Strategic planning aims to guide a business as it moves forward by developing goals and actions that align with the business vision mission and vision. Businesses use projects to carry out many of the actions set out by strategic planning and depend on a project manager to see the project through to completion. This makes the implementation of projects important both to strategic planning and project managers.
Many businesses treat strategic planning and projects as completely independent. That independence, however, represents a perception, not a reality. A project deals with creating a result, such as a product or an organizational change, but the result does not occur in a vacuum. The true end of a project is to deliver a benefit to the organization. When properly conceived and planned, the project delivers a result that takes the organization another step in the strategic plan. Projects that fail to deliver a move forward often fail because the project conception gets treated as an independent activity and without reference to strategic goals. If the interrelationship between strategic planning and projects goes unnoticed, the strategic plan gets ignored after the fact.
The same perception of strategic planning and projects as independent often means that project managers, the very people expected to deliver strategy-driving benefits, play no role in developing the strategy. A project manager’s grounding in the details that make projects work, such as schedules and technology, as well as her ability to shift between details and a bigger picture, can serve as an important counterbalance to the broad-view approach of strategic planners. Involving a project manager in strategic planning can help to ensure the goals and action that come out of the planning remain feasible in practice. In essence, the project manager’s contribution makes project implementations more likely to succeed, the project manager’s job easier during implementation and the strategic planning relevant over the longer term.
Lack of sufficient buy-in from project team members stands as one key reason projects fail. Involving the project manager in strategic planning creates an investment in the strategic plan, but it also contextualizes the project for the project manager. He understands the reasoning that drives the project and, since he helped to create that strategy, he begins with a high level of buy-in. The implementation of the project matters to the project manager, rather than becoming one more ill-conceived task he gets to try to make work. The project manager’s own buy-in helps to secure buy-in from the team and other stakeholders, which increases the chances of project success.
Strategic planning, in addition to serving as a guide to future action, aims at creating the growth that drives business survival and profit. As a core method of delivering on strategy, the implementation of projects functions as an important indicator that the business continues to thrive. For project managers, the growth of the business implies a level of job security, but also the opportunity to grow and excel professionally.