Strategic Projects ARE NOT Your Strategy

Grover Jackson
31 August 2021 15 min read

A common pitfall for business leaders and managers is in thinking that your strategic projects is your strategic plan and strategy. It is not.

A strategic plan has three main aspects:

  1. Where you are now
  2. Where you are going and
  3. What you need to do now

Strategic projects fall into that last category, and yet when you talk to business leaders and managers about their strategy, they'll usually only discuss the actions they are taking... their strategic projects. The discussions held within the business and the messaging distributed throughout the company is all about the actions being taken in these strategic projects. 

The problem this creates, is that the staff within your business focus solely on how to reach the outcomes and objectives of these projects, with little to no knowledge of why these outcomes and objectives matter. This surfaces as poorly thought out decisions during a projects journey to delivery. In a world where most outcomes can be reached any number of paths, without considering the why, the chances of choosing that correct path is low.

As a simple example: your business, that offers dashboarding and analytics engine to it's customers, has a strategic project to integrate your platform with salesforce to provide data into your analytic engine. With the hundreds of different data points and reports, which ones do you offer at launch? The most commonly used, can seem like a sensible answer. If the reason the leadership team picked salesforce as a platform to integrate with over other platforms is because it's the main platform of choice in the mining industry, and the mining industry is a new market segment the business has chosen to pursue... it's not a certainty that they use the most commonly used reports in their industry.

This above example tells you three things:

  1. Currently, this business doesn't offer analytics for the mining industry - an weakness in their business offerings
  2. This new industry is one they want to expand into - an opportunity for growth
  3. They've identified that salesforce is the primary platform the mining industry uses so they're going to integrate with salesforce - their action, outcome and strategic project all in one.

The lack of knowing the first two driving factors can lead to this strategic project, "Integrate with salesforce", to be delivered, and yet completely miss the mark of offering the leadership team's intended outcomes.

As another example extending the same above company, the sales teams has said they need the platform to integrate with Excel because sales are falling through when customer ask this question and they say no. This doesn't make a project strategic, there's no indication of why or how Excel would help the customers... how would integrating with Excel help the customer? What information from Excel would help the customer? Without a why, it would be very easy to expend many, many hours providing an Excel integration that would still not provide any value to clients once they see it in a demo and still not purchase.

Always, always consider the why, when working on your strategic projects. Strategy-AI helps you consider your why at every step. As your teams break down big work into smaller tasks, you can quickly and easily verify this task still aligns to all three aspects of your strategy... your original why. Easily stop the expense of unnecessary work being actioned and the client dissatisfaction from failing to deliver what they want.

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In a later article we'll discuss the outcome chain trap. This is when the reason your project is strategic, is only because of another project or outcome, essentially your why is little more than another departments what.