PMI-Montréal project management blog

Project Management, the Spearhead of Strategic Management

Author : François Tremblay, Executive MBA & Master in Project Management

François Tremblay, Executive MBA & Master in Project Management (Linkedin profile)


For Sun Tsu, Alexander the Great, Marc Aurele, Genghis Khan, Niccolo Machiavelli, Miyamoto Musashi, Carl von Clausewitz, Napoleon Bonaparte, and the General Colin Powell, the corner stone of a good strategy takes its ground in its Execution. For them, Strategy Formulation and Execution are intertwined and in dissociable. The purpose of this article was to tighten weaving between Strategic, Operations and Project Management. Its goal was to propose reference frameworks to support practitioners using Project Management as part of the Corporate Strategy Process in the context of Global Organizations. Our grounded theory research suggests that a Cybernetic view over five elements (as shown beside) is key to a good continuity during the iterative process of Strategy Formulation & Execution: Multifunctional General Management Leadership (the Soul), Strategic Management (the Spirit), Project & Operations Management (the Body), Organizational Intelligence (the Heart), and both the Strategic-Operations-Project Management trio & the Strategic-Project Management Tandem (the Whole).



The Soul: Multifunctional General Management – All about Leadership

How can cross-functional leadership so critical in Reducing Time to Market of new products & services be deployed in complex, multinational & multicultural strategic project portfolio management teams? We suggest that an avenue to explore would be through the development of the Multifunctional General Management Leadership. As described by Andrews (1971, p. viii), ‘’The General Management role pertains to the functions and responsibilities of those charged with running a successful business or a multifunctional entity within it.’’ Nadler & Tushman, (2003, p. 97) observed that ‘’Faced with the need for swift problem solving and a General Management perspective, organizations sometimes assign an individual to act as integrator. The person in this role is responsible for taking a General Management point of view in helping multiple work groups accomplish a joint task, such as a specific product or project.’’ Both above quoted authors described the role of a Project Manager acting at the Multifunctional General Management level. Elevating Project Management to the strategic level involves to develop the aptitude to look at the organization as a whole when it is time to do the link between the dynamic and intertwined process of strategy formulation and execution. Now let’s see how the Problem Solving Process is central to the Strategic-Operations-Project Management & Organizational Intelligence.


The Spirit: Strategic Management – Resolving over Disorder

As well illustrated by Andrews (1971, p. viii) on the Concept of Corporate Strategy, what follows describe what occupies the mental space of a Strategist: ‘’The problem studied affect the character and success of the entire company. They have to do with the choices and objectives, the molding of organizational capability and character, the definition of what needs to be done, and the mobilization of resources for what needs to be done. Their urgency as problems increases sharply amid changing circumstances, shifts of demand, competitive countermoves, and scarcities of skills and capital. Like ‘’national policy,’’ ‘’public policy,’’ ‘’foreign policy,’’ business policy is an intermixture of goals and purposes, impediments and obstacles, threats and opportunities, resources and applications, environmental information and misinformation which serves as the context of strategic decision in a tumult of competition. The successful resolution of disorder in the jumble of environmental forces, goals, and resources is what policy formulation is all about.’’ General Management is ‘’devoted to the problem of the firm as a whole’’. As shown in the Strategic-Operations-Project Management Trio Framework beside, to reach a global and holistic view, the Strategist shall balance his thoughts between the coordination and unavoidable trade-offs over Strategy Formulation and Strategy Execution. Strategy Execution being deployed through two vectors: The successful Operations Management constantly improved through an Operational Excellence system, and the successful deployment of Strategic Initiatives through Project Management. The coordination of the whole taking place through Strategic Governance. Organizational Ambidexterity being the ability of an organization to manage both its regular operations and its growth initiatives in an effective and harmonious manner (Viguerie, P., S., Smit, & M., Baghai, 2008; Phelps, 2016). As we will see in the next section, the capacity to translate Customer’s Problems / Needs into business opportunities is one of the greatest contribution that can be brought by Project Management. 



The Body: Project Management - Linking Strategy with its Execution

Strategy formulation, intertwined with strategy execution, generates Strategic Initiatives (Projects) that are added to the Strategic Project Portfolio (Debourse & Archibald). The ability to successfully translate strategy into execution requires a high level of multifunctional integration accomplished through the formation of cross-functional ad hoc / project teams. Transforming Customer’s Problems / Needs into business opportunities pass by the translation of the Marketing, Engineering & Manufacturing knowledges into actionable new product development project activities. Project Management tools, technics and culture are properly adapted to deal with complex strategic initiatives that require customization of the approach and agility in dealing with the internal and external environments in all phases. Coming up in the next section, an organization’s ability to resolve problems and to adapt to its environment is equal to its Social System Intelligence.


You can use the link to the full content to also have access to the following sections of the article: The Heart: Organizational Intelligence – A Social System capacity to Resolve Problems, The Whole: The Strategic / Project Management Tandem Framework, Conclusion & Bibliography.


Suggested articles