When Strategy Met Projects

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at markmullaly.com.

Projects should be all about delivering business strategy. And business strategy should be all about projects. This, of course, would be true in a perfect world. This is no doubt also a world that is most likely populated by rainbows and unicorns.

Why projects and strategy appear to be well and truly separate concepts (and ones that have precious little common ground) is an enduring challenge for many project managers, and not a few executives. And yet these concepts aren’t bridged in a surprisingly large number of organizations, or at least they are not bridged as meaningfully as might actually be appropriate or desirable.

There are strategy reasons for this, and there are project management reasons for this. In this article, I will endeavor to address both dimensions. In doing so, I will also try to help project managers to establish an approach that can support bringing the domains of strategy and projects just a little closer together.

Of course, one of the most common reasons cited for the lack of a link between strategy and projects is the complete and utter absence of strategy. And sadly, there are many organizations out in the world that have survived a surprisingly long time without anything that could be credibly referred to as a strategy. While it is getting harder to do so and survive, that doesn’t mean that organizations don’t try. …

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You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.

- Margaret Thatcher