The role of project management in transforming a nation from developing to developed status--the case of India Vision 2020



India Vision 2020 has contributed significantly in giving a sense of direction to India Inc with the hope of transforming itself into a developed nation. This concept is now readily accepted thanks to books written by President A P J Abdul Kalam and Y S Rajan, the report of the Planning commission and numerous seminars and discussions on the subject.

What are the ground realities in achieving this vision? Is it possible? Academicians and practitioners in the field of Strategic Management have pointed out that compared to formulating Strategy implementing it is usually more difficult. Therefore, ideas may find itself as reports without being converted into reality. This could result in tremendous loss of opportunity for a goal like India Vision 2020.

This paper will present a framework and methodology for implementation of India Vision 2020 at the macro level.


The concept of India vision 2020 has been in vogue for some time and serious attempts have been made to describe it for various sectors and at different organizational levels. This paper discusses the challenges of implementing this vision and how project management can be used for this purpose. It emphasizes the formation of missions and program initiatives as key steps in this long journey.

India Vision 2020 - Examples

Some organizations or persons have formulated the vision and the objectives or goals for achieving it in their area of work. Some examples

•      High Level Strategic Group by AIMA in association with Boston Consulting Group /CII

•      Government of Andhra Pradesh

•      “India 2020: A vision for the new Millennium “by A P J Abdul Kalam and Y S Rajan.

•      Committee on India Vision 2020 - Planning Commission GOI

Strategic intent

India Vision 2020 is an example of Strategic Intent (Prahalad & Gamel, 2002). Though planning at the Central and State Government levels has been in vogue for a long time in terms of the 5-year plans, it is only recently that long-term goal has been enunciated. Literature describes strategic intent as a case where there is a “misfit”2 between resources (capabilities) and aspirations. This is very much evident today in India as there is substantial gap between where we are today compared to where we would like to reach. However, experience in the past has shown that in spite of large gaps many organizations and countries have found that forming a strategic intent has proved to be a successful method to achieve the ultimate goal. The strategic intent conveys a sense of direction, discovery and destiny (Prahalad & Gamel, 2002).

A sense of direction has to be communicated across the organization and this may involve empowerment and delegation. A sense of discovery aids in developing and nurturing the passion that is required for a mission of this nature. Destiny creates a meaning and purpose behind the strategic vision so that all members willingly rally behind it.

Translating the Vision through Programs

The goal of India Vision 2020 can be reached by perceiving the entire journey as a series or combination of interlinked Programs having external influences. In consonance with the practice of 5 yr plans by the Planning Commission in India, we can consider it as three 5-year periods. Each of these will have a number of Missions based on the objectives. These Missions can be further divided into programs, which in turn will consist of number of projects.

In this paper we will take the Report of the High Level Strategic Group by AIMA done in association with Boston Consulting Group /CII (2003) as the basis and as an example to understand the framework for converting Vision to Reality. This framework and methodology is an example and could apply equally to other sectors.

The route from Strategic Intent to Projects


Exhibit 1 – The route from Strategic Intent to Projects

The Fuzzy Front End

Traditionally, in literature and in practice, strategy has been kept separate from implementation. Project management that deals with implementation is largely viewed as a tactical measure. So, while formulating strategy, project based inputs are frequently not considered.

One of the reasons for the disconnect is the difficulty in formulating the ‘front end’ of the route i.e. from strategy to projects. This area is nebulous and ‘fuzzy’ because of lack of clarity in identifying requirements and knowledge about situation at operational level

To address issues related to The ‘Fuzzy Front end' both strategic and tactical knowledge, skills, processes and practices are required. In short, people involved at this phase should be good strategists as well as implementers.

By far, this part of the route from strategic intent to projects could be the most difficult to visualize and implement. Some of the reasons why this is likely are

a)     Conceptualizing a mission or a program initiative from an idea requires considerable clarity in the thought process This is a particularly so for a Vision India 2020 mission as many of the missions are more related to social rather than business needs

b)     Strong support from organizations or groups is required to move the mission forward. It needs to be governed by persuasive and committed individuals who have acceptance in government and society.

c)     A model to address the Front end is to form an advisory and a governing council of people from government, business and society. However an active project manager or a project management group should do the actual implementation of the mission and programs.

Hierarchy of objectives

A useful method to translate vision into actionable objectives is the ‘Hierarchy of objectives’ (Rouker,). It considers objectives at three levels i.e., strategic and operational. It also deploy a ‘why –how framework’ The “Why” questions are answered by looking up the hierarchy and “How” questions are answered by going down the hierarchy. (Rouker,    )The vertical logic answers the Why-How questions, also referred to as Ends/Means or Objectives/Strategy. The horizontal logic deals with measures of results and assumptions, the if-then relationships.

The Role of Portfolio Management

Once a mission has been identified along with the sources for it's funding, we need to look at choosing and prioritizing the right programs to meet objectives. Project Portfolio Management performs this role. Since funds availability are usually a constraint only some of programs can be implemented within a particular time window. Further, while implementing programs new set of issues related to time and resources will require constant portfolio analysis of programs and alignment to objectives. PPM is an important part of the route from strategic intent to projects. However this paper does not discuss it in detail because at this juncture identifying missions and programs become the first step.

Themes and Missions

We will consider each of three critical areas mentioned above, as a Theme for e.g. one of them is Educating and Training the Indian Workforce. Themes can be categorized as Missions that are further sub divided into as a series of Programs. Missions are similar to the concept of Technology Missions used in India for eg. Telecom, Water etc

High Priority Areas for Action


Exhibit 2 – High Priority Areas for Action

Adapted from Report of AIMA-High Level Strategic Group – Boston Consulting Group / CII

Moving from Vision to Programs


Exhibit 3 – Moving from Vision to Programs

Missions and Programs

•      Strengthening of the education curriculum to include

E1 - Practical knowledge

E2 - Know-how and understanding of other countries’ cultures

E3 - Foreign language skills

E4 - Compulsory English language skills

•      Investment in training institutions to upgrade skill sets required for remote

S1 -Vocational skills

S2 -Communication (written and spoken)

S3 –Etiquette

•      Standards and bodies to certify skills to ensure employability by WTO

•      Creative funding mechanisms so that quality education is widely available

Formation and Governance of Missions and Programs

Mission becomes the apex body and should its formation implemented as a project. Once instituted it will be an ongoing operation. A mission gives rise to programs and developing a program initiative should be implemented as a project. Once formed the program will be governed throughout its life cycle.

Both Missions and Programs will need to identify specific metrics or Targets over the life cycle which will be the basis for evaluating the progress achieved. Some examples – Increase interaction between industry and academic institutions for teaching by 50 % in specific areas. Improve foreign language skills e.g. German, Chinese for designated categories of people by 25 % etc

Life cycle of a Program

Each program will consist of three stages as part of its Life cycle i.e.

Forming the program initiative, Implementation of the program and Maintenance.

Life cycle of a Program


Exhibit 4 –Life cycle of a Program

Program Initiative

The Program initiative for each program is a key phase. While the importance of the Program implementation stage cannot be underestimated, the Program initiative stage is more crucial and will form a precursor before the program is implemented. The nature of the work in this phase and the knowledge and skills required are different as compared to that during program implementation. Typically it involves predominant use of soft or people skills as multifarious persons and agencies will be involved as stakeholders. The steps involved in at this stage are

•      Generating the Program Idea

•      Identifying the various stakeholders

•      Arriving at a consensus on a preliminary Program definition

•      Forming the Program Charter

•      Developing Preliminary Program Plans

•      Securing funding for the Program

•      Appointing the Program Director

The person or group in charge of the Program Initiative particularly needs to have key personal competencies for forming the Program definition and Charter. These would include

•      Strong Leadership skills

•      Passion about the particular program / Challenge /Theme, being energetic and enthusiastic

•      Team player - Coordination with various agencies or persons

•      Negotiating skills - Lobbying with various interest groups

•      Ability to influence persons in Government / Business / Industry /Academic institutions.


In the example we are referring to in Exhibit 2 Strengthening of the education curriculum to include Practical Knowledge will be a Program.

Newspaper reports, discussions and seminars indicate that there is gap between what is taught as part of the curriculum in target institutions like colleges of engineering /technology and the requirements of business /industry in terms of knowledge and skills. One reason for this is the lack of adequate exposure for the faculty with industry practices and non-appreciation from business / industry on the constructive role that academics can play in improving industry based practices and procedures.

Formation of a Mission and a Program Initiative – each a Project

This stage i.e. Program Initiation should be implemented as a project‥ The person or group that takes ownership of the Program initiative will be the Project Manager and will ensure that all stakeholders are in sync with the particular program in question and form the program team


•      Strategic vision of an nation can be achieved by

○      Formation and governance of a Mission, programs and projects

○      Using Portfolio management to align resources with strategic objectives of the mission and programs

•      The most crucial part of the chain from strategic intent to projects will be managing the Front end. Considerable knowledge, skill and managerial acumen will be required for this purpose


Boston Consulting Group and CII (2003) Report of the High Level Strategic Group – India's New Opportunity – 2020 All India Management Association New Delhi

Planning Commission Government of India (2002 Dec) Report - Vision 2020

Prahalad, C K & Hamel, G. (2002) – Competing for the Future. pp 139 to 161 India: Tata McGraw-Hill

Morris, P & Jamieson, A (2004) – Translating Corporate Strategy into Project Strategy Newtown Square, PA, USA: Project Management Institute

Morris, P. (2005, May) Managing the Front-End: how project managers shape business strategy and manage project definition. PMI Global Congress 2005 Edinburgh Scotland

Rouker,Y (2003)Defining the hierarchy of project objectives – Linking organizational strategy, programs and projects Retrieved in Nov2005 from

© 2005, Raju Rao
Originally published as a part of 2006 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Bangkok, Thailand



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