Strategic Initiatives Are a ‘Necessary Evil’ In the Project Management Industry
Strategic initiatives are often avoided like a plague at front line project management. However, they are necessary and here to stay. Here's why!
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If you have been any major scale organization or worked in an industry reliant on project management, you probably know how important strategic initiatives are to a company and its goals. Some people like them, others don’t because they have objections against a certain way any strategic initiative is implemented.
This term may sound like a couple of useless words we hear in the business lingo every day, but in reality, it’s far from that. A strategic initiative is an important feature of the company’s development strategy that guides big or small businesses to target all their future endeavors that are bound to bring value to the company.
According to the sacred book of management, PMI’s A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), it’s understood that all of the projects and activities performed by the company regarding those projects, should be aligned properly with the company’s business strategy.
But if we look at the bigger picture, we realize that strategic initiatives are always more than just one project. These initiatives encircle every project that the company has going on in their roster, and finds a way to properly serve all of the needs and requirements of larger corporations.
One thing you need to always remember that whenever a company decides to incorporate strategic initiatives into its overall strategy, they require a competent program manager to take care of it all before everything falls apart. Let’s start at the very beginning.
What Is a Strategic Initiative?
When we look at the overall concept of strategic initiatives, it’s very difficult to pinpoint the exact definition. Why? Because too many people related to the field have varied opinions about the subject. Is the company working on a program or a project?
For our purposes regarding this article, let’s discuss what a strategic initiative does for a company and how does it do it.
Strategic initiatives in the organizational paradigm, work on three different levels. They are:
- They have to have the vision to address all of the different goals and milestones the company wants to accomplish
- They have to resonate completely with the benefits that the stakeholders require from the program or project
- They have to make sure that the company grows continuously while all of the different segments and departments of the business are aligned
One other way that we can look at strategic initiatives is that it is the tool that helps the managers or the upper management of a company to have their development team deliver everything that is in the company’s vision.
These initiatives are so spectacular that they take what normally won’t be possible, and make it practical and achievable for the company.
When we look at this definition of strategic initiatives, we get to know that these initiatives can cover more than just a project. They can be related to a complete program or a bunch of different projects interconnected with each other.
Why Should We Develop Strategic Initiatives?
Whenever we talk about the organizational paradigm, the companies in that realm always are in favor of developing potent and sophisticated strategic initiatives because of the high probability of success that these initiatives provide in a company’s pursuit to accomplish its specific goals and objectives.
These initiatives can sometimes prove to be incredibly useful when they help the managers close the gap between the productivity they need from their team and the actual productivity that the team is putting out.
Furthermore, strategic initiatives are also essential for that upper management or high-level executives that require a framework or a path which they can use to perform activities like:
- Tracking and reviewing all of the projects that are a part of a specific program in the company’s roster
- Tracking and defining all of the different impacts that any scope creeps or development issues can have on the program
- Tracking and finding out about the projects that can bring the most value to the company, and once they find out about them, keeping their teams focussed on those projects first, before they work on anything else
Strategic initiatives are essentially quite dynamic and they don’t have any stagnant roots that can’t be changed or clipped to bring change. These initiatives are a way to improve how a company operates to achieve the goals and milestones they set for themselves.
These initiatives are not about keeping complacent rather they help the companies get the most value out of all of the different projects that they have going on under their belt.
What Are Strategic Goals?
A strategic goal or a goal attained by strategic initiatives is a part of the planning done by the company incorporating these initiatives into their overall strategy.
Basically, a strategic goal is a milestone set by the corporation to identify and understand what they want or need to achieve using a specific business strategy.
This is a very open and achievable endpoint that properly resonates with the needs and requirements of the company.
What Are the Strategic Objectives?
There is a fine distinction between strategic initiatives and strategic objectives which is that the latter very closely relates to the strategic goals and is much more specific rather than strategic initiatives.
These objectives are also set by the company for the long haul but they take the broader route when it comes to the company’s vision and break this vision into smaller specific chunks that are easy to work on and achieve by the team.
Objectives in the real world are small benchmarks that the company sets for its troops to have the larger parts of their mission be broken down into smaller more measurable chunks that are realistically achievable by their development team.
What Is Strategic Vision?
When we look at the overall definitions of strategic initiatives and strategic visions, we see that they are quite similar to one another but there are still some differences among the two that can be highlighted.
We know that a strategic initiative is a strategy which the managers can use to accomplish any and every goal that their company sets for them.
But when we talk about strategic vision, then we see that this is a specific overview of the position where the company wants to be over a specified period of time.
This vision supports the strategy that the company has incorporated but presents a more realistic outcome that is achievable by the development team.
The major difference between a strategic goal, strategic objective, strategic vision, and a strategic initiative, that stands out, is that strategic initiative includes a proper scope statement, a start and end game for reference, and a specified budget for the team to develop the product.
How to Construct a Strategic Initiative?
In the organizational paradigm, the managers use these five steps to construct effective strategic initiatives to accomplish their goals. These five steps are as follows:
1. Setting a Goal
Whenever you are starting to work on something new for your company or even a personal project, you need to make sure that you are completely aware of everything that you are setting out to achieve. You have to know each and everything about whatever it is that you’re starting.
Why? Because in the more realistic world around us, there are more than a dozen different fronts based on which you can start forming your strategic initiatives.
But you have to always keep one thing in mind and that is that the more things you start working on and try to improve, the less likely will it be that you can improve anything that you set out to do so. So Less is better.
Therefore, to make sure that you are successful, you have to assess yourself and find your actual capacity to confront any or every task or activity that comes your way. Also, you need to figure out the resources you’ll need to execute your strategies over a long time period.
Strip down your long list of strategic initiatives that you gathered in the original assessment phase and track down that one golden initiative that will have the most positive impact on the program or the project that your company is working on.
2. Setting the Objectives
As we have seen earlier in the article, that objectives are measurable, specific, and more realistic goals that are smaller chunks of the bigger idea, and are achievable.
While the managers are setting up the objectives, this is the proper time when these objectives must be incorporated into the overall strategic initiative process of the company.
If you really must, then think of these objectives as goals or milestones that would ultimately mark the end of a phase and start a new one.
3. Setting the Strategy
This is one of the most important parts of constructing a strategic initiative as the managers are tracking and monitoring all of the objectives that they constructed in the earlier phase and figuring out what strategy they are going to apply to achieve them.
These strategies can include:
- Monitoring all of the program or project metrics to find out where they can create greater efficiencies
- Training their team so that they can bring more value to the company by producing a better more reliable product or service that they can provide to a large customer base
4. Setting up a Plan
Whenever you are planning a personal errand or planning a very specific strategic initiative that would bring a lot of value to your company, you will realize that all plans are the same.
You need to figure out what your end game is and make it the biggest goal that you want to achieve with your strategies.
Then you need to break down that goal into realistic and achievable chunks that your development team can work on and accomplish by following the path that you set for them.
These team members are given time duration and a budget which keeps them in check and provides you with quick results about the work that they are doing and how they are doing it.
This plan that the managers devise for their team members must be completely transparent and open for everyone to witness. This will keep everyone happy, boost morale, increase productivity and everyone can keep everyone else in check when they will know what everyone has to do.
5. Execution of the Plan
The last and final step of the construction of a strategic initiative is to execute the plan but before all that, when you have all of the strategy material and the plan in place, you need to make sure that all of the team members are on board with this strategy and plan.
Because this plan and strategy only take place when the team members assess and accept what they are presented with. Why? Because they will be accountable for any result that these strategies and plans project later on.
While executing these strategies and plans, all of the program managers will be giving their team members valuable directions on how to properly execute the plan while they simultaneously monitor the progress of the team and organize regular meetups with them to provide feedback so that the team doesn’t go off track.
Published at DZone with permission of Fred Wilson, DZone MVB. See the original article here.
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