top of page


Prioritizing CI Projects – Mission Impossible?

Continuous improvement is needed across all business functions including those that are responsible for safety, security, sustainability, quality, regulatory, and other stakeholder obligations.

Whether you are responsible for maintenance, continuous improvement, or capital projects there comes a day when you need to provide an answer to which projects you should do and in what order to improve the probability of mission success.

Priortizing CI Projects - Mission Impossible?
Priortizing CI Projects - Mission Impossible?

Let’s imagine that today you are that person who has to decide.

Here is your challenge should you chose to accept it:

Mission Possible

Note: while this scenario is fictitious, it is based on real-world examples I have been involved in over the years.


You are the CI Officer responsible for continuous improvement across your organization.

You have compiled a list of candidate projects that promise improvements to productivity (margin, throughput, costs, waste, etc.) as well as better outcomes for compliance, quality, safety, security, and so on.

Some of these projects depend on others, and some may cause significant disruption before benefits are realized. Each has different costs, benefits, and risk associated with them. Some may actually fail, and some are critical to mission success.

You need to decide which ones to do and in what order so they don’t compromise current outcomes or productivity. In other words, improvements can’t break the bank or the business.

Ideally, changes (on the whole) should generate financial gains sufficient to fund other projects creating a virtuous cycle of improvement.

Total Value Chain
Total Value Chain


Create a self-funding continuous improvement (CI) portfolio providing a rank order of projects that optimizes overall outcomes and productivity while avoiding negative impacts to the business.

Assume the first set of projects will receive sufficient capital to get things going. This initial set should be optimized to minimize the initial investment but sufficient to create future gains to fund successive improvements based on the rank ordering of projects.

New projects will be added at the end of each year and incorporated into the portfolio of projects.

Assumptions and Constraints

  1. Your organization provides highly regulated services to customers.

  2. Your organization is organized as functional teams with hierarchical management.

  3. Advancing outcomes is preferred over cost reductions.

  4. The project portfolio should be self-funding beyond the initial seed investment.

  5. Mission critical projects have highest priority.

  6. No staff reductions.

  7. Eliminated resources will be reallocated to support further improvements.

  8. Assume a 5 year planning horizon with 20% new projects added each year.

  9. Assume that 33% (1/3rd) of the projects are critical to mission success but with various degrees of criticality.

Methodology and Approach

How would you meet this challenge?

  1. What approach would you use?

  2. What principles could be applied to categorize and select projects?

  3. What additional information do you need to know about the business, projects or otherwise?

  4. What capabilities are needed to meet the portfolio objectives?

  5. How would you ensure improvement benefits are realized?

  6. How would you manage and measure progress across the five years?

And finally, would you accept this challenge? Why or why not?



Become a Member

Lean Compliance Member



Every month

Access to Exclusive Resources and Programs

Valid until canceled

Access to Recorded Webinars

Access to Exclusive Content (worksheets, templates, etc.)

Access to Exclusive Articles

Access to Exclusive Resources

Access to Elevate Compliance Huddle Worksheets and Content

50% Off First Compliance Consultation ($225 value)

Elevate Compliance Huddle

Mondays @ Noon on Zoom (weekly)

Elevate Compliance Huddle / Free Online Session

bottom of page