Strategy Lives or Dies by Projects

By Cyndee Miller, senior editor, PM Network

Without proper implementation, strategy suffers — and so do results. That’s one of the big takeaways in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2013 Why Good Strategies Fail: Lessons for the C-Suite.
In the study, 65 percent of best executors — organizations that successfully completed 20 percent more strategic initiatives than others — report well above average financial performance and strategic implementation, compared to just 18 percent of peer organizations. Still, too many organizations stumble when making strategy happen, with 61 percent reporting difficulty bridging the gap between formulation and execution.
While strategy typically is engineered at the top, it’s with projects that it really comes to life. To help strategy thrive, smart organizations focus on selecting the right projects and then closely following their implementation. The study shows that 59 percent of best executors have the people who formulate high-level strategy involved in execution.
Catholic Health Initiatives relies on five measures to determine the strategic value of a development project: business value, satisfaction, performance, cost and risk. And the U.S. not-for-profit tracks those measures not just during the selection process, but through the product’s actual life cycle and even after the project is completed. The organization’s teams continuously assess if a project strategically aligns with business goals by asking yes-or-no questions. If all the answers are yes, the project is marked green. If they see any red — meaning it’s not strategically aligned — it’s stopped in its tracks.
To truly deliver on strategy, organizations also need talent with the right skills to support strategic initiatives now — and in the future. Among the organizations surveyed for the EIU study, those that made significant investments in talent and skills saw 62 percent of their strategic initiatives come into fruition. That number dropped to 53 percent at organizations that did not provide as significant an investment in talent and skills.
At U.S. financial services company Performance Trust Capital Partners, portfolio leaders regularly analyze if team members’ skills align with the company’s strategy. Based on that evaluation, they know whether its IT team can deliver on current projects, requires training to deliver future projects or if a project needs to be outsourced altogether.
Executives can come up with the most extraordinary strategy in the world, but it won’t mean much unless they work with project professionals to get all those brilliant ideas executed.

The views expressed within the PMI Voices on Project Management blog are contributed from external sources and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of PMI.

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