By leveraging existing planning processes and examining programs or projects on the horizon, you can begin to synchronize existing goals and initiatives with stimulus funding and pursue competitive grants most applicable to your operation's priorities.

What projects are far enough along in the planning stages to get started right away? What were you planning to do that you've been waiting on funding for?

Understand the motives, history, and aspirations of grant programs to identify appropriate funding opportunities that align your operation's priorities and allow for the possibility of accelerated project plans.

Create or use simple, centralized tools. Whether proprietary or off-the-shelf, look for software that enables you to identify target projects and provides decision-making frameworks for defining priorities.

For example, Chicago developed its Climate Action Plan using MWH's mPlanner, a software program that aligns stakeholder input with program goals. The software was used to prioritize, in a consistent and transparent manner, 29 actions that officials and residents can take to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

Florida's Miami Dade County is using the software to prioritize renewal and replacement decisions as part of a comprehensive asset management program. Fund allocation priorities were based on factors such as risk and various business drivers to improve service by lowering the possibility of system failures.

Establish measurable and mutual goals to track project status. To ensure your operation delivers the expected return on investment, you'll need some way of tracking the progress of projects so you can tweak schedules as they move toward completion.

Northglenn, Colo., is using The Five Star Institute's Vector 5 peformance-management software to track team goals, individual actions, and timeframes and success measures while breaking down organizational silos and encouraging cross-functional cooperation. Clear goals and concise tactics lead to successful project completion while aligning with reporting requirements.

Synchronize opportunities with resources. Adding stimulus projects to the workload of an already strained team can create a high-risk environment. Sometimes, establishing a project management office (PMO) is worth the investment.

To ensure that 600 post-Hurricane Katrina redevelopment projects were delivered on time and on budget while meeting Federal Emergency Management Agency auditing requirements, New Orleans and MWH pulled together a team of 40 employees that included staff from the Mayor's Office of Communications and the legal, purchasing, finance, real estate, property management, capital projects administration, and public works departments. The team standardized and quickly adapted processes to meet ever-evolving challenges.

While not all operations can afford this model, prioritizing projects that can meet tangible goals will help you to best allocate existing resources without significantly straining employees.

By seizing this opportunity to improve processes, you can use the legislation's unique administrative requirements to your advantage long after the final dollar is spent. The systems deployed now will enhance goal-setting, project-identification and -prioritization, performance tracking, and communication of accomplishments — all of which will improve your operations' overall effectiveness. PW

Gallagher is director of project management and DeGeorge is a business consultant for MWH Business Solutions Group, which provides environmental engineering, construction, and strategic consulting services.