Strategies are boardroom diktats. Let us call this a 'C' level strategy. The 'diktats' as they flow downstream translate to operational strategies that give wings to a 'C' level strategy. The success (of a 'C' level strategy) is truly in the execution of operational strategies. Over time, organisations that sustain are those that have viable 'C' level strategies that can be quickly resolved into operational strategies. GE and Toyota are good examples from the corporate world.
Let us contrast this with the recently concluded FIFA world cup soccer. It is colourful, fun, emotional, and competitive. Amidst all the fun and frolic underlying is a game plan; strategy if you please. One will be surprised to know that each team is managed as a corporate entity. The 'C' level strategy at the highest point is all about player selection, 3-4-3 play model etc. The operational strategies materializes in each game on the spur of the moment, executed on the go with immediate results to see. To illustrate one can picture the game within the striking range of the goal. The objective is very clear, to score a common goal. There is a formation of players, changing dynamically with the movement of the ball as it passes between players (possession) in quick time, almost magically; there is someone just where the ball is likely to arrive. Several outcomes are possible all at lightning speed resulting in a score or a miss. Most of the goals one can safely say are from a remarkable strategy that comes to play unexpectedly and overcomes the unknown constraints. There is nothing more frustrating than to come close to a goal post and not score. It is as frustrating to see a ball curling into the goal on the extreme corner of the net where the success rate for a goal is close to 90%. Coming back to operational strategies, perhaps the reason why Lionel Messi or Neymar Jr. were ineffective may be because of misalignment in execution with others in the team, not all were on the same page when it comes to 'reading' the strategy. When I say 'on the same page' I mean when the ball is 'centered' someone picks it up near the goal and takes a shot; if it flies across harmlessly all are not on the same page, so is the case with a back pass. These are the only examples though. Soccer being a team game Messi or a Neymar on their own can win a few games but not bring home the world cup.
Managing projects is very similar. The success of the project is dependent on the strategy-on-the street (operational strategies) driven through constraints. The sponsors have done their work by outlining the 'C' level strategy. The project manager has been a party to this decision. It is now time for the team to rally forth with operational strategies and deliver. That is the way to drive projects in the face of an opportunity or an adversity. It is not the project manager's responsibility (coach for a soccer team) to hand hold the team. The team must think lateral and keep moving forward. PMP gives the framework for project management like soccer rules of the game; it is within this framework, a team must find ways and means to score a goal, and deliver the project. Some great project managers (Messi/ Neymar Jr) fail while a balanced project team (France, if you please) will deliver.
Thanks and Best Wishes
Tanish Mathur, PMP, PMI-ACP
Editorial Content Credit - Vishwanath T K, PMP