Project managers (PMs) and business analysts (BAs) should be actively involved in developing strategic plans. The knowledge and skills of these professionals align perfectly with the strategic planning process and PMs and BAs have the necessary communication skills required to explain the plan to employees who need to carry it out. PMs and BAs are engaged with people in all areas of the organization and can effectively carry the message to everyone.
Traditionally corporate executives, led by outside consulting companies, have developed strategic plans. They may spend a few hours, days or even months coming up with mission and vision statements, goals and objectives, and defining their imperatives or direction statements. Once the plan is developed, a communication goes out to the entire organization for execution and follow up. In some organizations the plan is posted on a wall in the office or an internal digital site for reference. There are several reasons why these strategic plans often do not result in any significant change for organizations.
- The plan is not very good. With only executives providing ideas for the plan, plans are unrealistic, overly optimistic, or aggressive and documented using “consultant-speak” – lots of big, important sounding words which have no clear meaning to most employees. Key imperatives are often pithy, feel good statements (e.g. “Our customers are number one!”) which do not provide any usable insight.
- The plan is not well communicated. If a plan is communicated once, it is unlikely that any employees will really grasp it or understand how it should impact their work. A one-page strategy graphic is a good visual starting point recommended by many consultants, but if the details are not communicated, it is difficult for anyone to execute against them.
- The plan is not linked to initiatives, projects, and every day work assignments. Employees don’t know how their day-to-day activities support the strategic plan. They usually keep doing the same activities, focusing only on their manager’s priorities, which may not be the same as the organizations long term goals.
All three problems can be decreased by involving project managers and business analysts in the strategic planning process.
- The plan is not very good. PMs and BAs know their organizations very well. They work with people in all departments and at all levels of the organization. They know the culture and the ability of the organization to absorb change. They know the obstacles which will slow progress. These professionals also have the skills needed to analyze opportunities, threats, industry changes; balancing stakeholder and customer needs, and develop plans which will serve the long-term interests of the organization. The more people involved with developing the plan, the better the plan and the better the commitment to the plan.
- The plan is not well communicated. Communications are the hallmark skills of PMs and BAs. PMs give direction well, explaining why tasks are needed, how they should be sequenced and how they impact other tasks. BAs listen to stakeholder concerns, analyze potential impacts and present solutions clearly. When an employee asks “Why are we doing this?” – a PM or BA can always answer the question.
- The plan is not linked to day-to-day work. Employees need to know – EVERY DAY – “How is my work furthering the mission of the organization?” Not only does this knowledge advance the plan, it is also the key to driving employee engagement and motivation. Ask any HR manager and they will tell you that employees want to understand how their work contributes to the goals of the organization. They want to understand the link from strategy to their specific tasks, and they want to be rewarded for supporting the strategy. PMs and BAs can make the link from strategy to execution by clearly understanding the strategic plan and knowing how it will be advanced by their projects. They help project team members see the value of their work and see the results at a detailed and high level.