Project Managing vs. Executing Strategy
January 19, 2024
Project Managing vs. Executing Strategy

We are only a couple of weeks into the month of January, but 2024 is already off to a fast start for many Strategy and Operations Leaders! Between getting set for company kickoffs to rolling out your 2024 strategic plans, things move quickly during this time, and I hope you’ve started off on the right foot.

With that said, let's get into Edition 16.

In this edition:

  • 🎯 Project Managing vs. Executing Strategy
  • 🌎 Strategic Planning Panel, Rd. 2
  • 📚 Related Resources

Project Managing vs. Executing Strategy 🎯

As we move into the new year, one of the things that I fell victim to in past roles was managing projects rather than executing strategy.

What do I mean by that?

For so many organizations, Q3 and Q4 of 2023 is often spent evaluating and building the strategy that should lead to a successful year for your organization. Some organizations might have even gone through a more extensive revamp of their three, five, or even ten-year strategic direction.

Ultimately, that strategy is designed to help lead your organization to the Operating Plan and targets you have laid out (or will be laying out) to your Board of Directors.

From that Strategic Plan stems the key initiatives, projects, and Objectives that will ultimately bring that strategy to life. It’s the execution needed to ensure the strategy delivers on the Operating Plan that dictates your organization's future.

However, while these various initiatives are obviously critical to the success of your organization, they are not the measures of success. ❌

It might sound simple, but many organizations tend to lose sight of the purpose of the strategy, and instead begin managing the work that needs to be done.... the projects to see through to completion or initiatives that have been mutually agreed upon.

While it’s important to proactively track execution of these projects and ensure you have the proper visibility to remove hurdles for team members or double-down on new opportunities, these initiatives are not the end goal. Instead, they are the bets we are making to execute our strategy. 🎰

And sometimes those bets don’t go as expected.

The market may change, a product feature may under (or over) deliver, or you may identify a new customer profile that presents a unique market opportunity. If the past 12 months have shown us anything, it’s that this change can occur quickly.

But the best Strategy and Operations Leaders don’t allow this to catch them off guard, and more importantly, they don’t continue to march towards those original initiatives without adjusting as needed.

At Elate, this is what we refer to as Dynamic Planning.

In short, Dynamic Planning is being realistic, proactive, and open to modifying the Objectives to ensure the successful delivery of your strategy, and in turn, exceeding your Operating Plan as an organization.

It’s converting new challenges into new opportunities by being flexible to pivot when needed. It’s refusing to “project manage” your teams to death with Objectives that may no longer make sense for your organization.

For me and many other Strategy and Operations Leaders, this can be hard to do at times.

We spend so much time (literally, so much time) building a connected strategy across the organization. We get our key stakeholders involved and we focus on getting feedback that goes bottoms-up and top-down. And after expending all of that energy, it can be excruciating for us to let go of Objectives that we’ve painstakingly built for the organization. In fact, it’s easy for us to justify why we should continue down the same path.

But we aren’t project managing our strategy to check the boxes of work that was completed. We are executing our strategy to ensure successful outcomes.

For me personally, this was something I had to be reminded of time and time again earlier in my career, and still something I might need nudged about today.

But our job as Strategy and Operations Leaders is to serve as the bridge between long-term vision and tactical execution, and this requires us to not hold either of those too tightly. Instead, it requires the discipline to hold both in mind at the same time.

So with the new year upon us and all the objectives we’ve set looking green and “on-track”, remember that we are driving to outcomes, not solely outputs. ✅

Strategic Planning Panel Round 2! 🌎

For those that were around last fall, you may recall a Strategic Planning Panel and Networking Event we hosted here in Indianapolis. Based on the feedback and response we received from those in attendance, we are evaluating possible locations for the next event!

We've narrowed the list down to Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, and London... and would love to hear your thoughts from this community via this Google Form. It's anonymous, and there's also a place to fill in "other" locations.

Let us know what you think, and enjoy the highlight reel below from this fall.

That's all for today... have a great week.