Aligning Projects with Strategic Intent–Part 1

This is a series of notes on Terry Schmidt’s book Strategic Project Management Made Simple, which adds the Logical Framework Approach to traditional project management in order to facilitate strategic planning.    The fourth chapter of his book is called “Aligning Projects with Strategic Intent”, and it takes the concepts of the Logical Framework Approach that were applied to individual projects in chapters 2 and 3, and shows how they can be used at the level of programs and portfolios.    This first part discusses the general concept of programs and portfolios, and why the LogFrame Approach can be used for them as well.

1.  Programs and Portfolios

According to the 5th Edition of the PMBOK Guide©, a program is defined as

A group of related projects and program activities managed in a coordinated way to obtain benefits not available from managing them individually.

portfolio is defined as:

Projects, programs, and operations managed as a group to achieve strategic objectives.

As an illustration, let’s take the design of an aircraft.    The design would involve individual design projects for the various major parts and systems of an aircraft:    the fuselage, the engine, the electrical system, the hydraulic system, etc.   These individual projects would be coordinated by a program, because they would have to be coordinated in such a way that the various systems fit together in a logical way to form a single, functioning aircraft.    Now a manufacturer like Boeing will have different types of aircraft:    helicopters, commercial jets, and military jets, all of which serve different purposes, but which all must be made in such a way that they satisfy the companies that buy them and the company’s own financial goals of turning a profit.    All of the different types of aircraft, the design of which would each be handled by a separate program, would fall under the same portfolio.

In a memorable quote from Terry Schmidt’s book, a project manager is like a circus performer who is juggling three balls in the air:    the constraints of time, cost and scope.    A program manager is like a circus troupe of performers who are all juggling, but occasionally will swap balls, bowling pins, or whatever it is they are juggling.   To extent this metaphor even farther, the portfolio manager would be the circus ringleader who is handling all of the circus acts, all with the intent of making sure the audience is happy (the business case or purpose) and therefore that the income from the ticket receipts keeps coming into the circus.

2.  Corporate Strategy

Starting at the top, corporate strategy begins with the vision set forth by the CEO and it cascades down through strategic business units or SBUs.   This vision is guided by conversations with various stakeholders (including stockholders), and the corporate strategy ends up as strategic initiatives or portfolios.   Each portfolio is then broken down into programs and projects that become the vehicles for putting the strategic initiatives into effect.  

In the same way, that the LogFrame can make sure that a project’s Outcomes align with the business case or Purpose and the organization’s strategic Goal, the LogFrame can make sure the projects and programs align with the strategic initiatives or portfolios and even the central strategic vision of the CEO.    How it does so will be the subject of the next post.



One Response

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