Best Practices for Aligning Project Work to Needs of an Organization

Project Leadership and CommunicationAuthor: Srinivasan Varadharajan

Alignment of project work to organizational strategy reminds me of an interesting conversation I had with one of my friends a couple of weeks ago.  When discussing this course with him, he told me about an article he had read on the web, on effectiveness and efficiency – two similar sounding words with a lot of difference in meaning. He quoted from that article, that working efficiently is not of any real value unless the work was also “effective” –which is work that meets one’s needs. An example is a person walking fast but choosing the wrong path and ending up nowhere.

In the same way, having a strong, great performing project team would be of no significance, if the business leaders and the project team fail to align the project work to the needs of the company. As mentioned in the book “Project Leadership” , each project should address a need that must be met for the company to thrive in a competitive environment. It is the job of both the leaders, and the project team, to get this “need” communicated properly.

Here are 5 best practices that align project work to the business needs of the company.

Clear Project Requirements

Having clearly defined project requirements goes a long way to ensure that the team does not waste time building something that is not required. This is a responsibility of both the requestors and the project team. The project team needs to review requirements in detail, document any and all questions, and then meet with the project requestors in face to face communication (reference 1) to discuss the same.  All stakeholders should be involved if possible to brainstorm the requirements – as a team of varied temperament and thinking styles can come up with better ideas than any one person.

Clear Business Benefit

Project team should get communicated to about the context of the project, and what purpose it serves for the organization. As part of 1 above, interacting with requestors and stakeholders also serves this very important purpose. It gives the team the reasons for the project, which can not only motivate the team, but also reduces the possibility that they build something the business does not need.

Clear Strategic Vision

Until I read “Vision and Mission Statements” from The Leadership Challenge textbook, I did not realize until we focused on it in this class the value that these could provide. Especially if they are specific and well defined, it provides a great way of evaluating if a project’s requirements are aligned to the company’s goals. All project requirements should be validated against the mission and vision statements.

Clear Communication

The business should communicate regularly on the longer term plan and what other projects might be coming up in the next few months or even next couple of years. This knowledge and information should not be “hoarded” per The Leadership Challenge by the senior management, but should be freely distributed to project teams. This would help avoid developing something that would not work for a future requirement, and would need to be rebuilt wasting time and resources. Design can be created so as to easily accommodate future requirements as well.

Clear Customer Input

Getting regular feedback during the project development is something that works great to improve alignment of work to expectations. If the stakeholders get a preview of the product, they can evaluate if it would work as they expected, and can communicate what works and does not work about the product. Since it is still early in the project lifecycle, the feedback can be acted upon to improve the alignment of the product to the stakeholder’s needs.

These are some of the things a project manager can work on to ensure that his team is not only “efficient”, but also “effective.”

About the author: Varadharajan, Srinivasan is a student of the UCSC Extension at Silicon Valley – Project Leadership and Communication Fall 2010 online course.

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