Best way to start with project strategy?

Strategy means new direction. Programs and projects are changing existing or introducing something new. That’s the main reason for building a good strategy for all projects and programs.  Strategy will affect in how things are done, executed and seen by management. That’s why strategic project management should be linked to enterprise objectives, desired outcomes. You have to know where all is based, but also how to link your project or program into big picture.


Booz-Allen (1989) study concluded that 73% of managers believe that the difficulty of implementing strategy is in formulating it. You can gather information and make analysis from the beginning so that there will be fewer issues or you know what to avoid in this process. This study is in general about the strategy, but it will also apply to your project strategy.


According to Lippit, Watson, and Westley (1958) target for any strategy is to change organization to act more favorable way. It’s a target for a project manager to get team working as by rules, especially if you’re working in agile methodology or scrum, where rules and guidelines need to be understood correctly. Without understanding, you will fail.


Success in strategy defined by Miller (1997) includes three parts

1. Completion of everything is done in expected period of time

2. Planned performance is achieved and

3. Organization has accepted a way to implement and expected outcomes.


If you put these into three principles of project management: scope relates to acceptance, completion to time or schedule and achievement to budget. All projects need to be strategic, but their execution includes people and culture, methodology like tools and system; and common rules which are followed.


Proven steps for starting project strategy

1.       Learn your enterprise strategic objectives

2.       Define program and/or project targets

3.       Align them into enterprise strategic objectives

4.       Setup KPIs which will be followed

5.       Think about how KPIs, strategy and all related will be communicated inside  program and/or project and also to stakeholders and enterprise board of directors level


There are many tools and analysis methods you can use in your project strategy start or kick off meeting. I suggest you take a look at these:

1.       SWOT analysis

Find all strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats; put them into one matrix and think about how you can manage weaknesses and threats, even turn them into strengths and opportunities

2.       Balanced scorecard

This analysis you will take a look at KPIs from internal, financial, customer, learning and growth perspectives; each dimension must have several things to follow

3.       Design thinking

This analysis includes empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test phases which all must be followed by the procedures for great outcomes, early success

Why you should learn strategic project management?

I have published a new video in YouTube: Why you should learn strategic project management?


There are many reasons to be more strategic and I will open up my thinking in this video. Some cases you have a separate strategy between enterprise and project, but to be successful you should learn how to link them and how to measure them. 



Take a look and share your feedback!

Some project managers always succeed?


What kinds of projects reach their targets and are successful? There are several pieces of research from successful organizations. They can be your role models or benchmarks in a way for project success. You also need to learn how to be successful, what kind of techniques you need to know and use.


According to Wrike 68 percent of projects don’t have an effective project sponsor to provide direction or address problems. 


This will definitely affect to initial success factors. Normally project sponsor is the one who is the most obvious, not the one who could help the most in reaching the target and giving consultation when needed. I have many times had even top level support, but they always know as much as they are told. It’s important to reach all levels, top level and the levels before reaching him. Some cases nearby the board of directors are for example communication manager and people who prepare important decisions. If you can keep in touch with them unofficially, you have keys you need from the beginning.


We can’t ignore the training or profession. 80 percent of high-performing projects are led by a certified project manager, says Wrike.  Certification alone doesn’t mean success, but of course can help to show you are already able to run projects successfully and you have taken training. 


To my mind you need also experience; for example a mentor who has already done projects a lot before. I was lucky and happy to start my own project management with very talented and experienced colleagues. Without this I wouldn’t become as good as I became. It can be somebody from outside, too. Start doing as early as possible, then you will at the end learn more and become even better. Don’t stop learning!


Both Wrike and Hive underlined the importance of software. It always depends of the scope and methodology, but Hive says 77 percent of high-performing projects use project management software.  Wrike went even higher: 87 percent of high-performing companies use project management software. You need to think about the background of them both. 


I would say you need a structured way to manage your projects; you must have tools and methodologies. Sometimes it can be only a change log, issue log, but more often you need also other documents. You can learn and follow easy templates, but always keep track. It often fails if there’s no clear structure or log. This became obvious for me after working several year part of PMO and taking crisis projects under my management when somebody left the company suddenly or got another assignment.


PMI has reached the conclusion: organizations using any type of project management methodology are better at meeting budget, staying on schedule and meeting scope, quality standards and expected benefits. I truly agree!


Proven steps for becoming next generation project manager

1. Start benchmarking

Sometimes easiest way to do benchmarking is networking and discussing what kind of challenges you or others have

If you go forward, there are techniques like Total quality management or Lean management which can be started by benchmarking to others

2. Communicate to all levels

Assign right project sponsor who can be communicated any time

Don’t forget to make other connections interactive, people nearby decision makers or who prepare important decisions, keep them updated

3. Find a mentor

It helps you to become  better if somebody can share you experience

Mentor will also listen to your challenges and how you plan to solve, tell opinion

4. Project management structure and methodology

Start easy way, use templates to collect issues, changes and other things

A software can help, but is not always necessary for small scale projects

Best methodologies are adapted according to your or your company’s needs.


If you liked this article, you may take a look at my Strategic Project Management course. How to avoid these failures are taught during the course with many other things.