Project Management

When is a Good Idea a Bad Idea?

From the Taking the Plunge Blog
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In case you actually read this description, the beginning of the blog is about preparing for the PMP exam. It then evolved into maintaining my credential. After taking a break for a few years, I'm back and will be blogging about project management, in general, and probably a bit of agile on a regular basis.

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Have you ever had a really good idea that you were excited about, that you couldn't wait to start, only to have it go nowhere?  I've had more than one hobby that went into limbo and became an "interest" because it was a good idea, but the timing wasn't right.  I'm sure I'll get back to one or more of them, but now is not the time.

Have you noticed that we have similar behaviors at work, often with one difference?  A good idea becomes a project and resources are assigned to it, but when it loses priority it never actually stops.  Nobody says, "This isn't a good idea right now."  Instead, people work on it when they have time, assuming it doesn't impact anything.  Don't get me started on multi-tasking… but multi-tasking isn't the only concern.  Activities involved in both testing and implementation tie up people and resources, and not just those performing the work.  A desktop software implementation can distract people working on other projects, as well as resulting in issues that can stop work until they are resolved.

This post is only partly about organizational multi-tasking and project prioritization.  It's also about efficiency, or at least the illusion of efficiency.

My work is primarily in IT, so there will be an IT focus in what I write, but I will try to tie it back to the business, as well.

IT is expected to be efficient.  It often feels like people think efficient IT means working on all requested projects and getting them all done on time and within budget.  That doesn't feel very efficient to me.  Can you see the connection to "good ideas?"

A company can have employees working on a lot of projects.  Some strategic, some compliance enabling, others required to keep the lights on, and then a bunch of good ideas.  The company can hire more people and buy more equipment to keep everyone working efficiently on all of the projects.  Eventually, however, there will be conflicts.  A natural bottleneck occurs with testing and implementation.  When you have interdependent systems, your dependencies limit the amount of separate changes that you can effectively test or go live with at any given time.  If you really want IT to be efficient, you need to insert a bottleneck in the decision-making process in order to limit the amount of work in the project pipeline to match the amount of output your organization is able to effectively deliver.  (Think of Portfolio Management as one step toward making this happen.) Over time, you may be able to enlarge the testing and implementation bottleneck, at which point, you will be able to increase the amount of work in the pipeline.

So far, we've just been talking about IT projects.  Now, consider a company, like the one I work for, that has global markets.  This means global marketing projects and global sales events that also impact the web, mobile, CRM, and ERP systems, among others.  The windows for testing and production implementations just got a lot smaller.  Should these activities be considered as part of portfolio management? 

Is that good idea you're working on a good idea right now, or would it be a better idea to work on it when it is a better fit with other priorities your organization is pursuing?  Or, not at all?  Does being a good idea automatically mean that it deserves to be executed?

Posted on: July 22, 2017 04:40 PM | Permalink

Comments (24)

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Good one Aaron, and an important topic. I implemented such a 'bottleneck', creating a process around intake - vetting out efforts and projects. There has been a cost savings with development, enhancements, and maintenance with increased efficiency and success around the work we do and should take on.

Excellent Aaron, thanks for sharing, very interesting topic

Thank you for sharing the article. Aside from wrong timing and company's other urgent priorities, many good projects do not materialize or gets shelved due to cost centers.

Thanks for sharing the article.

I'm not sure if I understand you well. For me you speak about two topics.
One is mutlitasking vs specialization.
Second is bringing good ideas into life and how sometimes they turn into bad ideas.

For me it looks like sometimes people have so much work that they dont have time for "good ideas". How to find time, to say stop, and try to change if you're overworked?

Love it, just because you or a colleague is beating on the "good idea pinata" doesn't mean you should go forward.

Good ideas come at any time, but not always is time enougth to start with every new idea. we need to priorizate to have a balance between projects starting and projects ending successfuly without be out of resources

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the GOOD IDEA Aaron! You bring in interesting thing: "when the project loses priority, it never actually sops". It must stop otherwise it costs other higher priority projects. In my company, identified lower priority projects go on hold and a logical conclusions are made before holding them off when higher priority projects need to be executed. Business teams decide on the priorities and accordingly relevant IT projects go on hold.

Grzegorz Czoska, the post is about a complex set of issues that some companies handle better than others. One of the themes is that trying to execute a good idea at the wrong time can be a bad idea.

If I understand you correctly, you are bringing up a separate issue - being so overworked that you don't have time to come up with good ideas. This could be caused by a number of reasons, including ineffective (or no) prioritization. I'd be hesitant to make any suggestions without a lot more information. However, if you are overworked, are you able to make the time - maybe an hour at the start of your week - to prioritize and plan when you will work on your assignments? A little bit of planning at the start of the week can keep you from feeling like you are in crisis mode the rest of the week.

Always great and clear articles. Thanks.

Good article. Thanks for sharing

Thanks for the post. Good ideas should be backed up with a sound business case and executive sponsorship.

Good blog and interesting topic. Thanks for sharing.

The content is informative, thank you for sharing

Nice article. Thanks Aaron.

When is a Good Idea a Bad Idea?

When do we usually formulate ideas?
What are your influences and bases in coming up to an idea.
Is there a strong business case?
Is it feasible?

With the right motivation, feasibility and a strong business case, a good Idea becomes a bad Idea, if started the next day. Requirements change. Ideas expire. Ideas are not unique, or worse, can be stolen. Act while the passion is strong.


Very valuable information

Thanks for sharing!

Nice article. Thank you for sharing.

Thanks for sharing.
I take it as a reminder to take into account if it is a "good time" for a "good idea" just coming up.

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