lPublished in PM World Today – April 2009 (Vol XI, Issue IV)
PM WORLD TODAY – PM TIPS & TECHNIQUES – APRIL 2009
T he New Face of Strategic Planning:
Bridging it with Project Management is the Key to Success
By Bruce McGraw, CEO
With the current economy in crisis, businesses are scrambling to stay afloat. Many are
abandoning their strategic, long term objectivesfor quick fixes and short -sighted survival tactics.
Some of today’s most popular business books from The Tipping Point to Freakonomics feature
companies that have stumbled upon great ness without an ounce of strategic planning involved.
And with the rapid evolution of real-time media, virtual offices and globalization, companies
seemingly have to change their game plans on a daily basis tokeep up.
This frenetic pace of work has rendered the often slow and cumbersome strategic planning
process irrelevant. In fact, you could say the field of strategic planning is undergoing its own
identity crisis. The Strategic Leadership Forum, the international professional association, has
now been out of existence for several years. And few graduate schools offer strong strategic
planningcourses as a part of their curriculums.
But it’s the failure to build a bridge between the strategic planning process and project
management’s planning process t hat is a major reason strategic plans don’t work. When strategic
planners and project managers work together from the beginning, strategic plans become more
relevant, operational, realistic and implementable. They can then become one of acompany’s
most useful tools for weathering tough economic times and staying ahead in today’s fast -paced
The purpose of a strategic plan is to guide an organization intelligently into the future. Yet too
many strategic plans cost a lot of money and merely collect dust. Why? Because there is a
disconnect between the people creating the strategic plan andthe people who are relied upon to
implement it. Strategic planners fail to develop plans with the help of professional project
managers—those who can better ensure that it is easily transformed into a working, successful
This disconnect between the development and completion of a strategic plan results in huge cost
overruns, delays in implementation, chaos in the workplace,and low worker morale. And,
ultimately, it can lead to an organization’s inability to achieve the vision that was painted in the
strategic plan. The plan becomes unrealistic and unachievable.
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Published in PM World Today – April 2009 (Vol XI, Issue IV)
What makes the projectmanager’s participation so import ant from the beginning? Strategic
planners have figured out how to take into account all views of the various stakeholders, how to
include financial projections for each activity, how to set proper goals and objectives and even
set timelines, milestones and target dates. However, the reason strategic plans are not
“functional” is that they are created by a personor team who is neither a knowledgeable,
certified or experienced project manager. The failure to get a project manager on the strategic
planning team who understands the reality of managing complex projects is the single largest
failure of the strategic planning industry.
Bring the Project Manager to the Table
The project management industry must flex its growing muscle to get into andbecome effective
at the strategic planning stage. Many CEOs resist this idea because they continue to think of the
strategic planning stage as being “earlier” than the project management stage. Bringing project
managers on from the beginning may appear to be a waste of time. But it’s really quite the
To truly picture the difference between strategic planners and project managers, think...
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