After expending days in planning, attending hours of meetings, answering hundreds of emails, managing the team and fighting with day-to-day fires, you finally launched the project. Congrats! Now, you are expecting the winning results. It’s not necessarily the case always. The bundle of decisions and actions won’t guarantee the success. There is a wake-up call for you.
Henry David Thoreau said, “It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?”
In the past, the project success is considered as the project completed before the deadline and within the budget. Now, it’s about syncing the project management with organizational strategy amid of operational decision-making and tactical leadership. Alas! Most of the project managers are found saying “We have always done it.” The problem lies in this thinking is that they work on ‘What’ part and ‘How’ part is least focused where the essence of strategic thinking lies.
It indicates the project management is disconnected from the strategy and thereby the gap between the lofty ambitions of project manager and the staff completing the work cannot be fulfilled. Also, lurching from one crisis to another and combating with daily grind are the gifts that come with it. But, there is a metaphor which doesn’t let the project fail and prevent the fires.
Before we get into it, let’s dig deep into the lackluster vocabulary
Strategic thinking is a fundamental driver of the company which opens up the new opportunities with provocative dialog, strategic planning, and broader perspective. It is regarded as the advanced version of business planning that aims to communicate the vision to staff, apt analyzation of the resources, best prioritization of the tasks, the creation of an executable action plan and get the project done with higher efficiency. It helps the project managers get everything right from road mapping to the final delivery with the brilliant project evaluation.
Basically, the strategic planning execution of the project is enclosed in three questions- “Where we are now?”, “Where should we go?”, and “How do we get there?”.
It makes decision-making a breeze and let the project sail the high seas of successful execution. However, it’s undervalued by the experienced project managers, and that doesn’t let them think ahead into the future and stay ready for the unforeseen organizational challenges. In order to gain competitive advantage or bring successful outcomes, the project managers need to integrate strategic thinking at all the levels to stay proactive, have forward focus, visualize the big picture, and engineer innovations and improvements.
It clears the air when the project management meets strategic thinking, the strategic plan can be strengthened and challenges can be better addressed.
Let’s take a look how laying the foundation of strategic thinking within projects creates a difference:
Clarify the priorities
For sure, working in a big organization means you are managing multiple projects simultaneously, the need to manage the priorities among the projects has been ever present. In the case, the priorities are not defined means you don’t know where to aim and probably not end up doing what you want to accomplish. That’s where the project managers have to think strategically and set their priorities for the projects. With clear strategies, the decision-making becomes effortless, easier and efficient.
Also, when the day at the office is started according to strategy, the important work is done, but if the emails are considered first, then you are focusing on urgent tasks that won’t let you advance the strategy. Alike the work, the energy must be prioritized according to schedule. For instance, after 4 PM, the employees start de-energizing, so to improve the results with productive output, the meetings for the projects packed with enthusiasm or of creative nature or that requires problem-solving must be held in the morning.
The strategic quantification and clarification are all-important for the project managers as Peter Drucker said,“What’s measured improves and Applies to project work!”
Increase project communication
The strategic thinking that starts with project planning, flows from top to bottom and back to forth of the project. Sometimes, the project managers fail to keep the project strategy in rhythm with the organizational strategy because of the poor communication among the team.
Here, the project manager is accountable to share the strategic plan and vision for the project with the complete team. In a nutshell, no matter how agile the team is, but unless the strategic plan is not communicated, thinking about the team members to make their valuable contribution and adhering to their roles is implausible.
The project managers should make the team aware of the projects and the strategic plan to ensure all the members are on the same boat and build morale that every member feel that their ideas are important and heard in the team. So, make these meetings a habit.
Important note: There is a wide difference between top-performing companies and average companies, that’s the project managers spent at least 4-8 hours on strategy discussion a month as opposed to less than one hour spent by the average companies.
Reduce resource misallocation
Without resources, the project is like another unread PDF file. It holds no weight, whether you are tempted to complete an interesting project first or not because the allocation of the proper resources to the projects as per the project priorities is vital. Also, as the single resource is working on the several projects, evaluating the availability and allocating the resource for the different projects is quite a task.
With strategic planning, akin to architects and engineers, the project managers can bid a goodbye to the analysis paralysis and can conduct an in-depth evaluation, monitoring, and adjustment to the resource allotment. Instead of playing a guessing game, the valuable data help them in making informed decisions and move the project forward.
The vivid scene of what you have to work with and judicious allotment of the resources ensure the project progress without any trap and the financial success.
Ensure consistent team engagement
The strategic thinking has long-term impact and results when collective competency occurs throughout the organization. The collective competency comes when the project manager design a strategic plan wherein every team member is engaged and make their notable contribution throughout the project development.
“Most devastatingly, 95% of employees do not understand their company’s strategy. (How are they supposed to execute a plan if they don’t understand it?)” – Harvard Business School.
It’s imperative to communicate the strategy with flow charts and sync the employees with it for outstanding results. The open dialogue bridges the gap between lower-level management and the project manager, which in turn encourage the team to share the ideas and keep them updated about the project progress that enriches the project engagement and boosts up the team spirit. Keep the team with you at every step of the project progress with strategic thinking.
Gives a competitive advantage
The strategic thinking supercharges the project managers to redefine the objectives in the context of the changing market situation to maintain a competitive edge. The project managers at the early stage should primarily focus on the specific segments alongside performing quantitative and qualitative risks for the successful project outcomes.
Rolls Royce is the best instance of a singular focus on a few market segments catering the needs of the Millennial group with high-class accessories that has differentiated the brand and help them gain a competitive advantage with constant innovation.
We have just touched the surface for how strategic thinking could be a catalyst for helping the project managers in translating the project management strategy into achievable goals. When the regular meetings, project evaluation, project action plan discussion and the project importance sharing with the team becomes an integral part of the project development strategy, the project manager will automatically get aligned to the strategic vision of the company and can make the project operate and get completed at its maximum capacity.
The most of the ingredients of the strategic thinking are discussed which project managers can mix and match with their project needs to create a successful recipe. Become a strategic thinker to design strategy which not only helps in maintaining the status quo, while allowing you to make great strides with a clear vision.