A project doesn’t end with delivery but with the realization of its benefits to the business. So why is corporate strategy still not being fully communicated to the project team and what steps need to be taken to ensure that it is?
Without a clear understanding of corporate strategy, there is a real danger that projects will be delivered which are of no real value to the business – or even detrimental to the organization’s end goals. Not only is this a huge waste of resources which could have been better placed elsewhere, it may also have a damaging knock on effect at programme and portfolio level.
The reason for this mismatch often comes down to project managers being tasked with delivering a project without knowledge of the wider, long term corporate goals – and therefore have no context to review progress. They are, in effect, running projects blindfolded. In other cases, the company may not actually have a defined strategy, meaning there is no baseline against which to monitor any gains.
Avoiding these outcomes demands a corporate commitment to the cause. Developing a robust strategy in the first instance and then cascading it down through the organization so that it is embedded in all programme activity.
In practical terms this means:
- Building the strategy into the project management policy. It should almost become mandatory; where critical thinking becomes second nature and no project is allowed to continue without questioning if it is still right for the company.
- Linking the project benefits to the strategy. This means recognizing that even if a project is profitable, this short-term gain can’t be justified if it doesn’t support overall business objectives.
- Using best practice frameworks. Much needed governance can be provided by project management tools, such as PRINCE2®, which validate the business case. Adopting this method will prompt evaluation at important stages in a project’s lifecycle and ensure it remains a worthwhile investment.
- Setting reviews: Having regular checkpoints will establish whether the project is still fit for purpose. Updates, steering meetings, risk assessments are all forums that can be used as an opportunity to challenge output and decide if a project still has a viable business case.
- Establishing open lines of communication: Regular contact between portfolio manager and project manager is essential. If anything changes at organizational level that could impact the project – or vice versa – then this development can be handled collaboratively.
Of course, better alignment means that ineffective projects are more likely to be identified and killed. And there’s no doubt that this is a hard call to make – particularly for project managers focused on successful delivery. So it’s often down to the portfolio manager, who is ultimately accountable, to take the final decision. It does happen – I stopped five projects in a row as there simply wasn’t a sound business case to progress.
Don’t forget that benefits of strong alignment go beyond resource optimization – although this is clearly a major incentive. Making staff aware of the bigger picture also encourages greater engagement with organizational goals and may even help to boost productivity. After all, if you don’t know where you’re going, how can you expect your team to deliver the best result for your organization?
Read more AXELOS Blog Posts by Ana Bertacchini
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How project managers can always improve emotional intelligence
The multi-faceted project manager