Project Management Institute

Bridging the strategy gap

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BY ROBERTO TOLEDO, MBA, PMP, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR

Projects are a means to a strategic end: Every one should support and be aligned with an organization's strategic intent. Project managers must understand this simple, yet powerful idea to ensure they go beyond their project's goal to achieve strategic objectives.

Best practices suggest that the strategic plan must detail the objectives that will help the organization achieve its mission and vision. Those might include developing new products, expanding markets, reducing operating costs, improving customer care or automating processes, to name a few.

Each strategic plan is as unique as the organization that creates it, but all should include standard elements such as the company's mission, vision and values. There should also be a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis.

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Once the strategic plan has been defined, management should focus on dividing those objectives into specific operational goals—translating the strategy into a portfolio of projects.

Unfortunately, organizations tend to fill their high-level strategic plans with rhetoric and empty words—without a lot of substance. That makes the task of defining the project portfolio a guessing game. Even using the well-defined processes outlined in The Standard for Portfolio Management—Second Edition isn't enough if the company's goals aren't clear.

In Balance

Over the years, I've found that a well-structured approach for strategic planning means project portfolio processes are more easily defined, and the portfolio alignment and monitoring run much more smoothly. One useful technique is the balanced scorecard. For every objective, a measure and a target are established, paving the road for clearer project definition.

Establishing a strong foundation in the strategic plan allows senior management to expedite the process of defining, balancing and funding projects that meet the company's objectives. A strategic dashboard—with a road map of the organization's direction and measurements of whether it's on target or not—also allows for continuous review and improvement.

Amidst ever-changing market conditions and economic environments, organizations need processes in which new conditions can quickly be taken into account so project portfolio elements can be efficiently redefined or redirected. In the end, which method or tool you use is not as important as actually using one. PM

Roberto Toledo, MBA, PMP, is managing partner of Alpha PM Consulting, and a trainer and consultant who works across The Americas. He can be reached at rtoledo@alphapmconsulting.com.

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PM NET WORK JUNE 2011 WWW.PMI.oR

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