Inventory Your Projects

#datafriday

Inventory the projects that your organization is doing. Your inventory list will be incredibly valuable to you. 

We all know that we live in a world where the unexpected could happen. As I write this, the World Health Organization has just announced that the spread of COVID-19 (a virus) is “characterized as a pandemic.” Already we have seen a significant change in the way many universities, conferences, and firms are doing business. By the time you read this post, COVID-19 may be simply a memory in the history books. But there will be some other pressure or challenge that you are dealing with. 

Current State

To be comfortable with change, you must understand your current state. Many organizations have many projects underway. Often there isn’t a master list of projects that anyone can refer to. A lack of comprehensive project list is because each person is responsible for delivering their work. There are often multiple sponsors (‘bosses’) who are responsible for different projects. Most of the time, this is sustainable because of the amount of communication and cross-pollination that happens naturally in meetings and lunchroom conversation. 

But when the unexpected happens, and an organization is thrown into crisis (by the loss of leadership, a pandemic, or a change in business landscape), then having a master project list is important. When a crisis happens, two things will happen:

  1. Everyone will buckle down and continue to do their projects because they figure someone else is taking care of the emergency or
  2. People will abandon their plans and do whatever they think is essential to help out with the crisis. 

While both responses are reasonable, a master project list will ensure that you can make the right decisions about which projects should be put on hold or should continue. A project that is placed on hold is the project where the resources can be allocated to helping fix the crisis at hand. A project that should continue is: 

  1. A project where the resources won’t be effectively used to solve the current situation
  2. A project which is essential to moving the business forward, despite what is happening. If a critical project is put on hold because the stakeholders involved feel that they need to help out, there could be a significant long-term effect on your organization. 

The practical steps:

  1. Complete the Project Inventory that you download below. It works as an Excel sheet, OpenOffice/LibreOffice sheet, or you can upload it and convert it toa google sheet. 
  2. Define what a project is. People often get caught up in determining whether work is a project, or if it is part of the everyday routine work that they do—set criteria for what appears on the list. My criteria often are: A project is outside of a regular, repetitive task (e.g. weekly, monthly), that will take longer than 16 hours to complete, and/or has a budget of more than $2500. You can write your project criteria for your organization.
  3. Fill out the stakeholders and leaders, pass the sheet around to all departments. You can also give it to each manager if your communication system enables you to do so, or your organization is small enough to do this effectively. 
  4. Consolidate the spreadsheet and use the data to make the right decisions about how to allocate resources and energy. Sometimes the focus will be to continue with the work that is happening. Sometimes you will have to change your focus and abandon a project for a while. 

Create a project inventory for your organization today. It will be a helpful decision-making tool in the days to come.

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