15 February 2006

How Do You Evaluate the Value Fitness of a Project?

How many of us invest the time to develop a list of criteria that we can use to evaluate the potential of projects that could create value for us? I’m performance driven so I need to understand what creates value for me or for our teams.

So many offers come my way, many seductive. My participation could change their course – and this could mean generating new value streams for me. And, many projects come my way that require an investment of time and deliver lots of value to others but very little in return for me. I see my contribution copied in their websites. I listen to them using my concepts to grow value for themselves, but they do not generate a value stream back in my direction, not even credit. After doing this regularly for the past year, I decided to stop with the start of 2006.

I also needed a way to explain why I am saying “no” and why I am no longer contributing. I needed this as much for myself as I did for the others.

Recently, I’ve started using a list of 12 basic criteria that a project must have for it to deliver enough value for me to engage with it. I’ve constructed a purposeful list based on 3 elements relevant to each of the 4 value generators: human capital (personal development), social capital (relationships), conceptual capital (creative, knowledge, intellectual), and transactional (financial, assets).

I ran an experiment with existing projects to see how they stood up. My intuition has been pretty spot on – experience probably. What I’ve noticed is that so many of my friends or associates ask me to do stuff for free – or I volunteer to help them. If I have time, I generally do not mind if they’re close friends. This comes from old habits of developing staff into being all they can be. This is no longer my responsibility since I’m working in virtual organizations now. I am no longer responsible for how a person’s personal development impacts the bottom line – difficult to let go of this habit.

I ran several of these “friends” projects through my new Project Value Fitness (PVF) evaluation – and discovered that they actually generate very little value for me, even on the relationship level. Worse, I discovered that they actually distract me from time I would have had to develop value for myself. When I started saying no to some of these people, I noticed that they immediately fell off the radar. A little follow-up research revealed that they are a particular behavior profile that I need to learn to recognize and say no to...nice, full of ideas, need experience and guidance, and have no sense of how to ground their work.

What would happen if I replaced these with other opportunities that I could develop? So, the first question that I now ask myself is: What purpose will this project serve to generate value for me? Then I start by putting it through the PVF evaluation.

The second question is: How can I still help my associates and yet generate value for myself? Perhaps, I need to engage them in a coaching role – where they can call me and ask for input, knowledge, contacts, access, whatever – and they pay by the minute, if they consider my contribution valuable. Another opportunity might be…trade or barter for something of similar value that they have to offer.

What’s interesting is the value streams only work if they build on each capital level and ultimately lead to transactional value if each capital value level serves a purpose for the individual or client involved. It works on the client level, which is why I’m going to invest the time to see how to make it work on the individual level.

Has anyone else played with this idea?

Tags: value creation, project fitness, evaluation criteria

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