Three Parallel Universes (And Their Cost)
There appear to be three parallel universes — strategy, business intent and projects — that people assume are integrated but, as a result of the usual bottom-up approach adopted, rarely are.
Strategy is achieved through two means:
- Continued and improved business as usual
- Changed business as usual.
The second is often delivered via a portfolio of projects and programs.
False separation and perspectives - Strategy
The Strategy universe appears to be separated from the other two in that executive management often do not seem to see their projects and programs as delivering strategy – instead they see projects as distinct events to be managed to a different set of rules.
False separation and perspectives - Business
The business sees projects and programs as events outside of operational business-as-usual to be managed but they are also sesn (often) as a distraction or a burden. “They require us to have to turn up once a month to Steering Committees,” can be the view.
Then, the focus of the Steering Committees is on the project, its performance, budget, timeframe and issues. The business intent, outcomes, benefits and value can get lost. Delivery of the project becomes the end in itself. Decisions can be made to the benefit of the project that are detrimental to the business and its strategy.
Often, when we take Steering Committees through the process of identifying their business stakeholders’ measures of success for their project, they are amazed at how different these stakeholders’ success criteria are to their own, and that they have never thought about this (business) dimension before. The business connection is too often weak.
Meanwhile, the business has a goal or intent for the project and governs it in the hope that it will meet this intent, even if this intent has never been clearly defined. Indeed, understanding of this ‘intent’ often only develops as the project progresses.
False separation and perspectives - Projects and Programs
Meanwhile, the project or program focuses on delivering the agreed project outputs, deliverables, ‘capabilities’ or whatever, within the agreed time/cost constraints. The subsequent delivery of the desired business outcomes, benefits and value can be considered as “not my concern” by the project team.
Due to the lack of any other direction or framework, the Sponsor and Steering Committee tend to adopt the project/program’s view of the world and adopt the project’s success measures rather than the business’ success measures.
The resultant two scenarios
And so we have three parallel universes (scenario 1):
- The strategy needing to be implemented through projects but with no alignment process
- The business seeing projects as distractions to be managed within the project-defined constraints
- The projects/programs being implemented within their orthodox constraints.
This situation points to a bottom-up perspective that leaves a sizeable gap between strategy and execution.
What should be happening is a top-down approach starting with the strategy (scenario 2):
- The strategy’s execution is planned to realize a set of defined business results through a portfolio of projects and programs (the executive team and investment committee’s measure of success)
- The business executes this portfolio to progressively achieve the business results and deliver the strategy (the business and governance team’s measures of success)
- Through the business direction, control and leadership of both the projects/programs and the business environment into which they are to be delivered - the projects are delivered to ensure the planned business results and value are achieved in full.
NB This is quite a different view of the role of projects and programs and a different measure of success.
This alternative perspective can appear to be blindingly obvious—but it is not what is happening because there are too many gaps and deficiencies in orthodox delivery approaches.
The Impacts on your ROI
Our research has shown that the difference between the bottom-up three parallel universes (scenario 1) and top-down strategy-driven approach (scenario 2) is massive. Scenario 1 parallel universes frequently miss, lose or destroy more than 50% of the potential business value.
It is time to bridge the value gap by adopting the top-down perspective and equipping your executives, business managers and staff with the tools and techniques to drive their project portfolio to achieve their strategy and desired business results.
It is to bridge this gap that TOP exists.