October 5, 2018

5 Strategies to Help Bridge Gap between Strategy and Execution

Program & Project Leadership

It is a challenge as old as companies have existed: too many priorities and not enough time or people to execute them. And now, more than ever, companies either evolve and thrive or quickly fall behind. Companies don't typically have a shortage of ideas for driving growth. Instead, they struggle with creating a strategy to effectively focus their resources and execute those ideas.

1. Create a Global View of Current Projects and Programs

Over the years, project management has evolved from tactical project execution to being leveraged as a strategic tool at the C-level to ensure the projects that are selected and prioritized are aligned to the overall strategic plan for the organization. This involves not only doing projects “right,” but also working on the “right” projects. Here are 5 simple strategies to help bridge the strategy execution gap:

1. Create a Global View of Current Projects and Programs

Organizations cannot determine where they want to be if they do not know where they are. Many organizations do not have a full view of what projects are in process within departments and across the enterprise. However, it does not require a complex Project Portfolio Management (PPM) tool to accomplish this. A simple spreadsheet and talking with the right resources and leaders across the organization is a good start and will create the visibility into the current portfolio of projects.

Also, don’t forget the non-project work! There is a set amount of resource allocation that is needed simply to “keep the lights on.” Many organizations forget or ignore the need to have these resources, from ongoing business processes to IT maintenance and support. Then later, it comes as a surprise that resources are not as available as they thought for project work, which is ultimately what is going to take the organization into the future.

Key Questions to Ask:

  • Are we working on the right projects?
  • How many projects and associated effort do we have in progress compared to resources available for project work?
  • Do we need to incorporate business process redesign and optimization into our strategic plan to help free up resources for project work?

2. Document and Communicate the Corporate Strategy

Many organizational strategic plans reside in the minds of C-level executives or in presentations only reserved for the boardroom. Unfortunately, this is a missed opportunity to ensure that everyone is aware and aligned to the corporate strategy and roadmap.

Those who are generating project ideas and initiating projects need an understanding of what is important to the organization, as well as what strategies have been identified, to either position the organization as a leader in the industry or to maintain that status. Otherwise, projects that require precious resource time and incur costs to the organization may be initiated that directly distract and conflict with what the organization is trying to accomplish. Communicating the corporate strategy can be achieved in many ways, including utilizing existing structures, such as staff meetings and collaboration tools.

Key Questions to Ask:

  • Are employees aware of what is included in the corporate strategic plan?
  • How often is information shared and communicated to ensure leaders are updated as the organization progresses against the plan, and as the plan evolves over time?

3. Design or Redesign Your Project Portfolio Management Process

Project Portfolio Management is essential in ensuring that the organization is working on the right projects. Designing or redesigning the process involves reviewing how project requests are initiated, identifying what criteria is used to prioritize and assess projects, determining how resource allocation is managed, deciding how projects are approved or “killed,” and assessing the portfolio on an ongoing basis.

Key Questions to Ask:

  • Have we aligned our PPM process to our strategic plan?
  • Are approved projects meeting the corporate strategic standards and scheduled to align with the corporate roadmap?
  • Do we have the right mix of projects to achieve our objectives?

4. Optimize How You Manage Projects

It is critical for organizations to optimize how projects are managed to sustain and support a strategic portfolio. Whether Agile, Waterfall, or hybrid methodologies are used, best practices need to be embedded across the organization to ensure repeatable success in project execution.

Key Questions to Ask:

  • What is the current methodology or methodologies for managing projects?
  • How many of our projects have engaged executive sponsors?
  • How many projects are completed on-time and on-budget?

5. Align and Equip Resources

Having project, program, and portfolio managers who utilize a consultant mindset creates a bridge between strategic vision and tactical execution to ensure the roadmap is achieved. It is important that in addition to being trained in project, program, and portfolio management best practices, resources are also trained in process and business management to reduce risks associated with gaps between business process and implementation.

Inevitably, organizations can make the mistake of over-engineering how projects are managed, which extends project timelines without providing additional value to the organization. The best approach is a simple one that utilizes efficient tools and processes to support effective project management and delivers quality results on-time and on-budget.

Key Questions to Ask:

  • What resources have been identified to lead and manage projects, programs, and portfolios in our organization?
  • Are resources properly trained in project management, business process redesign and improvement, and consulting best practices?
  • What tools are available to support project, program, and portfolio management?

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