Linking Business Strategy to Project Strategy

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Business strategy is determined at the corporate level in a “deliberate” (i.e. planned) or “emergent” (i.e. reactive) response to the external business environment. The success of strategy is purely determined on how well it is executed. Projects serve as the vehicle to implement and execute the corporate strategy. Some firms are project-based organizations and recognize revenue by delivering on contractual projects. However, other firms may perform projects internally as a means to grow the company. In some cases, both situations may exist. Regardless of whether or not projects are internal or external, the alignment of the corporate initiatives with the project components is critical to the long-term position of the company.

The project manager is responsible for the scope, schedule, and budget (triple constraints) at the project level. A project is characterized in section 1.2.1 on page (5) of the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) third edition as a progressively elaborated temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result. The purpose of corporate strategy is to sustain the business whereas the purpose of projects is to deliver objectives and then terminate. In section 1.6 of the PMBOK on page (16) the authors depict the project management context as follows:

“Project management exists in a broader context that includes program management, portfolio management and project management office. Frequently, there is a hierarchy of strategic plan, portfolio, program, project and subproject, in which a program consisting of several associated projects will contribute to the achievement of a strategic plan.”

The important take away from this extraction is the recognition of a hierarchy linking strategy to projects. Below is an illustration of the hierarchical linkage.

Figure 01

Projects are the vehicle used to execute strategic initiatives prompted by the “deliberate” or “emergent” efforts of the organization in an attempt to align the organizational components to the external environmental domains for sustainability. The organization may utilize programs as a means of grouping projects managed and controlled in a similar fashion as a means to achieve efficiencies and effectiveness of resources. On a more grandeur scale, programs and projects that are organized together to execute and deliver on strategic objectives is known as a portfolio. Portfolio management aligns projects and programs with operative goals and objectives which are known as the organizational strategy. Below is a simple illustration of the conceptual relationships previously presented.

Figure 02

Over the next couple of months, I will be conducting a series of five literature reviews. As the contextual analysis unfolds, the first review by Morris and Jamieson expands on the topic of moving strategy from the corporate level to the project level, which leads into the next review by Milosevic and Srivannaboon about a theoretical framework for alignment between these two levels. It is the third review by Johnson who analyzes the topic of drawing the gap closer between projects and strategy. In the fourth review, Breakthrough Performance Management produced an article about tying performance metrics to business strategy. The final review by Webber and Torti is at the individual level of the project manager doubling as client account executives. The compilations of articles critiqued and analyzed were selected to invoke a cognitive exploration of the events, conditions, or interrelationships between corporate strategy and project strategy.

If you want to read the full articles, see the references below for details.


Breakthrough Performance Management: Tying Performance Metrics To Business Strategy. (2005, January). Business Credit, Retrieved October 12, 2008, from EBSCO MegaFILE database.

Johnson, L. (2004, June). Close the gap between projects and strategy. Harvard Management Update, 9(6), 3-5. Retrieved October 12, 2008, from EBSCO MegaFILE database.

Milosevic, D., & Srivannaboon, S. (2006, August). A theoretical framework for aligning project management with business strategy. Project Management Journal, 37(3), 98-110. Retrieved October 12, 2008, from EBSCO MegaFILE database.

Morris, P., & Jamieson, A. (2005, December). Moving from corporate strategy to project strategy. Project Management Journal, 36(4), 5-18. Retrieved October 12, 2008, from EBSCO MegaFILE database.

Project Management Institute (PMI). (2004). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK Guide) (3rd ed.). Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: PMI

Webber, S., & Torti, M. (2004, February). Project managers doubling as client account executives. Academy of Management Executive, 18(1), 60-71. Retrieved October 12, 2008, from EBSCO MegaFILE database.