A standard expectation for most of my clients that are adopting PPM practices is that over time, their portfolio will become better aligned with the strategic direction of their organization. One approach to address this is by evaluating the alignment of individual projects to strategic business objectives.
While this is valid in theory, in practice, it usually breaks down (hence the name of my Blog).
An underlying assumption is that the organization has a well-defined strategic plan that a project’s alignment can objectively be evaluated against.
Unfortunately, most organizations do not invest the effort required to create, refine and maintain a strategic plan containing objectives that pass the SMART criteria test.
For example, a client may say: we want our company to be a “provider of choice”. As someone on a project evaluation committee, this type of objective is open enough to allow almost any project to claim alignment. On the other hand, if you apply the SMART criteria to the objective and state “We want our company to be ranked in the top five providers for Y based on X’s independent survey for the 2010 calendar year” we are in a better position to:
1. Expect a project requestor or sponsor to explicitly specify how they plan to achieve this objective.
2. Have a method of evaluating whether or not they did achieve this objective.
#2 is critical – without it, what’s to prevent project requestors or sponsors from over-inflating the value propositions for their projects?
So how do we translate this into action?
If your executives or board are unable or unwilling to define SMART objectives as part of their strategic plan, your project governance committee should launch an initiative to have these distilled from the “motherhood & apple pie” high level objectives – without this, don’t bother trying to evaluate alignment. Sure, you can take a subjective approach to considering which high-level objectives a particular project may be strongly or weakly aligned with, but this can hardly be used to facilitate project selection or prioritization.