In today’s constantly shifting business landscape, the thriving organisations will be those that are nimble enough to adapt at the pace of change. To create this fast-paced adaptability, business leaders need to establish and maintain a meaningful connection with their people. The most powerful way to create that connection is by engaging them in the business’s strategic journey.

Projects – the right kind of projects – are the best vehicle for undertaking this journey. They allow you to be intentional about engaging your people in shaping the business and the workplace for the future that it aspires to. By using a project mindset to adapt and evolve the business, you create a bridge that connects the business to your people…in a way that generates opportunities for both.

A project mindset defined

When I began doing strategic development work in my consulting practice, it was with capital project delivery organisations. I was struck by the fact that these project businesses didn’t apply a project mindset to their improvement activities. The very approach that they sold to their customers to help them maximise their capital investments was not being employed to maximise their own strategic investment.

By ‘project mindset’, I mean a strategic approach where projects are employed to consistently and persistently adapt to the uncertainty and change that is endemic in every business environment. Using constant strategic project activity brings intentionality to turning strategic intent into implementation activity.

The power of a project mindset lies in maintaining a portfolio of strategic projects that are constantly shaping the business’s future. That portfolio is made up of the highest priority projects that the organisation has the capacity to successfully complete and is regularly adjusted based on current project results, strategic importance and emerging opportunities.

This brings the future-focused work of strategy into the present and takes specific, tangible action that’s directly connected to your strategic objectives.

Doesn’t every business do projects?

Businesses do a lot of projects. Projects which are often undertaken to solve a business problem. And because problems don’t engage senior management’s attention until they become BIG problems, many of these are BIG projects. These types of projects fail about twice as often as they succeed.

Projects that I advocate are not big transformational undertakings. They are targeted initiatives that make meaningful progress toward your business’s strategic objectives. These projects have very specific attributes:

  • Short-duration, hard-hitting activities
  • Target a specific strategic outcome
  • Undertaken by a small cross-functional team with the greatest knowledge about the improvement opportunity being pursued
  • Prioritised based on their business value

Strategic projects can take many forms, but their most important quality is that they are focused on shaping the business’s future. They can be as specific as an incremental operational improvement, or as exploratory as an experiment that tests a hypothesis to determine its business value.

A two-way bridge

As stated above, and in previous articles, strategic projects are a bridge that meaningfully connects a business with its people. Importantly, this is a connection that flows in both directions. That means they are a ‘two-way bridge’ that:

  • Connects strategic intent with operational action and activity.You connect strategic thinking with doing but you also use operational activity to inform your strategic thought.
  • Connects strategic goals with the knowledge and expertise of your people. This puts the business’s perspective on strategic value in the hands of the people that are on the frontlines of creating that value. But it also taps into the depth and breadth of that capability to understand where business value might lie.
  • Links performance benefits for the company with the psychological benefits that create a high-performing workplace. The meaningful progress that is continuously generated by these sort of strategic projects creates a workplace where people are motivated to create more progress.
  • Connects business purpose to the work your people do. This creates shared purpose where the daily work you do is an expression of your overarching business purpose and your people are motivated by the knowledge that they’re making a meaningful contribution to that purpose.

The future of the workplace IS the future of work

We’re entering an era where exceptional business will be the product of exceptional workplaces. Those exceptional workplaces will be driven by the effectiveness with which you engage and motivate your people. Strategic projects are the best opportunity to create engagement and motivation because they give people meaningful work to be engage in and a higher purpose to be motivated by.

Is your business undertaking the right kind of projects? Does your business apply a project mindset to their improvement activities? Is the daily work you do an expression of your business’s overarching purpose? Does your business undertake strategic projects that benefit both the company and its employees?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

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