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Don Mitchell MBA, PMP Senior Consultant, SPMgroup Ltd.

Does Your Organization Have a Strategic Plan for Project Management?
In the June issue of the Project Management Journal Harold Kerzner asserts, “Maturity and excellence in project management does not occur simply by using project management over a prolonged period of time. Rather, it comes through strategic planning for both project management and the project office”1 . If indeed this statement is a fact the question then needs to be asked, “Does your organization have a strategic plan for project management?” Ask yourself, “Do I know what this year’s project management strategic objectives are, how these objectives are being measured, and what initiatives are underway to ensure that the objectives are met?” If you can’t answer these questions then your organization does not have a strategy or they have done a poor job communicating it. As a management consultant who specializes in assisting organizations develop project management infrastructure it never ceases to amaze me how many companies do not strategically plan for project management. If strategic planning for project management is not the norm then how can one expect strategic issues to be identified, choices made and decisions implemented that will benefit both the organization and the individual project manager. Senior managers expect project leaders to think about the project’s mission, vision and objectives as they begin a new project. Therefore why shouldn’t project managers expect the same in return as senior managers roll out the infrastructure to support them? Simply stated strategic planning is a set of actions that lead to defining an organization’s mission, vision, goals and the development of strategies that should be implemented to meet those goals. Killing and Fry in “Strategic Analysis and Action” describe the links between mission, vision and strategy as: • • • The mission defines why we are in business or why we exist, The vision describes what we want to look like in X years, and The strategy describes how we intend to get to our vision. 2

In applying these concepts to project management the mission statement explains why project management is needed within the organization, the vision describes what project management should look like in X months time, and the strategy describes how the project management vision will be realized.


Kerzner, Harold – Strategic Planning for a Project Office, PM Journal Vol. 34, No. 2, 13-25, ISSN 87569728/03 2 Fry & Killing – Strategic Analysis and Action, Prentice Hall Canada Inc., Third Edition, ISBN 0-13328022-5

Don Mitchell MBA, PMP Senior Consultant, SPMgroup Ltd. Almost all strategic planning processes begin with the planning team conducting an environmental scan. To develop meaningful strategies the planning team must be fully cognizant of the political, economical, social, and technological landscape that influences project delivery within their organization. All too often organizations rush to implement a project management solution without fully understanding the extent of the problems or bottlenecks that are plaguing their organization. As earlier stated the mission should focus on purpose and beliefs. When defining the project management mission statement there are some basic needs to be fulfilled. There is a need for the mission statement to be clear and understandable to all. The mission statement should be broad enough to allow flexibility in implementation but not as broad as to lack focus. It should define who the primary customers are, the need to be fulfilled, and the ultimate contribution project management is expected to provide to the organization. Kouzes and Posner define vision as “an ideal and unique image of the future”. 3 If an outsider was to stop and question you, could you clearly articulate your organization’s ideal and unique image of the future for project management? For those of you with a project management vision is it feasible, flexible, and can it be stated in twenty- five words or less? More often then not, someone within the organization has a vision of the future state of project management but that vision is rarely communicated, and certainly not widely shared through all levels of the organization. Once the future state of project management has been defined it is a good practice to benchmark the current state. Metrics such as project cycle time; throughput; delivery costs; slip rates; success, fail and kill rates; and the cost of quality are all important inputs to understanding the project environment. In addition to metric gathering there needs to be an assessment of the organization’s capabilities. Many of us know this as the classical SWOT type exercise. This is a process where the planning team identifies the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats confronting the organization’s project management practice. The project management maturity assessment is an ideal tool for capturing present state capabilities and for measuring progress. Now for the moment of truth, the time when we compare the current project management performance to the performance required for the successful realization of the vision. A major question to be answered here is how different is the existing project management culture from the required one? Do we have the skills and resources to bridge the gap or is the gap not bridgeable? If the gap is not bridgeable then it is time to rethink the vision. Objective setting, a crucial component of strategic planning, is supposed to provide the means to which the vision will be realized. Before setting overly aggressive objectives there is a need to determine where in the product lifecycle your project management practice sits. Is project management just emerging within your organization, is it in a growth mode, has it matured or is it in decline? It is not uncommon for organizations to

Kouzes & Posner – The Leadership Challenge How to get extraordinary things done in organizations, Jossey-Bass Publishers, ISBN 1-55542-211

Don Mitchell MBA, PMP Senior Consultant, SPMgroup Ltd. fail when integrating project management within the culture as a result of choosing the wrong strategies for where they are currently positioned in the product lifecycle. Even when organizations develop appropriate project management objectives they are meaningless unless they are tied to practical and realistic measures. The old adage of what gets measured gets done is certainly applicable in this case. And what are measures without targets? Measuring project cycle-time in itself does not mean anything yet, when we add a 10% reduction target, the measurement becomes very meaningful. What happens next? It is probably time to develop the initiatives that will be required to meet the objectives. Experience dictates that the major problem that occurs during this phase of strategic planning is one that is not uncommon to project managers “unrealistic expectations”. Rather than a couple of very well thought out strategic initiatives there is an attempt to solve all of the organization’s projects woes using a shotgun approach. The outcome is no one initiative gets executed very well because everyone is too busy trying to execute a multitude of initiatives at once. By now you should realize that unless a lot of effort is expended strategic planning for project management is poorly conceptualized. It is not a once a year activity but something that should be ongoing throughout the year. Like many other initiatives it requires senior management support and should be driven down from the top. The project management strategic plan should not stand on its own but should be integrated with the organization’s overall strategic planning process. A plan is only as good as its execution. When it comes to business strategic planning it is widely known that it is one thing to have a strategic plan and it is another to be able to execute it. Recently our profession has taken on a rather evangelical approach to telling others that if they want their strategic business plans to be executed successfully then they must rely on sound project management practice. Why is it that we have not taken on this same religious fervor and applied it to strategic planning for project management within organizations? It all comes down to a concept project managers know all too well, the concept of risk versus reward. There is a risk that if we fail to take the time to strategically plan for project management the bottom line value we so desperately need to demonstrate to our stakeholders will never materialize. On the other hand for those organizations who strategically plan for project management or include it into the organization’s overall process the rewards will be realized through the successful execution of the organization’s strategic business initiatives.