Mutually exclusive: Are businesses confusing project management and strategic planning?

 

Proper planning prevents poor performance. While that saying may be somewhat of a cliche, it rings true in the business world. However, while many enterprises have thorough processes in place when they take on an individual project, few follow similar principles with regards to their strategic planning.

It can be easy to focus on project management as crucial, because any processes that are put in place before the endeavour gets underway will offer results almost immediately. However, thinking a little more progressively – and long-term – is critical in today’s enterprise environment.

The root cause for many business disasters revolves around putting short-term goals ahead of long-term aims.

That’s exactly where strategic planning comes in. While a big part of project management will focus on defining the matters at hand, a sound strategic plan will do more to define over-arching business direction.

In essence, project management is there to support a function, while a strategic plan can be the function itself.

The advantages of long-term planning

So, while many of the nuances between project management and strategic planning revolve around the length of time each takes, what are the advantages of doing the latter in the long-term?

Well, a long-term strategic plan is incredibly effective providing it is adaptable to a changing environment, according to the Harvard Business School. In fact, the root cause for many business disasters revolves around putting short-term goals ahead of long-term aims.

Furthermore, while strategic planning in an environment that is ever-changing may seem laborious, complicated and costly, it is in fact more important than at any other time.

As research from the World Bank Group pointed out, understanding obstacles and – more importantly – garnering ways to overcome them is a key part of any strategic plan.

Project management and strategic planning in harmony

Ultimately, as touched on, project management and strategic planning are actually relatively similar. There is big reward for enterprises that can streamline the two.

In the simplest terms, a long-term plan will likely have many smaller projects within it.

Project management and strategic planning may well be different, but the most progressive enterprises will intertwine them.Project management and strategic planning may well be different, but the most progressive enterprises will intertwine them.

Consequently, aligning any planning processes is the most progressive approach. The biggest rewards can be found once the company identifies that strategic planning can take many forms across the short and long-term.

While it’s important to compartmentalise project management to some extent, a set of sound strategic planning practices will take that fact into account and ensure that all of the applicable stakeholders have the best of both worlds going forward.