Projects and Competitive Strategies Essay


Cases of projects failing in big organizations are not uncommon. Failure of projects being aligned with the organization’s goals has been identified as one of the major causes of failure of these projects. Most organizations are not keen to make sure that the projects they carry on with align with the organization’s strategies.

The failure of projects that is constantly witnessed in many organizations can be eradicated if all projects executed were aligned to the organization’s strategies. According to Whitten (2005, most of the projects implemented in various organizations are not usually associated with the strategies of that particular organization.

This means that the projects are implemented independently for the organization’s competitive strategies leading to failure which could have been avoided if necessary measures were put in place to ensure that every project implemented is in line with the organization’s strategies.

This paper shall address the issues surrounding the alignment of organizational projects with the competitive strategies. A literature critique shall be used to discuss the limitations and inherent problems organizations face when seeking to implement their competitive strategies through projects.

Limitations and inherent problems faced by organizations when implementing their competitive strategies through projects

Competitive strategies of an organization are deliberate reactions an organization takes in response to what is happening within the rest of the organizations with similar interests. How successful an organization’s strategy will be depends on the means of execution of its competitive strategies. According to Tharp (2007), projects are the most common means that organizations use to execute their strategies.

The alignment of the projects being implemented in organization with the strategies determines the long term success of that particular organization.

A single mistake committed during this process can be very costly to the organization as it can end up ruining its good reputation and worse of all, going through prolonged periods of loss. The following are the limitations and inherent problems that most organizations experience as they try to align their projects with the organization’s competitive strategies.

Lack of project managers

According to Baker (1997), to implement a given project, it is necessary for an organization to have a project manager. The project manager is responsible for the budget, timing and other vital components of a project. Competitive strategies are meant to keep the organization going while the projects are meant to ensure that the objectives of the organization are met.

This means that the strategies and the projects being implemented go hand in hand. Separation of the two automatically results to failure. Often, there is a hierarchy in an organization which comprised of the people or person in charge of the strategies and others in charge of the implementation of the projects

. The lack of a clear chain of command linking the people in charge of the strategies with the managers of the projects results to failure. It is therefore important for the managers of the project and those in charge of the competitive strategies of an organization to work together in order to succeed.

Top management of an organization

Another common problem that arises during the process of alignment of projects with competitive strategies is associated with the top management of an organization, according to Webber & Torti (2004). This happens when the senior people in the organization have no sufficient knowledge on how to align the two in order to experience success.

Since the problem lies with the senior people, it becomes hard for there to be a change and therefore, the culture of failed projects is replicated over and over again, every time someone tries to implement a project. Most of the times, such people in senior positions who do not understand the importance of alignment of projects with the organization’s goal do not do anything to improve the implementation of the project.

Every organization desires to be better in projects implementation although very few manage. Although very few manage to implement their projects successfully, every organization understands the value of a successful project and desires to experience such.

Wrong conceptions about the value of alignment of the projects with competitive strategies

According to Johnson (2004), some organizations do not value any exercise that is geared towards alignment of the project and the organization’s strategies. This means that there is hardly sufficient time allocated for this exercise and anyone who spends a lot of time trying to do this is considered as one wasting time. This makes those involved in the alignment do a shoddy job, leading to the failure of the project.

Lack of deadlines on the completion of the projects

Milosevic & Srivannaboon (2006) note that most organizations fail to give a time frame within which a certain project is to be completed. It is usually stated that projects are to be finished within a ‘reasonable’ time. This means that missing of the deadline of a given project is usually not a big deal for many organizations, provided the project is going to be completed without delaying for a long time.

Those working on various projects are not pressured to complete the projects and therefore end up dragging themselves. In some case, the projects are abandoned before they are completed and this is not seen as an issue of concern to many people.

Past experiences

Morris & Jamieson (2005) record that; it is common for most organizations to predict the rate of success of a project at hand with that of a past failed project. Some people will therefore back off from engaging in any activities meant to align the organization’s strategies with the projects.

Since this is a tedious and very involving work, some people will shy away from it, especially if they have ever been involved in such an exercise in the past which yielded no success. This hinders the success of the projects that are in the process of being implemented.

Interference from top management

According to Project Management Institute (PMI) (2004), some projects managers do not carry out the task of alignment of the project with the strategies of an organization effectively because they feel that there is a lot of interference in their work by the top management of the organization.

They therefore feel that their creativity is impaired because of the numerous rules they are supposed to follow when carrying out this task. As a result, they lack motivation while doing this task and end up with a failed project.

Fear of loss of authority and control

Dinsmore and Cooke-Davies (2006), some managers feel threatened if they assign their juniors the role of aligning the projects of the organization with the competitive strategies. This is especially so for those managers who like to control everyone in the organization.

Since they find it hard to delegate such a task, alignment of the projects with the strategies of the organization together with the implementation of the project are impaired. Some people in top positions may delegate the task of coordination of the projects but may still want to control the decision making processes of the issues involving the project.

Lack of time to plan

Most of the organizations claim that they want to see success in all their projects yet they invest very little time in planning. Such organizations therefore start executing their projects immediately and expect to do planning and other project –related tasks later.

Those involved in planning in such organizations do not see the reason why people should waste much of their time planning for a project. According to Jiang, et al (1996), this is wrong because the organization is supposed to first align all its projects to its competitive strategies to achieve success. This is a process that needs people to set aside sufficient time in order to achieve success.

Lack of commitment

Rad and Levin (2002), state that there are some organizations which lack commitment when aligning their projects with the competitive strategies. Little or no resources are allocated for this purpose.

This means that the process will go on very slowly or even be terminated at some point because of lack of the necessary resources. This is despite such organizations claiming that they are working towards the achievement of all their competitive strategies.

Management of culture change within the organization

To many organizations, alignment of projects with competitive strategies is a new concept. This means that a lot of work is required in order for the organization to achieve long term success. Resources as well as commitment by the employees of an organization are required for the success of a project within such an environment.

Hulme (1997) affirms that without setting apart enough resources to help in the alignment of projects with competitive strategies, which are long term in nature, termination of such a venture is inevitable.

Conflict among the members involved

In line with Rollins and Lanza (2005), internal conflict among the people involved in carrying out the task of aligning the project with the competitive strategy can seriously impair the process.

This is because; these are the people who determine the success or failure of the process because they are entirely responsible. It is therefore important for any organization seeking to align its projects with the strategies to ensure that those working on the issue are in agreement.

Lack of constant communication

According to Field (1997), communication is a very important component of any organization when there is a project to be aligned with the organization’s competitive strategies with the aim of being implemented. During this process, constant communication at all levels among those involved is very important. Communication breakdown at any of the levels among the key players leads to the downfall of the projects.

Lack of realistic expectations

The expectations that an organization sets when trying to align all their projects with the competitive strategies, determine how successful the project will be during its implementation. This means that the expectations must be realistic in all aspects.

The resources and time allocated for the completion should be realistic. Field (1997) observes that most organizations fail in this area as they set unrealistic expectations. The resources allocated are usually inadequate for the task at hand. This leads to abandonment of the project before its completion.

Incompetent project team members

The people chosen to implement a project and make sure that the project is first in line with the competitive strategies, determine the level of success that will be experienced once the project has been executed. Incompetent members of the team responsible inevitably lead to the failure of the project.

Goodstein, et al (1993) recommends that organizations should always make sure that the people mandated with such vital responsibilities are competent to handle the tasks effectively and efficiently.

Capabilities to give feedback

Dinsmore and Cooke-Davies (2006) observe that many organizations overlook the importance of a clear channel through which feedback is to be given.

This leads to lack of accountability and the people involve d in the task of making sure that every project is aligned with the strategies of an organization may fail to do a perfect work because they are under no authority or lack the clear chain of command to follow when they are supposed to do this. Inevitably, this leads to the failure of the projects.

Failure to consult

According to Goodstein, et al (1993), it is always advisable to carry out consultations whenever one is in doubt of how a certain task is to be done. Consultation can be done within the organization or outside, if no experts of the issue at hand exists in the organization.

This enables one to get expertise advice on how to do things. However, most organizations fail to do this during the process of alignment of their projects and organization’s strategies leading to failure of the projects, which could have been avoided if consultation was done.

Lack of a clearly defined goal

Baker (1997) suggests that before a project is to be implemented, there should be a list of clearly stipulated goals of that particular project. The goals should enlist the mission of the project and the commitment towards its execution. This helps in making sure that focus is not lost in the process of implementation. Organizations that fail to do this end up failing in their projects because of loss of focus and other problems that may arise when there is no clear goal when carrying out a project.


The results of project failure are usually detrimental to an organization. The image of the organization is destroyed and people who had their faith in the organization may start viewing it negatively. Alignment of projects with the organization’s competitive strategies is vital for the success of the project.

Excellent performance in any organization depends largely on how well projects within the organization are being managed. Managing of projects in a good manner should not be a one time event but should be established as a culture of any organization.

The senior management together with a competent project management team and any other necessary resource person should work hand in hand to ensure that the projects are successful. When projects being implemented are aligned with the competitive strategies of an organizations, the benefits are numerous most important among them being the ability of the organization to make more profit.

Reference List

Baker, B., 1997. Great Expectations: Turning Failure into Success – and Visa Versa. Project Management Network, 25 – 28.

Dinsmore, P., Cooke-Davies, T., 2006. The Right Projects Done Right! San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Goodstein, L., Nolan, T., Pfeiffer, J.W., 1993. Applied Strategic Planning: How to Develop a Plan That Really Works. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Field, T., 1997. When bad things happen to good projects. CIO magazine, Vol. 11, 50- 54.

Hulme, M., 1997. Procurement Reform and MIS Project Success. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 33, 1- 2.

Jiang, J., Gary, K., and Joseph, B., 1996. Ranking of System Implementation Success Factors. Project Management Journal, pp 49 – 53.

Johnson, L., 2004. Close the gap between projects and strategy. Harvard Management Update, 9(6), 3-5.

Milosevic, D., & Srivannaboon, S., 2006. A theoretical framework for aligning project management with business strategy. Project Management Journal, 37(3), 98- 110.

Morris, P., & Jamieson, A., 2005. Moving from corporate strategy to project strategy. Project Management Journal, 36(4), 5-18.

Project Management Institute (PMI)., 2004. A guide to the project management body of knowledge. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: PMI.

Rad, P., & Levin, G., 2002. The Advanced Project Management Office: A Comprehensive Look at Function and Implementation. Boca Raton: St. Lucie Press.

Rollins, S., Lanza, R., 2005. Essential Project Investment Governance and Reporting: Preventing Project Fraud and Ensuring Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance. Boca Raton: J. Ross Publishing.

Tharp, J., 2007. Align Project Management to Organizational Strategy. Hong Kong: PMI Global Congress Proceedings.

Webber, S., & Torti, M., 2004. Project managers doubling as client account executives. Academy of Management Executive, 18(1), 60-71.

Whitten, N., 2005. No-Nonsense Advice for Successful Projects. Vienna, Virgina: Management Concepts.

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