STRATEGIC THRUSTS - Strategic Planning for Project Management

As shown in Figure below, there are four “strategic thrusts” that must be considered before your project management methodology can be turned into a sustained competitive advantage. These strategic thrusts must be identified while the methodology is being designed and developed, not later on. Developing a methodology and then having to make major changes to it because the strategic thrusts were not considered can waste time and money, as well as lowering morale. Poor morale can cause the workers to lose faith in the methodology.

Strategic thrusts:

Strategic thrusts

The first strategic thrust is the core values/purpose. The core values/purpose thrust describes the heart of the company, as well as the basic reason for its existence.

  • Core values: There are usually three to five core values for a company, the timeless, passionately held guiding principles of the organization. At Procter & Gamble, for example, the core values are delivering consumer value, developing breakthrough innovation, and building strong brands. The core values for the Walt Disney Company might be imagination and wholesomeness, while at Nordstrom they could be service to the customer, trust, and products with style. Core values come from within the organization; they represent what the organization is at its very essence, as opposed to what it does from day to day.
  • The core purpose: An organization’s core purpose should last for at least 100 years; it is the organization’s reason for being that goes beyond current products and services. For 3M, the core purpose is “to solve unsolved problems innovatively.” For Hewlett-Packard, it is “to make technical contributions for the advancement and welfare of humanity.” For McKinsey & Company, it is “to help leading corporations and governments to be more successful.” For Merck it is “to preserve and improve human life.” And for the Walt Disney Company it is “to make people happy.” One approach to finding a core purpose is to ask five whys. Start with a description of the business and ask, “Why is that important?” five times; after a few whys you get to the very essence of the business.*

Generally speaking, all projects undertaken using the project management methodology must support the company’s core values/purpose, which could very well be regarded as the most important strategic thrust.

The second strategic thrust in Figure above is the strategic focus. The strategic focus identifies the product/market element in which the organization competes.

There are three primary questions that must be addressed in the strategic focus:

  • Where will the organization compete? (What products are offered, which markets are served, by segment or geographically?)
  • Against whom will the organization compete? (Who is the competition?)
  • How will the organization compete? (By product, by proper positioning, by functional strategy as channels of distribution, etc.?)

The answers to these three questions provide guidance on the quality and competencies of the resources and assets needed. Project management methodologies must be designed around the competencies of the resources. The third strategic thrust is the competitive focus. Although this thrust has some similarities to the strategic focus thrust, there are other overriding factors. The competitive focus emphasizes the differences between your organization and your major competitors. The differences can exist in such areas as:

  • Product features
  • Product design
  • Product performance
  • Product quality
  • Products offered
  • Value-added opportunities
  • Brand name and image
  • Cost reduction opportunities (i.e., experience curves, labor rates)
  • Strategic alliances and partnerships

These strategic competitive differences can give your methodology one step up on the competition.

The final strategic thrust in Figure above is synergy. Synergy reflects the organization’s ability to perform more work in less time and with fewer resources.
Organizational synergy is a measure of how well the employees cooperate with one another. Does the organization have a cooperative or noncooperative culture? Cooperative cultures allow for the design of a flexible methodology that will take advantage of continuous improvement opportunities.

Because market conditions and the environment can change, continuous improvement is necessary to maintain the sustained competitive advantage. Change generates risk that, if not properly analyzed and mitigated, can cause a firm to lose its competitive advantage. The key here is for the competitive advantage to become a sustainable competitive advantage. Typical risks associated with maintaining a sustainable advantage are shown in Figure below.

Risks associated with maintaining a sustainable competitive advantage:

Risks associated with maintaining a sustainable competitive advantage


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