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What do you Critical Projects Reveal About Your Strategy?

It is not enough to say that a strategy is struggling or has failed.  Rather we must examine the performance of those key projects and initiatives responsible for translating strategy into reality. 

Have the right projects & initiatives been chosen? 

Strategy is delivered through a range of projects and initiatives. These are the bridge between aspiration and execution – the chosen route from aspiration and reality. Thus, effective execution requires the identification, planning and prioritization of those specific projects and initiatives capable of delivering on the strategy.

Strategy often has its head in the clouds, but strategic projects and initiatives bring it down to earth – they put its feet firmly on the ground – making it happen – making it real.

A myriad of initiatives, programs and projects will likely flow from the strategic agenda.  But not all initiatives can or should be progressed at this time.  It is important to prioritize those initiatives that are most important to delivering the business outcomes that are required by the strategy.

There must be a high level of confidence in the likelihood of success of any initiative that is to be backed. That means saying ‘no’ to some initiatives and ‘not now’ to others. Getting the timing right is a key factor.  

How well is the portfolio of projects & initiatives being managed?

Across the organization there could be an unknown number of stand-alone projects and initiatives underway.  However, a proliferation of projects creates the risk of un-coordinated action and the dissipation of resources. 

A key requirement is also to integrate individual or stand-alone projects and initiatives into a coherent program or portfolio, so that they can build upon and support each other.

For many organizations there is the opportunity to improve how the portfolio of strategic projects and initiatives is reviewed and re-prioritized on a quarterly basis.  

How effectively are individual projects & initiatives being managed?

When strategy fails it is because of the failure of specific critical projects and initiatives. It follows that to make strategy work, organizations must improve the way that individual projects and initiatives are run. 

The application of these simple health-checks to key strategic priorities could go a long way to predicting which ones are likely to struggle or succeed:

  • Has the project been setup for success – with the right results, people, resources, scope and so on? 
  • Has the team been empowered to make it happen?
  • Has there been robust planning and disciplined execution?
  • Is there open and honest ongoing review of progress, with experimentation, fast learning and ongoing adjustment?  
  • Have stakeholders and sponsors been fully engaged? 

If you neglect your critical projects you neglect your strategy. In other words, any strategy is only about as successful as the key projects and initiatives that underpin it.  The good news for leaders is that mechanics of delivering on strategic projects have never been more within their reach. 

By mechanics we don’t mean the latest project management technique or software, but rather that most essential element – an effective team that is st up for success and empowered to make any particular project happen.

If you neglect your critical projects you neglect your strategy.

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