace could be diminished, as often happens when promised innovations fail to materialize or customers are unhappy with a product’s design or quality.
Reputations could also suffer. The company’s standing—not just in the customer marketplace, but among its peers and competitors, as well—might fade. This becomes especially damaging if poor project performance is a recurring problem. People involved in the project could experience additional fallout. Those tasked with sponsoring, planning, and executing the project could find their good reputations have been sullied. Career growth may decelerate and opportunities to participate in future strategic projects could be withheld due to concerns about performance.
Staffing challenges are another downstream effect of lackluster project results. A company that doesn’t achieve good project value could be forced to reduce its workforce if revenue or customer demand take a hit. This could also lead to difficulty attracting quality candidates and retaining key employees that are already on staff.
Timing matters when it comes to delivering project value
A successful project does more than simply achieve its goals. In many instances, part of a project’s value is tied directly to the timeframe when those results are realized and the organization is able to begin capitalizing on them. If any portion of a project is delayed, the final value may quickly begin to diminish. Initiatives intended to reap the benefits of technology improvements and upgrades are particularly susceptible to postponements, as expected cost advantages and productivity increases fail to materialize. Being late to market with a new product could lead to less customer demand than anticipated, or the loss of market share to a competitor with better timing. A project targeted for a summer completion could be significantly devalued if its goals included the installation of equipment intended to mitigate the impacts of winter’s inclement weather.
By maintaining close alignment between the project’s goals and the value each of those is expected to deliver to the organization, PMs will be better equipped to remain focused on the company’s true priorities and drive their projects to a successful completion.