Case Study 1: Prioritizing Projects at D. D. Williamson (Chapter 2)

Read the case titled: “Prioritizing Projects at D. D. Williamson” found in Chapter 2.
Write a four to six (4-6) page paper in which you:
Analyze the prioritizing process at D. D. Williamson. Suggest two (2) recommendations to improve the prioritizing process. Create a scenario where the implemented process at D. D. Williamson would not work. Project five (5) years ahead and speculate whether or not D. D. Williamson will be using the same process. Justify your answer. Use at least four (4) quality (peer-reviewed) resources in this assignment.
48 Part 1 Organizing Projects
PROJECT MANAGEMENT IN ACTION Prioritizing Projects at D. D. Williamson
One of the most difficult, yet most important, lessons we have learned at D. D. Williamson surrounds project prioritization. We took three years and two iterations of our prioritization process to finally settle on an ap- proach that dramatically increased our success rate on critical projects (now called VIPs, or “Vision Impact Projects”).
Knowing that one of the keys to project management success is key management support, our first approach at prioritization was a process where our entire senior management team worked through a set of criteria and resource estimations to select a maximum of two pro- jects per senior management sponsor—16 projects in to- tal. Additionally, we hired a continuous improvement manager to serve as both our project office and a key resource for project facilitation. This was a great move forward (the year before we had been attempting to monitor well over 60 continuous improvement projects of varying importance). Our success rate improved to over 60 percent of projects finishing close to the ex- pected dates, financial investment, and results.
What was the problem? The projects that were not moving forward tended to be the most critical—the heavy-investment “game changing” projects. A review of our results the next year determined we left signifi- cant money in opportunity “on the table” with projects that were behind and over budget!
This diagnosis led us to seek an additional process change. While the criteria rating was sound, the num- ber of projects for a company our size was still too many to track robustly at a senior level and have re- sources to push for completion. Hence, we elevated a subset of projects to highest status—our “VIPs.” We simplified the criteria ratings—rating projects on the level of expected impact on corporate objectives, the cross-functional nature of the team, and the perceived likelihood that the project would encounter barriers which required senior level support to overcome.
The results? Much better success rates on the big projects, such as design and implementation of new equipment and expansion plans into new markets. But why?
The Global Operating Team (GOT) now has laser focus on the five VIPs, reviewing the project plans progress and next steps with our continuous improve- ment manager in every weekly meeting. If a project is going off plan, we see it quickly and can move to real- locate resources, provide negotiation help, or change priorities within and outside the organization to man- age it back on track. Certainly, the unanticipated bar- riers still occur, but we can put the strength of the entire team toward removing them as soon as they happen.
A couple of fun side benefits—it is now a develop- ment opportunity for project managers to take on a VIP. With only four to six projects on the docket, they come with tremendous senior management interaction and focus. Additionally, we have moved our prioritization process into our functional groups, using matrices with criteria and resource estimations to prioritize cus- tomer and R&D projects with our sales, marketing, and science and innovation teams, as well as IT projects throughout the company. The prioritization process has become a foundation of our cross-functional success!
Following are excerpts from the spreadsheet D. D. Williamson used to select and prioritize our VIP projects last year. Exhibit 2.15 shows the five criteria used to prioritize the projects. Exhibit 2.16 shows how associate time when assigned to a project is not avail- able for other projects. Projects can also be limited by the amount of funds. Finally, Exhibit 2.17 defines terms used in project selection.


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