Align Projects with Organizational Goals?!?

Align Projects with Organizational Goals?!?

misaligned projects

Align Projects with Organizational Goals?!?

Aligning projects with organizational objectives seems like a basic practice, really kind of intuitive, right? And yet, how many organizations do or even encourage it?

It seems odd on the surface given that we easily understand that badly aligned tires on our vehicles can cost us fuel, create steering struggles, not to mention causing damage to the tires.

Is it because people don’t always understand how the misalignment of any project from its objectives affects a company? As with the tire analogy, misaligned projects waste valuable resources and wear out staff. The metaphor falls apart once we think about how people are not tires. Let’s face it – tires can be replaced without having to re-engineer the car. People leaving? It can cost companies a lot more than just money. Think of the institutional knowledge that they take with them and the work delays while you’re trying to find and hire their replacement.

Your organization is a suite of systems, structures, people and processes all operating at multiple levels simultaneously.  Cultural, political, regulatory, financial, technical, and social considerations need to be carefully coordinated to keep everything headed in the right direction.

Alignment can get even more complicated when pet or political projects are pushed forward without clear and measurable organizational benefit.

Conflicting organizational objectives can also make it worse. Think about how the Sales department’s objectives might be different from Manufacturing’s goals, and how Accounting may disagree with both. And let’s face it, even the most dedicated folks are faced with distractions as daily or weekly activities wield the tyranny of the urgent rather than importance. Higher-level organizational activities should be getting their attention, but how?

Then there is the in-fighting, political positioning, and the everlasting struggle for resources – both human and physical – that interfere with even the most capable of project leaders.

But, and bear with me, here’s the thing. A measure of in-fighting and the battles for project positioning can be a good thing if managed well. Setting up inter-divisional competition can be a very effective way of keeping managers bringing forth their best while moving towards project alignment and organizational goals.

Regardless of how you generate new ideas or a better portfolio structure, successful project alignment relies on a minimum of these six factors:

  • Balanced, comprehensive objectives
  • Specific, long term objectives (you know, more than a year, durable through changes because it’s based on the cultural values)
  • Hierarchical framework
  • Measurable objectives
  • Stakeholder agreement
  • Environmental and organizational assumptions

An organization that focuses on these factors is well on the way to becoming a more productive company and radically reducing wasted time, talent, and finances.

The Wizard Behind the Curtain

The Wizard Behind the Curtain

Your Image and Its Effect on Good Project Leadership Focus

Project managers (PM) have an image problem. Many projects managers come out of the disciplines they now manage. Engineers become project managers of engineering projects. Systems architects become project managers of computer projects. They used to be subject matter experts (SMEs), but now they’re not. Now they manage, they lead.

The thing is, a PM’s primary strength and value comes from staying above the day to day implementation and keeping a perspective on progress.

The PM is the wizard behind the curtain. She has to be able to see when a project is in trouble and correct it as quickly and completely as possible.

Loads of people believe a person with the birds-eye view of everything should have plenty of extra time to take on some of the project tasks. That may sound good in theory but it’s a terrible practice.

For one thing, the project manager cannot be a subject matter expert (SME) in all aspects of the project. PMs and their leadership teams have to realize where their values lie – in leading the team.

If he is both team leader and task owner, the PM is managing himself in addition to the rest of the team. Aside from the added work, doing this is like self-medication. It yields spotty leadership and higher possibilities of bad task performance. It’s a bad idea.

When the PM is performing project activities, time and focus are diverted from their primary role in the team. And a team without leadership has a greater chance of going off the rails.

But let’s move our focus from the team for a minute. A big part of a PM’s role is managing the communications and expectations of the stakeholder community.

This is one of the most challenging, time-consuming, and risky aspects of project management.

Executive management and a good project sponsor can help or hinder the project manager’s ability to successfully execute the management of stakeholder relationships. Well defined processes, a positive corporate culture, and early stakeholder engagement allow project managers to spend more of their time managing the project rather than dealing with conflicting stakeholder expectations.

So what to do?

Get your stakeholders identified and aligned fast. Get clear about what the key stakeholders – and that includes your executive sponsor! – expects.  Check in with them because, well, change happens.

This way, you can keep a white-hot focus on managing the project and leading your team to success.

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