Involving program/project managers in organizational strategic planning?


By Alan Stretton, PhD

Sydney, Australia


There is substantial discussion in the project management literature about linkages between organizational strategic planning and portfolios and/or programs and/or projects to implement such plans. However, this literature generally tends to take the existence of pre-prepared organizational strategic plans as a “given”, and not an area of involvement by program/project managers. This paper argues a case for involving the latter in organizational strategic planning, and also discusses barriers to be overcome for this to become the norm.

We start by looking at what the project management literature has to say about establishing organizational strategic planning, first in the context of establishing the organization’s strategic objectives, and then planning to achieve these objectives via strategic portfolios and component programs/projects.

With regard to the establishment of an organization’s strategic objectives, in very many cases program/project managers would not normally be involved. However, there are cases where they can, and do, become involved, as for example in fully projectized organizations, and sometimes in organizations that provide program/project management services to external customers.

Planning achievement of the organization’s strategic objectives involves development of strategic portfolios, selecting and prioritizing component programs and projects, and allocating key resources. This paper first gives examples from the literature of how relations between all these components are represented, the nature of strategic portfolios, and particularly the nature of their management, as described by various authors.

In the literature, the selection and prioritization of component programs and projects is generally seen as the responsibility of a strategic portfolio manager, although an exception for what he calls ‘commercial projects’ is made by one writer. The latter can be broadly related to organizations that provide program/project management services to external customers, and perhaps to a lesser extent projectised organizations, where these processes would be a natural part of what program/project managers do.

In any event, it is argued that it is difficult to see how a portfolio manager could do an effective job of selecting and prioritizing the portfolio’s component programs and projects without involving the relevant program/project managers quite heavily in these processes.


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Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally published in the July 2011 edition of the PM World Today eJournal.  It is republished here with the permission of the author.

About the Author

flag-australiaalan strettonAlan Stretton, PhD    

Faculty Corps, University of Management

and Technology, Arlington, VA (USA)

Life Fellow, AIPM (Australia)

Alan Stretton is one of the pioneers of modern project management.  He is currently a member of the Faculty Corps for the University of Management & Technology (UMT), USA.  In 2006 he retired from a position as Adjunct Professor of Project Management in the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), Australia, which he joined in 1988 to develop and deliver a Master of Project Management program.   Prior to joining UTS, Mr. Stretton worked in the building and construction industries in Australia, New Zealand and the USA for some 38 years, which included the project management of construction, R&D, introduction of information and control systems, internal management education programs and organizational change projects.  He has degrees in Civil Engineering (BE, Tasmania) and Mathematics (MA, Oxford), and an honorary PhD in strategy, programme and project management (ESC, Lille, France).  Alan was Chairman of the Standards (PMBOK) Committee of the Project Management Institute (PMI®) from late 1989 to early 1992.  He held a similar position with the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM), and was elected a Life Fellow of AIPM in 1996.  He was a member of the Core Working Group in the development of the Australian National Competency Standards for Project Management.  He has published over 120 professional articles and papers.  Alan can be contacted at [email protected].