Mar 27, 2018

Strategy and Projects: Then and Now

Posted by Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin | 0 Comments

In just five years, the change in the "buzz" about the role of project management in strategy execution is startling.

I recently updated a chapter on strategy and projects that I wrote for The AMA Handbook of Project Management, Fourth Edition, which went to press in 2013. In just five years, the change in the "buzz" about the role of project management in strategy execution is startling.

Rewind for a little perspective: Back in 2006, when our organization (at that time, named The Center for Business Practices) first did a study on the business impact of aligning projects with strategy, it was hard to get a hearing for our views in the business press. Few of the business magazines on our media list picked up the press release we sent out; and even our PMI Congress presentation on the research was rather sparsely attended. The deeply-held consensus, by business management as well as project managers themselves, was that project management was a set of tactical tools, fine for the geeks in the back office, but not really of interest to those lofty individuals who crafted the strategic plans and earned the stock options. Few PMOs were operating on an enterprise level; and the frustration in the room when you talked with a group of project managers about communicating the value of the discipline to executives was palpable.

Some of it was project management's own fault. The hard-won view of the discipline as a profession with its own terminology and methodologies would have to open up to new ways of communicating about projects and programs. There was some stubborness about that on the part of project pros, who felt that executives ought to learn more about project management, instead of their having to learn to communicate in ways that were more familiar to the business side. The disconnect was often obvious, as when I would interview a PMO leader about their value proposition, and be enthusiastically given percentages of reduction in schedule variances ... but no answer to the question, "How did that impact the business objectives of the company?"

Fast-forward to 2018. The Pulse of the Profession. The Brightline Initiative. The new focus in the updated PMBOK© Guide on strategic leadership and influence. The leadership at PMI. Everywhere you turn, it seems, someone is talking up the role of project portfolios in executing strategic goals. And not a moment too soon. As we have been harping on for a decade, the percentage of unrealized strategic plans, and the wasted investment that entails, is staggering.

But enough about trends and theories. When it comes to strategy, what companies really want are tangible results. What specific processes or methods lead to success? That's what our newest research study, a strategy execution process benchmark survey, was designed to tease out. In companies that are acheiving success, who executes strategy? how involved is the PMO? What training do they offer? How does PPM play a role?

The question of whether project and strategy alignment is important has been asked and answered. In 2018, the question is, How do we do that? Click the image at right for some answers. Not finding what you need in the executive summary? Email your friendly research editor a specific query: jmcabanis-brewin@pmsolutions.com.

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