Integrated Project Management: Clarity of Strategy

Duncan Ross Russell
In this third article, I will look in more detail at the need for clarity of strategy and how it is achieved.

In this series I have introduced the philosophy of integrated project management, a philosophy that recognises the different make up of each project and applies strong leadership to a team, encouraging a collaborative working ethos with clarity of purpose and strategy to deliver a successful project. In this third article, I will look in more detail at the need for clarity of strategy and how it is achieved.

Why do we need Clarity of Strategy?


Through establishing clarity of purpose we have defined a clear set of business benefits to be delivered by the project and how all stakeholders will measure project success, confirming a common goal. However, knowing where you are going is only the first step, you also need to know how you are going to get there and have the skills and resources to deal with the unforeseen along the way.

Integrated project management is a philosophy that empowers team members to identify and understand their freedoms, thus encouraging innovation. Conventional thinking focuses on the boundaries between professional disciplines and work breakdown structures thus limiting freedom of action and constraining innovation.

How do we develop Clarity of Strategy?

Integrated Project Management encourages the team to understand:

  • What is my part? What business goals does my client want to achieve and what is my role in achieving these goals?
  • What are my tasks and resources?
  • Tasks: What must I do to accomplish my part in the client’s plan and what other tasks (specified and implied) do I need to carry out to complete the project?
  • Resources: What resources do I, or could I, have available?
  • What are my freedoms? What limitations (time, space and resources) are there on my freedom of action? What can I not do and when do I need to decide?
  • Has the situation changed?
  • Yes: Plan still valid, continue 
  • No: Review plan

This analysis enables the project leadership to understand their levels of freedom and allows them to put together a project delivery strategy that can be achieved within the available resources (including time and budget) and that aligns with the clear project purpose.

The clear strategy developed through the above analysis must be briefed back to the client to ensure shared understanding of how the clearly defined purpose is to be achieved.

Integrated project management perpetuates this approach to planning by empowering project participants of each component part to plan their contribution using the same techniques. Through repeating the process, allowing them to develop their own contribution to the strategy that is back briefed and agreed at the higher level, integrated project management delivers a clarity of strategy that is understood and owned at every level.

How do we maintain Clarity of Strategy?

You will note that in describing the process of developing a clear strategy I have not advocated developing a detailed plan. No detailed plan will ever run from project start to completion because it is never possible to predict the exact conditions under which the plan will eventually be executed. The friction introduced by the unforeseen makes the detailed plan inappropriate or even irrelevant.

The integrated project management approach to a clear strategy empowers leaders at all levels to make and own their plans. When leaders encounter the unforeseen, the last question of the above analysis becomes more significant; has the situation changed? The leader of each component part made his own plan, understands how it contributes to the wider plan and how it interfaces with other component parts. As a result, the leader is ideally placed to change his plan to account for the altered situation in order to deliver the required contribution to the project.

Leaders at every level maintain a clarity of strategy through constantly reviewing their plans against the business benefits they are to deliver and the changing situation. Empowered to make changes to their plan, the leader can react quickly, but should always back brief senior leaders of the changes made.

Conclusion

We cannot expect to reach a destination without first defining what our destination looks like – a clarity of purpose. Nor can we expect to reach that destination without the skills and leadership to navigate the obstacles, seen and unforeseen, encountered along the way – a clarity of strategy.

The integrated project management approach to leadership and empowering effective decision-making at all levels will provide the project leadership with the tools to develop and maintain a clarity of strategy that is constantly focused on delivering the clear project purpose.

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