If you have ambitions to becoming a Chief Project Officer, then it’s time to think strategy, says Ewelina Kruk, Transformation Director at The Instant Group
Project professionals and the C-suite
The idea that project professionals career journey can lead to the top of a business by becoming a Chief Project Officer, is becoming ever more evident. This is no easy task for a project professional, as there’s no natural path in this direction other than demonstrating the value‑add you bring to the table when it comes to strategy implementation. There’s also very little established advice on how to reach the very top of an organisation in a project capacity.
It is thought that project professionals already (or will as a matter of course) belong in the C‑suite because of the balance shifting between running the business and changing the business.
In other words, organisations become projectified based on the volume of change they handle and how they construct their propositions, so impacting on the demand for the necessary skills to deliver these projects throughout an organisation. However, that shift may be a long way off whilst the benefits of having project professionals involved now can propel any organisation’s growth. This results in the need for a chief project officer role on the executive leadership team now.
Strategy: a phenomenon or a phantom?
Increased competition and technological advances compel businesses to focus on their competitive advantage. Strategy serves as the bridge between the current organisational state and its future.
Some businesses that fail may still be equipped with a level of project management capability, but if the link to and across the C‑suite is not present, the ability to help the business stand up and take ownership of the strategy could prove unattainable. It’s an obvious void that can be filled by project professionals capable of looking beyond the confinement of projects and towards strategy.
Strategic project management
Strategic project management uses all the tools of traditional project management in a way that aligns with an organisation’s overall strategic goals and objectives. It is the application of principles and practices crafted in a specific way that considers the long‑term goals of the organisation.
In its focus, it goes beyond the borders of the Barnes Triangle of time, cost and quality. Instead, its horizon extends by looking at the project’s impact on the organisation’s strategic objectives, its stakeholders and its future growth. It is built on a deep understanding of the organisation’s vision, mission, goals, purpose and behaviours, as well as external factors that may impact its future.
Through strategic project management, organisations can ensure that all their initiatives are aligned with the overall strategy, generating the desired outcomes and benefits. It also helps to adapt to changing circumstances, ensuring that they remain competitive and agile in a rapidly changing business environment.
Linking projects and strategy
Strategy is meant to result in the implementation of what has been crafted. Therefore, it can be assumed that a strategy equates to a high volume of tasks an organisation needs to undertake to change itself.
According to Association for Project Management (APM), project management applies “processes, methods, skills, knowledge and experience to achieve specific project objectives”, which are underpinned by tasks. Strategy and projects are intrinsically linked. A mixture of project management with strategic management can move mountains when turning business strategy into implementation.
Some consider strategic projects crucial to the implementation. Aren’t all projects strategic? Project management is an enabler of strategy. If manifested as strategic project management, it can drive an organisation’s change more efficiently and with greater focus.
Dynamism is improvement
Project management, whichever methodologies it uses, including strategic project management, needs an injection of dynamism and all the brain power available within the organisation.
The control the system seeks needs to be abandoned and, instead, the tools we possess need to be used to embrace continuous improvement. It is time to let go of control. It is an ability to adapt and change within the organisation, which is a key competitive advantage to deliver better outcomes.
We need to become champions of dynamic capabilities, utilising the latest tools and AI to put the ownership in the hands of all members of the organisation. It is this value‑add that will make us indispensable. It elevates us to that deserved seat as a chief project officer.
Steps to becoming a Chief Project Officer:
1 Understand what strategy means in your organisation. Focus on the blueprint and make sure to ask questions if anything is unclear.
2 Understand problems fast and propose solutions even faster. Data and insights are invaluable when proposing solutions, but progress will always win over perfection.
3 Minimise the need for control and focus on ownership. Build solutions to problems from within the business organically. Implement self-service for initiatives logging and progress updates.
4 Work towards continuous improvement. This will involve failure; if so, fail fast and grow from it.
5 Believe in yourself and your intuition. Make the question ‘what’s the value added?’ an acid test for any key decisions you make against an organisational hierarchy of purpose.
6 Focus communications on what’s next and why, not how.
For further reading APM has published a report The Chief Project Officer: An Essential Part of the Future C-Suite, which is available now.
For details about the Instant Group visit theinstantgroup.com