The Strategic Management of Projects

Developing a project strategy involves developing a project direction that maximises project success in its environment, and is an ongoing challenge. 5 min read.

What is Project Strategy?

The concept of developing a project strategy tends to be overlooked, is trivialised else taken for granted. This is unfortunate as making the time to look beyond project goals, and plans offers consideration of ‘how’ to maximise success for the environment in which the project is taking place.

K. Artto, J. Kujala, P. Dietrich and M. Martinsuo. What is Project Strategy? International Journal of Project Management 26 (2008) highlight that the concept of project strategy is ambiguous in recent studies. Based on their literature review, they defined,

“Project Strategy is a direction in a project that contributes to success of the project in its environment.”

By this they mean,

  • Direction: The necessary capabilities needed to directly or indirectly affect the project’s outcome.
  • Contribute: The reason for doing the project has an effect, i.e., it matters and makes a difference.
  • Success: Accomplishment of stated organisational goals but also self-established goals that may conflict with some or all major stakeholders, e.g., to survive in a hostile environment.
  • Environment: Refers to boundaries outside the project that the project must continuously interact with.

Consequently, project strategy involves developing a direction that allows it to successfully compete or survive in its external environment. This direction may change and evolve as the project progresses through its lifecycle and as its external environment changes. While this makes intuitive sense in practice, it is difficult to develop a strategy without reference to a suitable model.

Project Strategy Models

Several models exist, and the two most well known are,

  • J. Rodney Turner: The Seven Forces Model.
  • International Project Management Association: The Project Excellence Model.

I find Turners model the most useful, which considers,

  • Context Forces
    • PESTLE: Consideration of external forces of and on parties involved.
    • Sponsorship: Consideration of finance needed, expected returns, and timeline.
  • Organisation Forces
    • Attitude: Consideration of key stakeholder’s importance and support of the project.
    • Definition: Consideration of what the project is to achieve, it’s approach and methods used.
  • Internal Project Driving Forces
    • People: Consideration of management, leadership, and teamwork relations.
    • System: Consideration of project planning, scheduling, and project control.
    • Organisation: Consideration of the roles, responsibilities, and contractual relationships of those involved in the project.
The Seven Forces Model of Projet Management.png
The Seven Forces Model of Project Management


By considering the different project forces, it is possible to develop a direction that sets your project up for success. In some cases, the developed project strategy may not be a natural extension of the parent organisation’s direction and strategy. In fact, the temporary nature of the organisation may mean developing a survival strategy that just toughs it out until the project has achieved its immediate goals, and the hostile external environment has changed. Then as the external environment changes the corresponding project strategy may evolve so that it is ultimately successful for the parent organisation.

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