The lack of “strategic mindset” capability is – I believe – a clear and present problem in industry.
Where, previously, there were generalists with broader skills, today we have more specialists – or subject matter experts. This is not inherently bad, but it has forced some people into a pigeonhole and taken away their ability to see the bigger picture.
Consequently, project and programme managers are often given business cases without knowing why a project/programme was started. And they have to assume someone has already considered the benefits and how to deliver them.
If businesses don’t spend time asking whether a change initiative is right, allow pet projects and programmes to go unchallenged or believe that every product feature is needed, it can result in a protracted project with increasing costs, timelines and ultimately a mess.
It doesn’t have to be this way. For example, Managing Successful Programmes (MSP®) best practice is framed around what success looks like, including a blueprint that ties business strategy to a future, changed organization. It creates a programme built on a solid justification supported by smaller projects. Project managers understand the value of each project and everyone is “on the same page”.
What makes a strategic mindset?
This is about understanding everything a business has done up to now and setting a clear vision of where it wants to be.
Assessing that gap and identifying milestones on the road from A to B help programme managers take a holistic view, quantify possible impacts and the best way to go.
Without this, a company might – for example – introduce a new IT system without asking why, thinking about the processes needed or whether it will be a help or hindrance. This is fitting the business to an IT system rather than vice-versa.
Conversely, someone with a strategic mindset asks, “why are we doing this? Will we need this in a year’s time or longer?”
Also, about 65% of requirements in a typical project are never used; using a strategic approach means the business gets what it needs and enjoys the benefits earlier without wasting money.
The impact of a fast-changing world means companies not trying to perform better will stagnate and eventually disappear.
Strategic mindset and programmes
A programme needs to be informed by strategic thinking. For example, a company embarking on “digital transformation” should be clear what that means. So, integrating IT systems to support customers engaging digitally is a transformation. Removing cables from printers to connect via wi-fi instead is not.
This is where MSP gives organizations the ability to run programmes efficiently, effectively and economically. It’s a foundation based on creating the right structure and adopting certain principles for roles, responsibilities and products.
And, if people understand how MSP works with other best practices such as PRINCE2® and Management of Portfolios (MoP®), they can cut costs, improve standards and reduce variation in the way people work.
Training and development – an investment
Market research company, IDC, has found that businesses can lose up to 30% in revenue because of inefficiencies. So, without having standards in place companies are probably losing money.
By investing in best practice training and development, programme managers can see the bigger picture, understand what good looks like and apply their learnings to do a better job.