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.