May 28, 2016

Executing Strategy: The Project Manager’s Role

Posted by Deborah Bigelow Crawford in Culture & Change Management, Project & Program Management, Human Capital, Strategy Execution | 0 Comments

Clarity is crucial to the execution of strategy.

Strategic execution continues to be one of the top challenges facing CEOs.  A decade ago, a Conference Board study showed that top management ranked consistent execution of strategy third of 91 challenges.  All I have read indicates that executing strategy remains a serious issue. 

According to an American Management Association study, “The Keys to Strategy Execution” (2007), clarity is crucial to the execution of strategy.  It is the single most strategic action for companies implementing strategies.  The first thing I thought of when I read this was project managers know this; they do it all the time when they create a clear scope statement!  If we could just transfer the approach used in developing clear scope to developing clear strategies, success in implementing would most definitely improve.

Speed and adaptability are also key differentiators of high performing companies.  This, too, aligns with the philosophy of project management that is embracing lean and agile methods to achieve faster and more focused results.

In addition,  project management philosophies and discipline work well at the senior management level in learning how to create clear strategies, clear goals to support the strategies, adaptability when “scope” changes, and flexibility to increase the speed of implementation. 

While organizations and executives have to provide the culture and structure around project management in order to improve execution,  I also think some of the onus is on the project managers themselves, to recognize this challenge of execution and maximize their role in making sure it gets done; and then publicizing how they have impacted the organizational strategy through their projects.

Typically, project management has been relegated to just an “operations” issue.  However, this is changing.  Senior management is recognizing that most strategies are executed through projects.  Project management has to be an area of focus at the strategic level if organizations want to successfully compete in today’s marketplace.

My point … project managers can and should play a critical role in implementing strategies through their projects. It’s time for organizations to revisit how they view both the discipline of project management and the role their project managers are playing in strategy execution!  While the role of the project manager has been changing over the last decade, it’s time for project management to be at the C-level to be the norm, and not the exception.  It’s time for more Chief Project Officers (CPOs).  And it’s time for project managers to tout the strategic impact they have on organizational change.  What do you think?


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