How to make sure projects tie down to business objectives

A major reason why businesses fail is that organizations venture into projects that don’t tie down with the core strategies of the organization. Infact, strategy is an often misunderstood concept. Companies often spend much time describing ‘what’ they want to be and almost no time talking about ‘how’ to achieve goals and objectives. This brings us to the fundamental problem of defining strategies.

Birth of long term objectives

Long term goals of an organization should be ideally derived from a vision framework, shown below. I say ideally because, smaller companies usually start out with one project or one product line and expand into the market overtime. At the beginning there might be no vision, no mission and no objectives at all

The vision framework provides a process based model for formulating strategies from vision and mission of the organization and ensure that key strategies are supported by the lower level tasks of the organization. Inability to make use of a framework or model like this in deriving strategies usually result in strategies that are not linked with the overall vision and mission statements that are there to fill in some blank spaces of a paper, but serving no purpose otherwise. The breakdown could occur at any point, and the core processes at the very bottom of the framework is where projects and operations come into play. There could be projects and operations, successful in themselves and even maybe to the overall financial status of the business entity, but still not be related to the overall long term vision.

This is one reason why the vision should not be taken offhandedly. Without visions and mission statements, there can be no strategies. Wrong and unattainable visions result in unrealistic strategies. Unrealistic strategies means that projects and operations, no matter how successfully implemented, could not help with the long term goal of the organization. Sure, a project could finish smoothly and successfully, achieve all the project objectives. But repeated successes is what sets market leaders apart from normal small businesses

Deriving Short term objectives 

Short term objectives of an organizations are represented by the operations and projects within an organization. Operations, are daily routine tasks, while projects are one-off undertakings to make sure a benefit is achieved or a deliverable delivered, while achieving project objectives of time, cost and quality. Projects are where a lot of organizations struggle in when trying to achieve long term objectives, mainly because most organizations don’t really talk about which strategic objectives are being supported by the short term project objectives

One method to make sure that projects do tie down to long term objectives is by using the logical framework method (LFM). The method can be used in brainstorming sessions while projects are being initiated

The logical framework method starts by assuming that there are strategic objectives that are needed to be supported by projects. Once a strategy of importance is identified, the benefits required should be identified to support the strategic objective. Once benefits are identified, the next step is to identify the deliverables of achieving this benefit. The next step is identifying what needs to be done to achieve these deliverables. At the end a number of viable projects can be listed to support a strategic objective of the organization

This isn’t the last step of the LFM. The forward pass is now complete and now it’s time to make sure that these projects really align to the strategic objective. The first step of the backward pass in LFM is to ask why projects are needed. Identifying the deliverables, the next step is to identify why these deliverables are needed. Once the benefits are fully understood, the last step is to ask why these benefits are needed. If the strategic alignment initially foreseen for these projects is still identifiable, as far as LFM is concerned, these are all viable projects

It is usually a good idea to involve different people in the forward and backward pass and to involve different people. LFM is a great tool in assisting a sometimes vague notion of project formulation and initiation.

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