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One Strategic Project Per Year

by Mira Vlach on February 12, 2009:

Summary: One year is the optimal length for long-term planning and recapitulation. Even distant targets consist of many stages. Therefore it is better to divide your vision into sub-projects with a duration of one year.

Set at least one strategic project a year and implement it. This way you can, as an individual or organization, continuously innovate or develop your activities. At the same time you can acquire tools to help you timely and effectively cope with the changes.

I recommend, however; the rule that the maximum length of the project was within one year. This not only allows better control of it and prevent delays, but it is also the closest in terms of human perception of time. Instead of having a three-year's long project, it is better to divide it into three partial ones. Hardly anybody can tell what will be in three year's time. However, almost everyone is able to conceive a rough plan lasting until the end of the year.

How to choose a project

The identification and selection of a strategic project (or groups of projects) for the forthcoming year is decisive for the future direction of developers, be it an organization or a person. It is a powerful tool and a kind of rudder of where you want to get. As an example we can compare it to making a decision on whether you learn English, Russian or Chinese. Your choice is very likely to significantly affect your future life. The choice is always here, because everyone has limited resources – to say the least the time, but also money, staff etc.

Whether you face a clearly forced choice (for example, your country implements euro and your business needs to adapt to it) or you are hesitating among a few tempting alternatives, it is appropriate to make an attempt of a long-term view of a future development. The selected projects should always be in accordance with the long-term vision and strategy.

Since most people associate the end of the year with balancing and recapitulating of the past year, it is a good idea to set and select strategic projects for instance around January or February. However, if you have to ask for money for the budget in advance, you will have to start earlier. The choice should arise as a result of mature reflection and with regard to the assessment of staff capacities and other resources, hence assessing the feasibility of the project. While somebody might be able to handle, let's say, six intensive strategic projects, others would unnecessarily exert themselves (sometimes this is referred to as undesirable multitasking). So if you don't have any compelling reasons, accomplish projects one by one, rather than multiple projects simultaneously.

Because of the intensity of projects and often their large-scale impact on the entire organisation (enterprise, institute, …) the key to their success is having full and clear support from top management. It is therefore appropriate to have the top management participating directly in the project selection and providing it with sufficient resources. To manage the project is then the role of a project manager, who keeps the top executives informed of developments and only involves them in dealing with serious problems in the implementation.

By means of project management we manage mostly goals which deviate from usual business practice. Examples of strategic projects can be:

How to manage the selected project

Here are described some of the recommended principles of managing a project. This is definitely not an instruction, it is only the outline of main points to show how to start best so the project would have the greatest chance of an early and successful completion.

The success of the project is greatly affected by the person who manages it, in other words, the project manager. From various people you can get very different results, and not always complying with your requirements. It is up to the top management whether they entrust an experienced manager or take the risk and give a chance to a less experienced one. Having excellent records in previous management of normal operations or the knowledge of the field itself cannot guarantee the success in project management. It is therefore appropriate to provide beginners with support and training, which in return for the company will be repaid in the form of successful projects.

With the appointed project manager it is possible to begin with these activities:

According to needs other tools might be also used for project management. In optimal case then the project is completed as it had been planned. Hence the good feeling from the completed project, adequate celebration and ample time to recharge one's batteries are the best stepping stones for a new project…

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