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The best way to choose among various projects

Ted Blackwater |
If one thought ever crossed your mind, to paraphrase the famous poet, "What is rotten in the state of our projects?" then it's time to ask yourself are your people better in selling their ideas to you then in bringing them to life.

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When it comes to employees, some of them like to verbally explain their ideas to their superiors, while some like to write down all they have in mind. That's OK because some people are stronger in verbal skill and others are better in writing.

When it comes to bosses, some of them like to have a short talk, while some of them like to read the project description in peace. The first group is usually a very busy one with a habit to make decision fast, without sweet talk that goes with every presentation. The second group likes to take time to carefully study all options before deciding anything.

So, which approach should you choose?

Let's see the weaknesses of both approach. As you certainly know, a good salesman will sell you anything just talking to you. Cheap or expensive, wanted or not, you'll buy it because a great salesman is like a shark: when a good target is in sight, that's it: there's no going back, the pressure and sweet talk continue until the prospective buyer says "OK, where to sign?"

That's obviously good for your sales department, but not for you. If you have a good presenter in front of you, no matter how experienced you may be, there is a danger that you'll buy what you don't want. A new project, a new product, some marketing strategy... The power of talk is strong and should not be underestimated.

Now, a written project may also contain some hidden traps, especially if the author is not certain it will work. Then there will be endless graphs, numbers, target groups, research diagrams... Take 50 pages of it and you'll be lost.

So, the best way for you as a CEO is to ask for both written and verbal presentation. Let your employee say in brief what is the project about and what it should achieve. During that talk you will get the first picture is that worth it and does your employee believe in the project. You will also see does your employee think about the project from the customer's point of view, could the project bring something substantial to the company, and is it something worth your time.

After that, ask for a short written description. Let it be, just as a rule of thumb, one page long with the main idea on it. Of course, complex projects will have complex project documentation but if your employee can't describe the basic idea on one page the chance is it should be thought over until it becomes clear.

By combining those two approaches you will get the best possible idea about the new project and then you can decide will you go forward to it. Never rely on just one approach because it can easily lead you to a very wrong direction.

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