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View from the Top: How Harmony Solves Organizational Enigmas

Project Assistants CEO Gus Cicala will write semi-monthly contributions for the blog that provide his view of what is going on in the world of project management and what it might mean for your organization.

Two of the most frequently quoted business aphorisms are seemingly at odds with each other. Steven Covey prioritizes strategy with his famous quote, “Begin with the end in mind.” But that seems to contradict the saying, “A mediocre strategy well executed is better than a great strategy poorly executed,” which has all-but been business’ battle cry of the century. So which is it?

Perfect Cadence

The problem is with the question itself. It is not a matter of which should take precedence over the other. They should enable each other. They shouldn’t be wholly independent entities to begin with!

Strategy, Governance and Project Delivery are like the gears of your organization, and it takes a certain symbiotic relationship for them to properly to drive the organizational Vision. Successful organizations exhibit certain soft skills that enable Project Managers and their leaders to work in harmony with each other.

An example of a disconnect between Strategy and Delivery is that executives very often turn the project over to the execution team too early. Organizations very often mistake goals—or worse yet, wishes—as strategies; a laundry list of things an organization would like to accomplish is not a strategy. Pointing out objectives like “penetrate new markets” is an important (early) part of the strategy process, but the strategy isn’t executable until it is translated into a slate of projects that have clearly defined and measurable objectives that are monitored throughout the project. When the onus is placed on the execution team anytime before this, then the teeth of the strategy and execution gears are not fully engaged with each other, and their efforts will be too independent to truly enable each other.

Once a Project Portfolio is developed, leadership can’t simply pass the baton as though their job is done—that’s disengaging at the most important part! Even when on-time, on-budget, on-spec is monitored, a common oversight is alignment to the business case. Ongoing Governance is crucial to ensure that the Project Delivery remains aligned with the Strategy in order to properly drive the organization toward its vision.