Strategic Thinking for Project People

When we think tactically, our focus is the "next doable step," or perhaps, the next two or three doable steps. When we think strategically, we place far more emphasis on the longer-range objective. In project work, effective strategy can dramatically reduce the level of tactical effort required to achieve the longer-range objectives.

Project managers, project teams, and project sponsors spend most of their days trying to move the project toward its ultimate objective. Typically, their focus is relatively immediate — the "next doable step," or perhaps, the next two or three doable steps. They keep the ultimate objective in mind, but their focus is usually immediate. This kind of thinking is tactical.

Strategic Thinking for Project People

To think strategically is to think several moves ahead — not only about what's happening now, but also about what will most likely occur in the future

Strategic thinking is different. When we think strategically, we place far more emphasis on the longer-range objective. In project work, effective strategy can dramatically reduce the level of tactical effort required to achieve the longer-range objectives.

At every level of detail of execution of a project, there is both strategic thinking, which is focused on the goal, and tactical thinking, which is focused on how we go about achieving that goal. For example, when designing an agenda for a meeting, the tactical thinker might order the agenda items in declining order of their importance, to avoid running out of time before the important items are addressed. The strategic thinker, on the other hand, might manage the risk of time depletion by designating a timekeeper, then allocating time to each item, and alerting the attendees to the importance of the meeting schedule. This approach then removes a constraint from the agenda, enabling the agenda designer to place items in an order such that independent items can be resolved before the meeting addresses the items that depend on them, thereby shortening the meeting.

This insight-filled program deals with issues such as:

  • Can we plan projects effectively keeping business strategy in mind?
  • How can we ensure that project objectives and project plans are aligned with enterprise objectives?
  • What principles provide effective guidance for designing meeting agendas?
  • How can I become more effective when reporting or presenting to my superiors?
  • Are there specific strategies for persuading people who have formal organizational power over us?
  • What are effective strategies for organizational politics?
  • How can we choose our projects so as to enhance the probability of achieving career goals?
  • When multiple projects are underway, and supported by overlapping pools of resources, what strategies help us cope with resource contention?
  • Are there strategies we can use for planning for disrupted plans?
  • What are the characteristics of durable deals?
  • How can I improve my critical thinking skills?
  • What are methods for exploiting situational momentum?

Learning objectives

Participants learn how widely applicable strategic thinking can be — it applies to far more than business strategy. Learning objectives include:

  • Know the difference between tactics and strategy
  • Understand how strategy applies in everyday situations
  • Learn how to apply strategic thinking in communications, especially when communicating with groups and with management
  • Apply strategic thinking to career decisions
  • Know how to design durable deals with peers
  • Understand and exploit situational momentum

Program structure and content

This program is available as a keynote, workshop, seminar, breakout, or clinic. We learn through presentation, discussion, exercises, simulations, and post-program activities. We can tailor a program for you that addresses your specific challenges, or we can deliver a tried-and-true format that has worked well for other clients. Participants usually favor a mix of presentation, discussion, and focused exercises.

Based on attendee interest, topics will include, for example:

  • The Eisenhower matrix and other time management techniques
  • Using morphological analysis to analyze complex situations
  • Boyd's OODA model of managing conflict
  • Simons' Four Spans model of high performance
  • Understanding blame and accountability
  • Understanding the special characteristics of project-oriented organizations
  • Recognizing the debilitating effects of the manufacturing perspective when applied to knowledge-oriented organizations
  • Recognizing and exploiting situation momentum
  • The principle of maximum freedom
  • The toxic effects of the chart of accounts and how to deal with them
  • Next steps: strategies for applying what you've learned about strategy

Whether you're a veteran of strategic thinking, or a relative newcomer to it, this program is a real eye-opener.

Learning model

When we learn most new skills, we intend to apply them in situations with low emotional content. But knowledge about how people work together is most needed in highly charged situations. That's why we use a learning model that goes beyond presentation and discussion — it includes in the mix simulation, role play, metaphorical problems, and group processing. This gives participants the resources they need to make new, more constructive choices even in tense situations. And it's a lot more fun for everybody.

Target audience

Decision makers at all levels, including managers of global operations, sponsors of global projects, business analysts, team leads, project managers and team members.

Program duration

Available formats range from 50 minutes to one full day. The longer formats allow for more coverage or more material, more experiential content and deeper understanding of issues specific to audience experience.

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