Organizational Alignment and Project Success

Organization Alignment seems like one of those ‘touchy feely’ things that most technical folks would rather not discuss but it’s actually quite relevant to success in todays technology and project driven organizations.

Note: For books on organizational alignement, check out these amazon books: Books on Organizational Alignment.

Organizational alignment is the practice of aligning an organization’s strategy and culture. In other words, organizational alignment helps to ensure that ‘what gets done’ is in line with ‘how things get done’ and vice versa. For a more detailed description of organizational alignment, take a look at the article on Organizational Alignment on Vanguard Consulting’s website.

As mentioned, Organizational Alignment is the act (or art?) of aligning strategy and culture. The field of strategic planning and organizational strategy is a very well researched and fairly well covered in academia (and blogosphere) so I won’t go into the ‘strategy’ aspect but I will cover the ‘culture’ side here.What does organizational alignment have to do with project success? In my opinion, everything.

For a project to be successful, an organization must have its strategic goals aligned with its cultural values…and projects must also be aligned with the organizations’ culture and strategy. Consider the following brief example (paraphrased from Vanguard Consulting’s website):

Assume that the goal of your organization is to create a flexible service delivery model to allow you to be flexible for your clients. You’d want to make sure that the organization is aligned to meet these goals by having flexibility as a core value. You wouldn’t want to implement a ‘command and control’ structure that requires everyone to get approval before acting. The command and control structure would completely counteract the stated goal of flexibility for your clients.

The cultural aspect of organizational alignment covers ‘how things get done’ (while the strategic aspect covers ‘what gets done’). The ‘how’ covers the values, behaviors and processes for getting things done, which are things that can be addressed across the organization using various methods, such as the implementation of a Project Management Office (PMO).

Many organizations have implemented PMO’s to standardize project management methodologies, align projects with corporate strategy and act as a central point of management for all things projects. The majority of these PMO’s usually don’t address the values and behaviors across the organization. In fact, most definitions of a PMO only describe the use of a PMO to standardize project processes and align projects with strategy but values are usually overlooked.

A PMO is a good thing for most organizations but its doesn’t go far enough to ensure alignment. Standardizing project methodologies can be a good thing but standardization doesn’t go far enough to address the issues of values and behaviors. The PMO, by definition, isn’t setup to address values and behaviors but could easily be converted into an office to help align values, behaviors and process and perhaps it could be renamed the ‘Project & Alignment Office’ (PAO).

So….after all of that (and my creating the PAO!), how do we ensure project success by organizational alignment? We don’t…you can never ‘ensure success’…but we can help set projects on the path towards success by working to align the ‘how’ with the ‘what’ and the ‘why’.

Look for more to come on organizational alignment and projects…and maybe even more on the newly created PAO :)

[tags] Project Management, organization, Strategy, Projects, Project, Strategic Planning, culture [/tags]