Project and Strategy Alignment is Good Business
One of the most important questions a project manager can ask, regardless of the methodology practiced or size of the business is: “What is the business reason for this work?”. And if the answer is, “because the CEO (or any high-ranking leader) said so,” the project manager most likely is facing endless challenges trying to force something to come together than really has no proven purpose. On the other hand, if the answer is, “because the work aligns with the business strategy in this way…” then the project manager will likely have less barriers and more success. Alignment with strategic objectives can result in projects that are three times more likely to be successful.
What is organizational strategy?
To have that alignment, one must first know what an organizational strategy is. At the core, an organizational strategy is the collection of actions identified by top management to realize long-term goals. The best way to think of the organizational strategy, is as a road map. It captures where you want the business to go and the activities needed to get there.
Organizational strategy to project strategy
Project managers should note that the “activities” part of the organizational strategy is their key. It is critical for project managers to know the position of project, or program, management within the business and how project management fits within business management.
“Research has shown a significant increase in organizational financial performance and project success rates when projects were aligned with business strategies.”
No business or organization would seek weak or decreasing financial performance. There is no motivation for putting funding and resources into projects that will result in only loss. And yet, as far back as 2003, Harvard Business School published Connecting the Dots: Aligning Projects with Objectives in Unpredictable Times in which it is stated that $2.3 trillion is spent in the U.S. on projects and most companies lack a strategy for managing that work or mapping it to the organization.
The alignment of organizational strategy to project work can ensure that everything a business does is for a specific purpose ; this is of great significance as the marketplace volatility and competitiveness show no signs of lessening.
Additionally, to reduce waste and manage costs, business organizations than require clear alignment of projects to strategy can prevent projects duplicating work or projects from producing useless deliverables. One way to foster the game changing power of aligned organizational strategy to project outcomes is through strategic thinking.
Strategic thinking fosters strategic alignment
If is it so widely known that organizational alignment to project work has positive financial benefits, why is it not the norm? There are two main challenges to alignment: strategic thinking and knowledge of the strategy.
“Strategic thinking is an intentional process easily lost amid the pressures of operational decision-making and tactical leadership.
Be a strategic thinker
Financial savings or gains come from successful projects. And the probability of success “…drastically increases when executives encourage strategic thinking as part of the decision making process.” However, your ability to think strategic is directly impacted by your knowledge of the strategy. That is to say, you can not align work to a strategy that you do not know.
Know the organizational strategy
One business researcher quoted in the Harvard Business Review article “Close the Gap Between Projects” offered the dismal measurement of 15% of employees being able to state their companies’ strategic goals. Project managers may need to make the effort to find out what the organizational strategy is, who drives it, and how often it is updated.
Gain strategic thinking skills
Kick start your strategy and project work alignment efforts with enhanced skills. Strategic thinking can boost your project successes and your career opportunities. With a foundational course, such as Strategic Planning and Thinking for Project Managers, you can enhance your skill and grow in your understanding of the role of strategy in project work.
About Megan Bell, MPM, PMP
A multi-hyphenate of corporate training, higher education, and creative agency work, Bell’s passion for connecting people to impactful information fuels an evolving career journey. Her portfolio includes conducting learning analytic research and reporting, managing a corporate mentoring program, authoring a blog series, facilitating leadership and career programs, serving on a non-profit board, and even occasional voice work. Bell’s education background encompasses UNC-Chapel Hill, Western Carolina University, and North Carolina State University.
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