In today’s competitive business environment, an organisation’s success depends on the combination of strategic leadership and effective execution of project-based initiatives.
Regardless of the specific goal, project-based initiatives can be challenging, particularly as they involve groups that consist of diverse individuals brought together to form cross-functional and cross-organisational teams.
These teams often span multiple organisational hierarchies and physical locations, which presents the project leader with a host of logistical and political challenges.
Success in executing a strategic project is dependent on project team leaders’ abilities to influence and motivate team members through effective communication and smart leadership.
According to the Harvard Business Review: “A recent survey of more than 400 global CEOs found that executional excellence was the number one challenge facing corporate leaders in Asia, Europe and the United States where two-thirds to three-quarters of large organisations struggle to implement their strategies.”
The reason for this is also revealed: “While 84% of managers cite they can rely upon direct teammates, only nine percent said they could rely on colleagues in other functions, resulting in dysfunctional behaviour such as duplication of effort, missed deadlines and budget averages. This highlights the importance of the leadership and communication skills needed to instil trust and cooperation and to influence cross-functional team members to execute strategic projects.”
Additional project management skills are needed
Successful project management has always required an understanding of the fundamental technical skills traditionally associated with project management, which enable project-based workers to:
- Link project goals and objectives to clear compelling stakeholder needs
- Develop a detailed project plan with clear accountability of roles, responsibilities and timeframes
- Set realistic, measurable objectives and ensure positive results
- Estimate project costs and schedules
- Establish a dependable project control and monitoring system
These technical skills are fundamental to project management and always will be. However, there are non-technical skills that are equally, if not more, important – particularly if a project leader is not a certified project management professional but is still tasked with leading and executing strategic projects.
The importance of influencing other project team members to get their work done and keep the project moving, regardless of where they stand in the organisation, cannot be underestimated.
To be successful, organisations need their team members to develop skills in leadership and business – competencies that support and sustain long-range strategic objectives.
These relational and communications skills are critical to successfully executing cross-functional, multi-level initiatives and come into play across all phases of a project, from running meetings and making decisions to influencing others, forecasting and maintaining focus, describe one’s ability to connect to others and influence their behaviour.
Within the context of executing strategic projects, relational skills translate into the following four key areas of focus:
- Communication: Converting strategy into action
- All teams need to understand the strategy and the value of the work they are doing in relation to the strategy.
- The actions required to execute upon the strategy, need to be identified and prioritised.
- Relevant team members need to be gathered into a cohesive unit to establish regular communication throughout the project.
- Collaboration: Managing without authority
- Strong collaboration skills are needed for executing strategic projects where there is no formal or direct authority over team members.
- Team members with the required leadership skills and influence need to communicate in all directions – up, down and laterally with peers.
- Coordination: Executing complex programmes
- Programme interfaces and interdependencies need to be planned and managed with an approach that is resilient and adaptable to changing environments.
- While traditional project management skills will help identify the critical steps in executing a complex programme, it won’t provide the skills needed to navigate the organisation and draw up team members’ cooperation.
- Conflict management: Leading effective teams
- Team dynamics, including conflict and personality clashes which can undermine a project’s success need to be managed more effectively.
- Outstanding communication and conflict management skills will identify and remedy potential interpersonal roadblocks.
According to the Project Management Institute (PMI) when organisations focus on both technical and soft skills, 40% more of their projects meet goals and original business intent.
Organisations wishing to build their workforce’s competencies in these areas would be best served by looking to invest in their team’s leadership development training.
By doing so, businesses will be better able to position themselves for business innovation and success in the future.
For more on achieving success though the combination of strategic leadership and the dependable execution of project-based initiatives, read the full article: Why Companies Fall Behind: Have You Invested in Your People?