Insight Blog

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

by Joseph Librizzi

April 17, 2017 | Project, Program, Portfolio Management

Ah, strategic planning – a phrase that excites some and terrifies others. It sounds straightforward enough, doesn’t it?

Strategic planning is an organization’s process of defining its direction and making decisions to allocate its resources in pursuit of this strategy. But often times, the hardest part in executing a strategic plan is deciding what NOT to do.

Let’s look at a non-work related example: Planning a fun family night out. The requirements from the family go something like this: one person wants to go bowling, another wants to go see the Batman Lego movie (which is great by the way), and another wants to have dinner and go to a hockey game. All of these activities qualify as a “fun family night out”. But have you factored in time, cost, logistics, and ease “execution”? Decisions will need to be made about priorities. For example, which activity will allow for the most gain at the right spending levels? Trying to do too much would mean rushing through the evening making each activity far less enjoyable than it should be.

Back to the workplace. Strategic planning and, more specifically, portfolio planning can be made easier when you clearly define the decision and prioritization criteria. Consider the following four steps when considering what’s in and what’s out:

Develop prioritization criteria.

Are you more interested in achieving a short-term sales boost or in furthering your three-year strategic plan? Does the initiative support the business strategy, a regulatory requirement, or an urgent competitive threat? Do a side-by-side comparison of the ROI for each project.

Gather and organize information on current and planned projects.

How many projects are currently under way or in the planning stage? How much time and money is each project currently consuming? What is the cost to shut them down, and what is the cost to restart them if needed?

Evaluate the project portfolio.

Are there any projects that can be consolidated? Are there projects that can be made smaller? Which initiatives should get the green light, and which should be shelved for now? What is the health of each project?

Implement an ongoing portfolio review process.

What steps can you take to make project review and prioritization an ongoing effort? Who are the right people who can and should influence the decision with the best interest of the enterprise in mind?

The reality is that even within a high-performing organization, a leadership team will have differing views on what needs to be done. Taking on projects that do not meet the strategic goals of the organization stretches resources and places risks on all of the other projects. By focusing on strategic organizational goals, return on investment, and overall speed to market, it becomes easier to decide what to do and what NOT to do, and your family nights out become far more fulfilling.

For more information on how Lake Shore Associates can help you with your project management needs, visit We will be most grateful to work with you.