Protect Your Project From Escalating Doubts Net Present Value (NPV) / MBA Resources

Introduction to Net Present Value (NPV) - What is Net Present Value (NPV) ? How it impacts financial decisions regarding project management?

NPV solution for Protect Your Project From Escalating Doubts case study

At Oak Spring University, we provide corporate level professional Net Present Value (NPV) case study solution. Protect Your Project From Escalating Doubts case study is a Harvard Business School (HBR) case study written by Karen A. Brown, Nancy L. Hyer, Richard Ettenson. The Protect Your Project From Escalating Doubts (referred as “Project Doubt” from here on) case study provides evaluation & decision scenario in field of Strategy & Execution. It also touches upon business topics such as - Value proposition, Strategy.

The net present value (NPV) of an investment proposal is the present value of the proposal’s net cash flows less the proposal’s initial cash outflow. If a project’s NPV is greater than or equal to zero, the project should be accepted.

NPV = Present Value of Future Cash Flows LESS Project’s Initial Investment

Case Description of Protect Your Project From Escalating Doubts Case Study

This is an MIT Sloan Management Review Article. Many projects are launched with great promise but lose traction and momentum during project delivery, when the real work of the initiative is underway. Shifting organizational priorities, changes in leadership, and distrust of information about the project's progress can scuttle a project's reputation and, ultimately, its chance for success. This self-perpetuating downward spiral can cause contributors to distance themselves from an effort that is losing support, cannot overcome inertia, or worse, is derailed. Even the most technically sound and strategically important projects can fall into this "cycle of doubt"and fail to meet their objectives. Building on previous work on project branding, the authors conducted a multisource, practice-based field investigation to seek insights on how to help organizations and project leaders understand, avoid, and recover from the cycle of doubt. Analyses revealed practical insight on three related issues: how to recognize when a project is vulnerable to the cycle of doubt; how to ensure that a project does not fall into a downward spiral of skepticism; and how to reverse negative momentum if a project begins to stall. The research found four main categories of doubt triggers that can sap support and lead a project into a negative tailspin. These warning signs are when strategic priorities change, sponsors appear equivocal, delivery hiccups occur, or communication missteps raise doubts. The authors offer eight action steps providing possible avenues by which vulnerable projects can successfully overcome or avoid a momentum slide. An additional checklist helps project leaders get a sense of how well (or poorly) their projects are positioned to forestall or recover from escalating doubts.

Case Authors : Karen A. Brown, Nancy L. Hyer, Richard Ettenson

Topic : Strategy & Execution

Related Areas : Strategy

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 6% for Protect Your Project From Escalating Doubts Case Study

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 6 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10002460) -10002460 - -
Year 1 3450141 -6552319 3450141 0.9434 3254850
Year 2 3964697 -2587622 7414838 0.89 3528566
Year 3 3956664 1369042 11371502 0.8396 3322091
Year 4 3227533 4596575 14599035 0.7921 2556508
TOTAL 14599035 12662016

The Net Present Value at 6% discount rate is 2659556

In isolation the NPV number doesn't mean much but put in right context then it is one of the best method to evaluate project returns. In this article we will cover -

Different methods of capital budgeting

What is NPV & Formula of NPV,
How it is calculated,
How to use NPV number for project evaluation, and
Scenario Planning given risks and management priorities.

Capital Budgeting Approaches

Methods of Capital Budgeting

There are four types of capital budgeting techniques that are widely used in the corporate world –

1. Profitability Index
2. Payback Period
3. Internal Rate of Return
4. Net Present Value

Apart from the Payback period method which is an additive method, rest of the methods are based on Discounted Cash Flow technique. Even though cash flow can be calculated based on the nature of the project, for the simplicity of the article we are assuming that all the expected cash flows are realized at the end of the year.

Discounted Cash Flow approaches provide a more objective basis for evaluating and selecting investment projects. They take into consideration both –

1. Timing of the expected cash flows – stockholders of Project Doubt have higher preference for cash returns over 4-5 years rather than 10-15 years given the nature of the volatility in the industry.
2. Magnitude of both incoming and outgoing cash flows – Projects can be capital intensive, time intensive, or both. Project Doubt shareholders have preference for diversified projects investment rather than prospective high income from a single capital intensive project.

Formula and Steps to Calculate Net Present Value (NPV) of Protect Your Project From Escalating Doubts

NPV = Net Cash In Flowt1 / (1+r)t1 + Net Cash In Flowt2 / (1+r)t2 + … Net Cash In Flowtn / (1+r)tn
Less Net Cash Out Flowt0 / (1+r)t0

Where t = time period, in this case year 1, year 2 and so on.
r = discount rate or return that could be earned using other safe proposition such as fixed deposit or treasury bond rate. Net Cash In Flow – What the firm will get each year.
Net Cash Out Flow – What the firm needs to invest initially in the project.

Step 1 – Understand the nature of the project and calculate cash flow for each year.
Step 2 – Discount those cash flow based on the discount rate.
Step 3 – Add all the discounted cash flow.
Step 4 – Selection of the project

Why Strategy & Execution Managers need to know Financial Tools such as Net Present Value (NPV)?

In our daily workplace we often come across people and colleagues who are just focused on their core competency and targets they have to deliver. For example marketing managers at Project Doubt often design programs whose objective is to drive brand awareness and customer reach. But how that 30 point increase in brand awareness or 10 point increase in customer touch points will result into shareholders’ value is not specified.

To overcome such scenarios managers at Project Doubt needs to not only know the financial aspect of project management but also needs to have tools to integrate them into part of the project development and monitoring plan.

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 15%

After working through various assumptions we reached a conclusion that risk is far higher than 6%. In a reasonably stable industry with weak competition - 15% discount rate can be a good benchmark.

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 15 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10002460) -10002460 - -
Year 1 3450141 -6552319 3450141 0.8696 3000123
Year 2 3964697 -2587622 7414838 0.7561 2997881
Year 3 3956664 1369042 11371502 0.6575 2601571
Year 4 3227533 4596575 14599035 0.5718 1845352
TOTAL 10444926

The Net NPV after 4 years is 442466

(10444926 - 10002460 )

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 20%

If the risk component is high in the industry then we should go for a higher hurdle rate / discount rate of 20%.

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 20 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10002460) -10002460 - -
Year 1 3450141 -6552319 3450141 0.8333 2875118
Year 2 3964697 -2587622 7414838 0.6944 2753262
Year 3 3956664 1369042 11371502 0.5787 2289736
Year 4 3227533 4596575 14599035 0.4823 1556488
TOTAL 9474603

The Net NPV after 4 years is -527857

At 20% discount rate the NPV is negative (9474603 - 10002460 ) so ideally we can't select the project if macro and micro factors don't allow financial managers of Project Doubt to discount cash flow at lower discount rates such as 15%.

Acceptance Criteria of a Project based on NPV

Simplest Approach – If the investment project of Project Doubt has a NPV value higher than Zero then finance managers at Project Doubt can ACCEPT the project, otherwise they can reject the project. This means that project will deliver higher returns over the period of time than any alternate investment strategy.

In theory if the required rate of return or discount rate is chosen correctly by finance managers at Project Doubt, then the stock price of the Project Doubt should change by same amount of the NPV. In real world we know that share price also reflects various other factors that can be related to both macro and micro environment.

In the same vein – accepting the project with zero NPV should result in stagnant share price. Finance managers use discount rates as a measure of risk components in the project execution process.

Sensitivity Analysis

Project selection is often a far more complex decision than just choosing it based on the NPV number. Finance managers at Project Doubt should conduct a sensitivity analysis to better understand not only the inherent risk of the projects but also how those risks can be either factored in or mitigated during the project execution. Sensitivity analysis helps in –

What are the uncertainties surrounding the project Initial Cash Outlay (ICO’s). ICO’s often have several different components such as land, machinery, building, and other equipment.

Understanding of risks involved in the project.

What will be a multi year spillover effect of various taxation regulations.

What can impact the cash flow of the project.

What are the key aspects of the projects that need to be monitored, refined, and retuned for continuous delivery of projected cash flows.

Some of the assumptions while using the Discounted Cash Flow Methods –

Projects are assumed to be Mutually Exclusive – This is seldom the came in modern day giant organizations where projects are often inter-related and rejecting a project solely based on NPV can result in sunk cost from a related project.

Independent projects have independent cash flows – As explained in the marketing project – though the project may look independent but in reality it is not as the brand awareness project can be closely associated with the spending on sales promotions and product specific advertising.

References & Further Readings

Karen A. Brown, Nancy L. Hyer, Richard Ettenson (2018), "Protect Your Project From Escalating Doubts Harvard Business Review Case Study. Published by HBR Publications.