Strategic plans are often created for organizations and individual departments within those organizations. Often that is where strategic plans come to a halt. There are however times that strategic plans should be created and one of them is in program management.
Does the program you manage have a strategic plan? If not, why? For the remainder of this article, we will discuss a few of the reasons as to why the program you manage should have a strategic plan.
Start with the end in mind
Strategic plans help businesses know where they are going and how they are going to get there. Strategic plans for your program accomplish the same for your program. Why is this important? If you don’t know where you are going, how will you determine how you are going to get there? A strategic plan is a guide that allows you to understand the short and long-term direction of your program. It provides structure and guidance with which you can manage your program and measure your work to help ensure your program is successful.
Using your strategic plan to make decisions
If the strategic plan is the guide to your program, how might you leverage it on a day-to-day basis? One way is for decision-making. For example, one of the critical decisions you will often be faced with is project selection within your program.
A strategic plan is extremely helpful in selecting the projects to execute within your program. When you manage a program, you will constantly have new ideas or features that must be evaluated for their impact on your program and, ultimately, your organization. Your selection criteria may include return on investment, rate of return, impact on revenue, etc. However, what happens when a potential project should be selected based on your selection criteria – but it is not aligned to your program’s strategic objects? In many cases, you shouldn’t select the project. Why is this? The projects we choose need to support the initiatives of our program, which ultimately supports the strategic initiatives of your organization. Our effort should go towards projects that support our program initiatives, not to the projects that don’t. Keep in mind there are always exceptions to this. While a project may not support your program, it may provide value, meet selection criteria and support the corporate initiatives allowing the project to be selected as an individual project within the corporate portfolio even if not as part of your program.
Communication of priorities
A key component of your strategic plan is the path you will take to get to the “end” of your strategic plan. The strategic plan, by default, becomes a tool to help communicate the priorities within your program. By knowing the priorities, you and your team can ensure you are working on the most important work that will drive the most value for the program and organization. When teams are pushing in the same direction, which requires an understanding of the priorities, we move more efficiently and with increased success.
Ensuring your team is aligned
Strategic plans also ensure your team is in alignment. Remember, strategic plans help us understand where we are going and how we are going to get there. This is critical to keeping your team on the same page and working towards the same end goal. When the project team members understand what they are working towards, you are empowering them to be more than just someone doing the work. When a team is aligned, they are more likely to develop and share ideas and identify opportunities and risks across the program. When you have more people contributing more ideas and helping identify risks and opportunities, the projects within your program and your overall program will see greater success. The key here is having the right culture and leadership that encourages this level of involvement from team members.
It is never too late to create your strategic plan
If you don’t have a strategic plan for the program you manage, I encourage you to begin developing one today. I am confident you will see the value and impact one can have on your program immediately.