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How to Exploit and Enhance Project Opportunities

PM South blogger Harry Hall relates a story of how his father returned from World War II with a goal to start a family and an eye for opportunity. Despite the protests of Hall’s grandfather, the WWII vet borrowed money to procure a tractor, and was able to generate enough income in one year to purchase a car and to pay for college.

What is Opportunity?

The moral of the story is that opportunity, or the “set of circumstances that makes it possible to [achieve a desired goal],” is something the project manager can both exploit and expand. But what difference does it make whether we exploit or expand an opportunity? This is explained by Hall..

To exploit an opportunity is to ensure its probability. The idea is to eliminate, as much as possible, the uncertainty of success. In other words, you can find an additional opportunity that will absorb the risk of the first opportunity. In the case of Harry’s father, the tractor was the opportunity and the cost of the tractor was its risk. Hall’s father found that neighboring farmers needed the service of the tractor, and used their demand to pay off the loan, to ensure the likelihood of owning the tractor.

To enhance an opportunity is to increase its value, its impact. Returning to the story of Hall’s father, one can see how the tractor in and of itself was an opportunity, but remember that it was not Hall’s father’s ultimate goal to own a tractor. His ultimate goal was to support a family, and the money that came from the tractor was used to land him a college degree with which to secure the job and family he wanted.

Relating it to Project Management

As it relates to project management, Hall’s story reveals several important lessons: that having clear objectives is important, that opportunities should not be overlooked by the stakeholder community, that risk may be offset by exploiting further opportunity, and that gaps in success may be closed by enhancing the opportunities that exist.

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About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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