Projects describe what you will do to accomplish your objectives. It is at this point in your strategic planning process that you will start to scope out exactly what actions you will take in order to achieve certain objectives. This guide will walk you through how to create an effective project that will allow you to achieve the objectives in your strategic plan.
This article is part of our mini-series 'How To Write A Strategic Plan'. You can download our free 'How To Write A Strategic Plan' eBook which contains all of the articles from the series.
You can also find the individual articles here:
- How To Write A Strategic Plan: The Cascade Model
- How to Write a Good Vision Statement
- How To Create Company Values
- Creating Strategic Focus Areas
- How To Write Strategic Objectives
- How To Create Effective Projects (This article)
- How To Write KPIs
As always, here's a quick recap of the Cascade Strategy Model and how this post fits into the bigger picture.
Where Do Projects Sit In Your Strategic Plan?
If you've been following along with our mini-series 'How To Write A Strategic Plan', then you will probably already have a good understanding of where projects sit in your larger strategic plan. If not, we'll briefly refresh here - projects should align to one (or more) of your strategic objectives and sit underneath them. Strategic objectives state what you want to accomplish while projects state how you will achieve those objectives, and KPIs measure your success at achieving those objectives.
A common problem area for strategic plans, is that they never quite get down to the detail of what you're actually going to do. It's way too easy to simply state 'we need to grow our business' - without concrete projects, those plans will sit forevermore within their PowerPoint templates, never to see the light of day after their initial creation / review.
What Should A Project Include?
Your projects must be extremely specific - what are the exact actions will you take to achieve a certain objective. A project must include a clear articulation of your actions and a deadline. You're projects should also include the following below, but we'll go into more detail on each in an upcoming article.
- People responsible
- Notes/extra detail
- Project dependencies
How Do You Create A Project
Depending on the project and its scope/size, there are two ways you might go about creating one:
1. Creating a single project with multiple tasks attached
This option is ideal for a smaller project which doesn't require too many different actions. Once you have written the description of the project, you'll need to break up the different actions with individual tasks. Each task should have it's own deadline and an owner to ensure accountability and a timely completion.
- Project: Perform Yearly Audit Of Main Suppliers by 31 January 2019 (owned by Ted Bil)
- Task 1: Perform audit of supplier 1 by 28 November 2019 (owned by: Emily Rass)
- Task 2: Perform audit of supplier 2 by 31 December 2019 (owned by: John Tomey)
- Task 3: Perform audit of supplier 3 by 12 December 2019 (owned by: Rachel Ordenes)
This project is fairly straight forward and doesn't require too many actions, so it's better to create tasks that are part of the project, rather than create sub (or mini) projects that align to your main project.
2. Create a project with sub-projects attached
When you have a larger project, you're going to need to break it out with sub-projects sitting underneath your main project, otherwise you will end up with a list of tasks that are difficult to manage. These sub-projects can also have tasks attached to further break up the individual actions required.
At this point, we should probably highlight the difference between a task and a sub-project. Here at Cascade (and in our Strategy software) we view tasks as an activity or action that is either complete or incomplete - there isn't 40% progress, or any stages of completion. It is a simple yes/no.
Sub-projects however, have stages of completion. It's not as simple as - is the project complete or not, there are generally different stages of progress working towards it's completion.
Let's look at an example of when you would use sub-projects -
- Project: Expand into the fixed gear markets by 31 December (owned by: Emily Rass)
- Sub-Project: Create initial designs for prototype by 1 July (owned by: John Tomey)
- Sub-Project: Launch a prototype into the designated test market by 1 October (owned by: Harlow West)
- Sub-Project: Research market gaps and identify possible positions of strengths Meerkat design by 1 November (owned by Sophie Hughes)
As you can see, the project above required a lot more actions to reach completion, and each of those actions will need to be broken up further. So, it makes more sense to create sub-projects and then create tasks on each of the sub-projects, to easily distill and manage the workload.
Let's take a look at another example of a well written project to see how projects differ from strategic objectives -
- Strategic Objective: Continue top line growth that outpaces the industry by 31st Dec 2020
A good project that would link to this could be -
- Project: Expand into the fixed gear market by 31st December 2020
This is much more specific than the objective it links to, and it clearly details what you will do to achieve the objective.
Wrapping it Up
Projects are the layer of the strategic plan that outline the tangible actions that people in the organization will take to actually achieve outcomes. They're more detailed than the objectives they align to, and may require tasks and sub-projects to further break up the actions required. As always, let us know what you think in the comments below or via our social channels!