Why Does Strategic Planning For Project Management Sometimes Fail

We have developed a strong case earlier for the benefits of strategic planning for project management. Knowledge about this process is growing, and new information is being disseminated rapidly. Why, then, does this process often fail? Following are some of the problems that can occur during the strategic planning process. Each of these pitfalls must be considered carefully if the process is to be effective.

• Lack of CEO endorsement: Any type of strategic planning process must originate with senior management. They must start the process and signal their own aspirations. A failure by senior management to endorse strategic planning may signal line management that the process is unreal.

• Failure to reexamine: Strategic planning for project management is not a one-shot process. It is a dynamic, continuous process of reexamination, feedback, and updating.

• Being blinded by success: Simply because a few projects are completed successfully does not mean that the methodology is correct, nor does it imply that improvements are not possible. A belief that "you can do no wrong" usually leads to failure.

• Overresponsiveness to information: Too many changes in too short a time frame may leave employees with the impression that the methodology is flawed or that its use may not be worth the effort. The issue to be decided here is whether changes should be made continuously or at structured time frames.

• Failure to educate: People cannot implement successfully and repetitively a methodology they do not understand. Training and education on the use of the methodology is essential.

• Failure of organizational acceptance: Company-wide acceptance of the methodology is essential. This may take time to achieve in large organi-



Project A Project B Project C

Least Important

Medium taHl Most Importance ^^^^ Important


Quality Availability Variety Features


Cost Hard Rate of Reduction Automation Changes

Project A Project B Project C

Innovation/ Quality Technology

FIGURE 3-8. Differences in strategic importance.

zations. Strong, visible executive support may be essential for rapid acceptance.

• Failure to keep the methodology simple: Simple methodologies based upon guidelines are ideal. Unfortunately, as more and more improvements are made, there is a tendency to go from informality using guidelines to formality using policies and procedures.

• Blaming failures on the methodology: Project failures are not always the result of poor methodology; the problem may be poor implementation. Unrealistic objectives or poorly defined executive expectations are two common causes of poor implementation. Good methodologies do not guarantee success, but they do imply that the project will be managed correctly.

• Failure to prioritize: Serious differences can exist in the importance different functional areas, such as marketing and manufacturing, assign to strategic project objectives. Figure 3-8 shows three projects and how they are viewed differently by marketing and manufacturing. A common, across-company prioritization system may be necessary.

• Rapid acquisitions: Sometimes an organization will purchase another company as part of its long-term strategy for vertical integration. Backward integration occurs when a firm purchases suppliers of components or raw materials in order to reduce its dependency on outside sources. Forward integration occurs when an organization purchases the forward channels of distribution for its products. In either case, the company's projects will now require more work, and this must be accounted for in the methodology. Changes may occur quickly.

Only by watching out for these potential problems can a firm hope to avoid them (or at least to minimize their negative effects). This is the path to success in strategic planning for project management.

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