“A prerequisite is a culture of psychological safety that encourages constructive questioning. In many organizations or project teams, there is an unwillingness to hear the truth, or there's a fear among team members of expressing themselves. Along with helping to build that safe culture, a project manager should ensure that team members are fully aware of the underlying business rationale and strategic alignment of the project. Having the business owner or sponsor reinforce this information regularly will help to keep it front-of-mind for team members. The project manager also can bring up benefits realization at periodic intervals as a topic for reflection by the team.”
—Kiron D. Bondale, PMI-RMP, PMP, senior manager, enterprise project management office, TD, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Everyone should be asking questions about the relevance of the project they are working on.
“Everyone should be asking questions about the relevance of the project they are working on. What value does the project bring? How does it tie to the vision and goals of the organization? It's crucial for team members to remain engaged in this way so they feel their questions are heard by the sponsor and not ignored. Being able to communicate and ask questions only makes the team stronger, which makes the organization stronger.”
—Kevin Miazek, PMP, vice president, strategic project management, Credit Union ONE, Detroit, Michigan, USA
“It is prudent to provide a solid understanding of the business case at the kickoff for any project—as well as during the onboarding of any team member. This includes the reason for delivering the project, the expected benefits and how the project's outputs contribute to the business outcomes that align with strategic objectives. Understanding the big picture is critical to the decision-making process and helps ensure that team members take ownership and responsibility to achieve the business outcomes on a daily basis throughout the project.
The ongoing business benefits discussions can occur in project team meetings, checkpoints, gate reviews, issues and risks assessments or informal conversations. These conversations also create an open and honest line of communication that gives team members the green light to voice any concerns—bringing issues and risks that might impact the business case to the table at any point in time.”
—Amany Nuseibeh, PMP, program manager, PM Partners Group, Sydney, Australia
“I believe there are three steps a project management office manager takes to help project managers maintain strategic alignment at all levels of the team. First, have a consensual prioritization scheme to assist managers in making the right project selection decisions. Second, have strategy-focused implementation guidelines the team can refer to when it has to solve a conflict. Finally, record and monitor all scope changes—and have follow-up meetings to review issues related to scope changes. This scope-change review process helps to ensure alignment with the organizational strategy throughout the project life cycle and helps to analyze the impact of changes in other projects, programs or portfolios.”
—Emilio N. Buzzi, PMP, head of IT strategic planning and control—PMO, ARCOR SAIC, Buenos Aires, Argentina
CREATE A PATH
“Project managers first have to clearly define and communicate the goals and requirements of the project to get team members thinking strategically. Communication and collaboration need to be encouraged between team members, too, so they feel able to speak up if the business case has weakened.”
—Jermiliar Flanders, assistant project manager, Futureline Global, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
“A very good alignment meeting at the beginning of the project should be enough to get everyone working on the project on the same page. However, during execution, it's normal for some people to lose the strategic thinking. To fix that, the project manager must be very watchful and bring everyone back to the business case. Weekly check-in meetings with the team are a useful tool to keep them on the strategic track.”
—Marcos Paulo Louzada, project executive, Infosys, London, England
On the Right Track
The majority of project professionals believe their projects align with organizational strategy:
26% Very high
38% Somewhat high
6% Somewhat low
2% Very low
Source: PMI Pulse of the Profession 2017: Success Rates Rise: Transforming the high cost of low performance
How do you ensure the project team maintains strategic thinking from start to finish? Share your best advice on the PMI Project, Program and Portfolio Management LinkedIn Group.