Harvesting Gold from business investment opportunities

Successful businesses often face the kind of problem that struggling businesses would die for: a plethora of interesting investment opportunities – but which one to implement first?

From my work in applying agile principles to business change programs, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two main drivers of success in project implementation:

  • Impact; and
  • Time to Value

Some may argue that there are more important variables to consider (such as NPV, payback time, strategic alignment, etc.).  Whilst all of these are indeed important aspects of investment decisions, in my experience it is rare that a project that either a) takes inordinate time to deliver or b) has minimal impact, is successful.

When next deciding which projects should be allocated scarce financial (and even scarcer time) resources, I would recommend using the following Impact Value evaluation matrix:

Not going to happen: If a project is going to take a long time to deliver, for little benefit, don’t even start it.  It may be tempting to do so if the capital requirements are (seemingly) small, but in my experience these projects either never finish, or invariably fail to deliver even the minimal benefits articulated in the business case that supported them.

Filler: This is a project that can be completed quickly, but does not have a great impact on the performance of the organisation.  Consider these as tactical projects that can be initiated at short notice (to make productive use of slack in organisational capacity).

Fundamental Shift: These are often mandatory, or ante projects (i.e. projects that you need to do to stay at the table/remain competitive) or core changes to the organisation’s direction and/or purpose.  While by their very nature these projects often must be done, one must resist the temptation to only do these long, enduring projects at the expense of harvesting Gold.

Gold: these are the projects that bring money to the bottom line quickly, and should therefore be prioritised over all others.  Whether it be an opportunity to quickly exploit a new market opportunity, make a considerable saving on an ongoing expense line, or significantly differentiate from the competition on customer experience, these projects are the ones that truly make a difference.

© Eric Jansen 2011. All rights reserved.


Authentic Leadership

Is authentic leadership a rarity in the modern world?

The political discourse in both the USA and Australia would suggest that populism is at an all-time high (at a tipping point, perhaps?).  Both sides of politics in each country seem to be driven by short-term poll results and (in the US in particular) a deep-seated fear of taking a stand on anything that might be controversial.

To take Australia as an example, despite the views that some might have held about Paul Keating or John Howard, one would be hard-pressed to make a case that, by and large, they didn’t stand by their convictions.  They also made some hard (and sometimes unpopular) decisions while in the hot-seat.

But the current Australian political landscape is in danger of slipping into the poll-driven mentality of American politics – much vitriol, but little substance.  This approach has the potential to foment complacency and a ‘head-in-the-sand’ mentality that will cost us dearly in the future.

Authentic leaders are very clear and passionate about their core beliefs and values.  The constructive debate that arises between people who hold deeply-held opposing views usually delivers much better outcomes than avoidance by both sides of confronting the difficult issues.

But what about the corporate domain?  Are we seeing the same pattern evolving in corporate stewardship, or is authentic leadership becoming more valued (and therefore more prevalent) in the modern-day organisation?

I’d be interested to hear your views and recent experience.


© Eric Jansen 2011. All rights reserved.