Aligning Projects with Organizational Strategy

PMI Talent TriangleEvery three to five years, Project Management International conducts a role delineation study. The 2015 project management RDS led to development of what PMI calls the “Talent Triangle.” This is a list of competencies in three groups: technical project management, leadership, and strategic and business management. While most professional project managers “get” the first two, many are dubious about that last item. But employers expect us to think beyond our immediate responsibilities. In talking with business and government leaders, PMI found a recurring theme: Project managers need to take an active role in aligning projects with organizational strategy. The most recent RDS reinforced that finding.

The Project Manager as Reporter

“[M]ost companies see ‘project trees’ rather than ‘strategic forests.’ Only a minority attempt to balance key attributes of strategy implementation across the portfolio, such as alignment to different strategic priorities (47 percent) and risk and reward (35 percent). Worse still, a large number of firms that do seek such balance fail: only 32 percent of respondents believe their organizations balance the relevant portfolios against strategic priorities; just 22 percent say the same of risk.”Implementing the Project Portfolio: A Vital C-Suite Focus

One of the recurring themes I’ve seen on my consulting projects is the difficulty of harmonizing processes and systems after a merger or acquisition. Executives negotiate these strategic deals without bothering to sweat the implementation details, because that’s the job of middle management. Of course, much of that sweat falls from the brows of project managers, who typically work across domains to implement that strategy. Few of those middle managers are positioned to see what’s going on outside their domain. They aren’t aware of conflicts, don’t realize what is being done to work around resource constraints, and may be oblivious to critical risks the organization is exposed to. This is especially true for middle managers who are stakeholders, but not sponsors of the projects under way. They are parties in interest, but not participants. It falls to the project managers to keep them informed, and sometimes to prompt them to action. And in the best case, get everyone pulling on the same end of the rope.

The Project Manager as Counselor

Project managers have little direct authority, but the good ones cultivate influence. Sales people and consultants aspire to be “trusted advisers,” who can point out strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. But in order to become a walking SWOT analysis, you have to be perceived as knowledgeable, trustworthy, and collaborative. And as a project manager, you additionally need to be perceived as an agent of change – which you are, courtesy of your projects. Influence comes from perception.

Your stakeholders need current, actionable information, but they also need someone who will listen to their concerns and respond to their requests (even with “No”). You need to be able to frame conversations with your stakeholders in the context of the organization’s goals and the strategy to reach them, rather than your project’s goals. That requires hard conversations about priorities and risk tolerance with your project sponsor and senior folks who can put that strategy in context. You need to be able to facilitate conversations and guide decisions that are focused on the stated direction of the organization, rather than the personal goals of one manager. I’ve seen too many projects get bogged down delivering a scope change that never should have been approved, because it was considered and rejected by the portfolio manager before funding was approved.

A Strategy Provides a Structure for Decisions

A strategy isn’t magical, nor is it a guarantee of success. But it provides a structure for making decisions and taking action. Strategy depends on execution, and modern organizations are holding their project managers accountable for execution in alignment with strategy. Project managers who deliver on these expectations will be recognized for it, and those who don’t will be recognized for failing to deliver. Plan and act accordingly.

Now You Can Follow My Sources of PM Content

Aside

I got a nice EMail from Immánuel Fodor in Budapest this morning. Immánuel has been following my weekly round-up via the RSS feed on my blog for years. Now that I’m no longer posting the round-up, I’d like to share the list of RSS feeds that I used for all these years. I’ve downloaded the OPML file from Feedly and posted it for upload, below. If you have your own Feedly account set up, or you use another RSS reader, you should be able to import this list. You might want to review and prune the ones you aren’t interested in, since this list generates well over 600 links a week.

If you also have a deep and abiding interest in project management (and no social life or cable TV connection), I would encourage you to curate a list of content, at least occasionally, and share it with the project management community.

 

Final Roundup: PM Articles for the Week of March 23 – 29

This is the 500th and final roundup of new project management articles published on the web during the week of March 23 – 29. Thanks for sticking with me all these years! Over the next few weeks, I’ll publish a few articles that I wrote for other venues but never got around to posting here, and in November I’ll publish my annual list of public holidays for 2021.

And this week’s video: Camaroonian musician and composer Emmanuel N’Djoké  “Manu” Dibango passed away on March 24th due to complications from COVID-19. He was 86. His 1972 hit, “Soul Makossa (I will dance),” was widely sampled and influenced generations of composers and performers around the world.  6 minutes, safe for work. “A true musician never dies; he just stops performing live.”

Ethics, Business Acumen and Strategy

  • My wife made 39 disposable face masks for a local hospital

    Fred Schmalz interviews Sunil Chopra on how companies can prepare their supply chain for the next disruption by balancing efficiency with resilience. 5 minutes to read.

  • Thomas Choi and colleagues say that the COVID-19 global pandemic proves the value of supply chain mapping as a disruption response tool. 5 minutes to read.
  • Greg Satell argues that we need to prepare for future crises—from artificial intelligence to climate change to the ballooning debt—like we would prepare for a war. 5 minutes to read.
  • Randall McAdory analyzes Tesla’s diverse collection of core technical competencies, and asserts that their market advantage is essentially insurmountable. 9 minutes to read.

Managing Projects

  • Cornelius Fichtner talks with Karthik Ramamurthy on seven techniques for effective project scope management. Podcast, 30 minutes, safe for work. Plus an article, 3 minutes to read.
  • Elizabeth Harrin announces the creation of a new professional community for project managers: #ThePMTribe. 5 minutes to read.
  • Glen Alleman argues for capabilities-based planning—providing an outcome or effect without an a priori specification. 2 minutes to read.
  • Mike Clayton tells us what to put in a project risk register, and how to maintain and use it. Video, 11 minutes, safe for work.
  • Praveen Malik explains how to save a baseline in MS Project, and how to use it once you have. 5 minutes to read.
  • The nice folks at ActiTIME suggest six ways to think of (and track) project costs. 6 minutes to read.

Managing Software Development

  • Stefan Wolpers curates his weekly list of Agile content, from the new future of remote work to the latest Cynefin iteration to enterprise agility. 7 outbound links, 3 minutes to read.
  • Cesar Abeid interviews Johanna Rothman and Mark Kilby on their new book, remote project management, and distributed agile teams. Podcast, 48 minutes, safe for work.
  • Nicole Segerer suggests that evolving software business models require new approaches to establishing and maintaining customer relationships. 4 minutes to read.
  • Kristin Jackvony reviews Enterprise Continuous Testing, by Wolfgang Platz and Cynthia Dunlop. 4 minutes to read.
  • Gojko Adzic did a comprehensive survey to see what’s changed since his classic book, Specification by Example, was published ten years ago. 22 minutes to read, but worth the time.
  • Henny Portman recaps the 3rd edition of Agile NXT, a downloadable magazine from Xebia. 3 minutes to read.

Applied Leadership

  • Karolina Toth interviews Steven McCord, SVP of Technology at WhyHotel, on how to succeed in your first 100 days as a tech leader at a new company. Podcast, 30 minutes, safe for work, or read the notes in 11 minutes.
  • Tom Cagely begins a series on toxic meeting cultures with diagnostics: how to recognize them. 3 minutes to read.
  • Lisette Sutherland interviews Danny Page on socially responsible outsourcing and the finer points of working as a distributed team. Podcast or video, each about 40 minutes, safe for work.

Cybersecurity and Data Protection

  • Das Rush interviews Joel de la Garza on the transformations of information security practices and capacity as more of the workforce goes remote. Podcast, 22 minutes, safe for work.
  • Erich Kron and James McQuiggan advise us what to do if we discover that someone is impersonating our company in a phishing campaign. 2 minutes to read.
  • Ben Dickson shares some additional security precautions to take when connecting remotely to the company network. 4 minutes to read.

Pot Pourri

  • Pascal Papathemelis recaps his webinar on active listening. Great content, too bad I missed it, but this is almost as good. 7 minutes to read, plus a video, 52 minutes, safe for work.
  • Francesco Marcatto makes the case for dot voting as a way for a team to converge on a limited set of alternatives. 4 minutes to read.
  • Esther Derby gives us a cheat sheet for helping those who are new to remote work to conduct better meetings. 2 minutes to read.

Peace be with you!