I was recently asked, “How should the PMO (project management office) connect strategy to execution?” In order to provide a compact answer, I’m going to sidestep the more-fundamental challenges: organizations have too many projects, every project is important to someone in the organization, and that organizations commonly confuse goals for strategy. My answer is for the ideal case: an organization with a good strategy that is commissioning a strategic initiative to close a performance gap. I suggest these three actions:
Understand the diagnosis for the strategy.
Strategy is a form of specialized issues management. A leader should start with questions like these: What is the business problem at the macro level? How will the strategic initiative effectively “move the needle” on cost structures and revenue streams? Is this the first time the organization has faced a similar set of business issues?
These questions are all probes for the ‘why’ and the insights that underlie the strategy.
There are some things to avoid as well: don’t fixate on goals, objectives and dates. Your time is better spent understanding the ambiguity that is certain to be in the strategic situation. In time, you can begin to drive into the specifics.
Understand the guiding ideas of top management
Again, more questions: Who gains and who loses in this strategy? What are the constraints on resources, technologies, and internal restructuring of the organization?
The idea here is to funnel broad policy ideas into narrower guidelines. A good strategy is not specific on the details but provides guidance on the main points of focus.
Strategic situations are typically complex situations (see last month’s article). In complex environments you need to experiment: looking for wins (which you will amplify and attempt to chain-link to other wins) and losses (which you will dampen).
Strategy execution, like formulation, requires a mental readiness to understand the situation at a deeper level. Do you agree?