Strategy Session: Three Ways to Get Aligned

Strategy Session

Strategic thinkers provide the missing pieces for improving project outcomes. Twenty-seven percent more projects are completed successfully when organizations align them with the strategy of the enterprise project management office (EPMO), according to PMI’s Pulse of the Profession®: The High Cost of Low Performance. Yet only 44 percent of projects are highly aligned to organizational strategy.

Project and program managers who embrace strategic and business management — one side of the PMI Talent Triangle® — also can widen their career paths: Strategic thinking is the hardest-to-find highly desired skill, according to a 2016 Bloomberg report.

“Amid all the outputs a project manager is focused on, the real focus is business outcome and value,” says Suzie Morton, PMP, associate director of portfolio management and EPMO operations, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Chevy Chase, Maryland, USA.

Here are three ways project and program managers can elevate their strategic thinking:

  1. Connect the Dots
    Project managers are head-down in the tactical details of schedule, scope and budget. But don’t forget to pause to study strategy during all phases, says Rafael Pierre, PMP, project manager, Banco Bradesco, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

    At initiation, reviewing the company’s mission and vision statements and the strategy overview alongside the project charter helps project leaders visualize how they all connect. Keep at it during execution, because the organization’s strategy might evolve — particularly if it’s a long-term project.

    “A dynamic environment means project managers can feel pressured to deliver quickly, but that can mean strategic alignment suffers,” Mr. Pierre says. “If you can’t see how the project supports the strategy, it should raise a red flag.”
  2. Study the Case
    Reviewing the business case is a normal step for any project managers. But to squeeze the most strategic knowledge from it, project managers should zero in on the metrics or outcomes that define the project’s true success. It will provide a guide for delivering strategic value beyond schedule, scope and budget, says Pullak Mohapatra, PMP, IT strategy and PMO, PNB MetLife India Insurance, Mumbai, India.

    “Knowing why the project is important and its value allows the project manager to make strategic decisions when building the project plan and when adjusting it later,” he says.
  3. Tie Milestones to Touchstones
    When realized risks knock a project off course, project managers should revisit strategy — and realign, says Celine Lacouture, PMP, senior program manager, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. That might require more than just tweaking the work-breakdown structure or compressing the schedule. Strategic-minded project professionals also should review the project charter and meet with the project sponsor to discuss whether a scope change is in order.

    “Developing a trusted relationship with the sponsor — with open communication and regular meetings or coffee breaks — is what allows the project manager to keep the project aligned with organizational goals at all times,” she says.

    Keeping an eye on both nitty-gritty project details and high-level strategy isn’t easy. But with practice and the right approach, project and program managers can deliver initiatives that are better aligned with organization strategy — the true barometer of project success.