by Carol Mould

STRATEGY

Projects can be harnessed to achieve a company’s vision

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Keeping a company on the rails is hard. Though an organisation might be singular in business vision, it is comprised out of a myriad of expectations, approaches and deliverables. Like a colony of ants, a company may have one overarching purpose, but that alone is no guarantee that everyone won’t just do their own thing. Among insects this is called a ‘hive mind’. In a company, if this cannot be sustained the more apt word would be disaster.

“Keeping a company focused on delivering its strategy is tricky, especially in today’s environment which demands a high level of organisational agility,” says Carol Mould, Portfolio Manager at the Faculty Training Institute (FTI). “Increasingly, businesses are choosing to adopt projects as a means to deliver business value.”

“A popular approach, known as project portfolio management, involves treating an organisation’s projects as if they resembled a financial investment portfolio,” Mould explains. “There should be a business case for each project, with an approval committee overseeing the selection and prioritisation of projects. Instead of regarding projects as isolated tasks, projects are treated in terms of how they impact a business - just like a financial investment would.”

Organisations have woken up to the fact that projects are very effective at implementing strategy and direction. But projects have been around for a long time and instead of making a company agile can do quite the opposite. Getting stuck in the muck of endlessly changing deadlines and objectives have scuppered many well-intended implementations. How can an organisation make projects work for it?
“A good approach is to break projects down into phases. So instead of a single three-year project, manage it in multiple segments that build up to your final goal. This makes it easier to make adjustments around the changing landscape of the business.”

But to do this successfully organisations also require the right skills, which are cultivated through training.

“Training is vital - your staff skills should be up to date and aligned with best practices. It is also essential to ensure that employees adopt an agile mindset, which can be achieved through training and mentoring in Organisational Change Management (OCM). OCM includes providing a motivation for the change, creating a compelling vision for how the organisation will appear after the change, and then implementing and embedding the change in the organisation so that the change will be sustained.”
Ultimately, it’s about talent management, Mould adds. This starts with recruiting the right people onto projects through effective assessment and selection practices; developing employees by providing the right training at the right time; and supporting project teams with effective processes as well as appropriate technology.

It is also important to strike a balance between permanent employees, and temporary contractors or consultants: “You should always keep an eye on developing your talent pool and protecting your strategic business knowledge. If companies rely too heavily on external resources, they are in danger of losing the critical skills that build the agility they seek.” She also advises that a dedicated project management office and appropriate project management software are key enables for successful projects.

“It is well worth the time of a company to invest in engaging with experts that can provide training for employees in project and change management, and assistance with designing and implementing appropriate processes and suitable technology,” says Mould, noting these services at both FTI and its parent company, EOH specialise in these services. “If used in the right way, project management is an excellent approach for delivering business value.”

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