“Despite herculean efforts…most companies struggle to realize the full potential of their strategies,” a Project Management Institute report states. “Typically, and driven by complexity, 50 to 75 percent of large-scale change efforts fall short of expectations….What gets lost in this approach is a clear perspective on whether the projects, individually or collectively, are truly helping the company achieve its ultimate strategic objectives.”
Every year, businesses continue to face the same problems, again and again: despite an extensive profitability analysis, clear and focused individual project maps, and the best project management software, there is tension between projects and the organization’s larger strategic goals.
There is no reason why this should be the case. In fact, project profitability, approaches, and your strategic vision should go hand in hand.
Why is it important to connect strategy and project management?
Your strategic goals are the centerpiece of your organization. How do you achieve these goals? The answer is projects.
Each unique project must contribute to your overall objectives. There should be a means of measuring its contribution to your goals as an organization. And teams cannot be siloed from one another for you to achieve success.
Organizations, no matter what their size or shape, almost always have multiple initiatives going on simultaneously. Of course, not all team members are involved in every project you undertake. But there must be something toward which everyone is working — this is how you connect everything together. This is how you realize your overall vision and grow.
How do you connect projects to strategic goals?
1. Involve the executive team.
One common problem that siloes strategic objectives from individual projects is the fact that too often, the executive is kept separate from so-called lower-level initiatives. No, C-suite professionals aren’t necessarily going to be closely involved in each and every project, but there should always be briefings and/or oversight from leaders at the organization.
The executive team should be aware of what team members are doing to work toward the company’s goals, and that means keeping them apprised of these efforts. There should be the space and opportunity for project managers to explain and discuss their undertakings. Then, together, they can assess the value each project will bring to the overall business.
2. Establish priorities.
What are your strategic priorities? This is what gives you and your organization direction. Given that they are central to your business, project managers should be briefed on what your priorities are as a business. Then, they can work with their teams to ensure each unique initiative in some way contributes toward these larger objectives.
3. Take stock of the projects you carry out from department to department.
Ensuring a cohesive strategy — one that transcends the boundaries between units at your organization — starts with evaluating the projects every department carries out. When you peer into the projects you are carrying out from unit to unit, consider how they are each contributing to the bigger picture and your bottom line.
Leaders of each department should be working together to reflect on whether their projects are aligned. If there are fissures or disconnects, they must consider how to repair them, such that the projects complement one another, even if there is not an obvious direct link.
4. Identify opportunities and threats.
There are a number of tools you probably already use at your organization that enable you to identify opportunities and threats and project your performance:
- Profit and loss report (P&L report)
- Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis
- Cost-benefit analysis
Don’t underestimate the power of these tools in carrying out your vision as a business. These plans allow you to define your individual initiatives and consider how they will contribute to you and your growth. This will allow you to create projects that are truly beneficial to you and your company.
5. Formulate concrete goals.
Of course, without clear, concrete goals, you are operating aimlessly, and your overall strategy is for naught. You simply cannot undertake any project unless you have established a vision as a business. In addition to the fundamental goals you want to achieve, you also need to have benchmarks that will enable you to track your progress and success.
The projects you undertake, both large and small, are essentially stepping stones that will allow you to achieve these objectives.
6. Develop a system of measuring success.
Because your projects are a means of achieving your goals, there must be a system in place for measuring your success. Each project should have key performance indicators (KPIs) attached so that you know what, exactly, you are evaluating. KPIs should also be aligned to your overarching strategy.
It will take effort and time to establish a system of measuring your success, but there are tools that will help you. Business intelligence software is one critical system that can give you meaningful data and reports that will allow you to see how you’re doing and how your individual projects are contributing to the bigger picture. You should also develop criteria, unique to your organization, for evaluating each initiative.
Ultimately, it is about a cohesive approach to making your organization a functional, productive entity. Strategic goals and individual projects must be closely aligned, complementing and furthering each other in order to achieve overall success. The road to getting there is not necessarily smooth, but with these steps, you will be much more effective in achieving your vision and mission.
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