For large organisations, project prioritisation can be plagued by pet projects, emotional bargaining and unsubstantiated yet enticing claims of potential benefits. My advice would be to turn your thinking upside down and assess every project or proposal against the risks and consequences of not doing it, instead of listening to everyone argue the case as to why a project must proceed.

Most large organisations have a diverse portfolio of capital and operational initiatives, all of which feel very important to the business – and to the managers in charge of each one. Senior management faces the unenviable challenge of prioritising these initiatives, using the resources available to them.

Projects will always be at differing stages of development, from initial scoping through design and delivery. And the quality of documentation will vary for each project, in terms of its likely costs, benefits, risks and resourcing. Prioritising them can be a tricky business, to say the least.

Think about all the things that can go wrong, the unexpected events that could have a negative impact on your organisation. Then use this list to prioritise and manage your key business opportunities and initiatives. This is where you need to turn your thinking upside down and assess every project or proposal against the risks and consequences of not doing it.

Our management consulting and risk, resilience and security teams have developed a risk-based prioritisation framework in line with this upside down approach. Rather than look at risk as one of many criteria, we make every aspect about risk. This might sound a little pessimistic but, like many of our clients, we think you’ll find it makes a lot of sense.

We use the organisation’s goals to guide the priority of activities, looking at specific dimensions of risk and their consequences for these goals. The risk dimensions may include health and safety, compliance, sustainability, financial viability and customer and community impact.

Adopting a risk-based prioritisation strategy can deliver substantial benefits, as long as the approach is embedded in day-to-day ways of working – addressing the people, process, information and cultural changes required.

Do you think turning things upside down feels risky or could this approach benefit your organisation?