Vision with No Actions is a Dream, but Actions with No Vision is a Nightmare

My friend’s 10-years old daughter was so happy to tell her dad that today she learned something important at school which was “Vision with No Actions is a Dream, but Actions with No Vision is a Nightmare”. A statement that is so much true that we continue to see it happening when businesses fail to align their project investments with their corporate vision.

Understanding Our Vision?

To align projects or actions with the organization vision, we need to first to decompose the vision into SMART objectives that can be quantified and measured. The first step in decomposing the vision is to identify what is the desired state that our business must achieve for attaining that vision. This will enable the organization to identify the strategic goals along with the objectives that will provide the key performance indicators to measure the extent that those objectives are attained and get the confidence in attaining the desired vision.

The Saudi Arabian National Transformation Program 2020 (NTP2020) is an example of how the Saudi government has identified the strategic goals and smart objectives for each public-sector entity to achieve for realizing the Saudi Arabian Vision 2030. A vision that details the desired end-state that Saudi Arabia needs to realize by 2030. The actual achievement of those KPIs compared to the planned achievement will be measured at the end of each performance period. This will provide the organization with an objective assessment on how good they are in realizing their desired vision.

What Actions We Must Take?

Nevertheless, to be able to do this, the organization needs to identify the strategic initiatives or high-level actions that they need to undertake to achieve the change that will take them from where they are today to where they want to be.

Using the NTP2020 again as a live example that shows how Saudi Arabia is taking the many actions to realize their desired 2030 Vision. In the professional project management practice, those actions are called Programs. Using a Project Management Information System (PMIS) like PMWeb will allow the organization to map all of those programs along with the strategic goals and objectives contribution for each program.

When all these programs are captured in PMWeb, the organization can now have real-time visibility of all those strategic initiatives and their contribution to the SMART objectives identified as the measures to monitor and evaluate the organization’s strategy performance. This information can be displayed and visualized in any desired format to give executives the insight to make better and faster decisions on how to keep the organization on the right track for realizing the desired vision.

Decomposing High-Level Actions into Manageable Actions

The high-level actions, strategic initiatives or programs need to be decomposed into specific projects or actions that can be managed by the project team to achieve the desired objectives of each program. Again, PMWeb will be used to capture the details of those projects including budget, schedule, objectives, among others. The project template will also include attaching all supportive and relative documents for the identified project.

PMWeb user defined forms will be used to create the template for the project business case. This will ensure that projects identified by the organization have merit and are really needed to achieve the organization’s strategic objectives and accordingly the strategic goals needed to attain the desired vision. The content of the business case template can be designed to meet each organization own needs and requirements. The business case will have all supportive document attached to it as well as it will have a workflow to formalize the submit, review and approve steps of the business case.

In addition, it should be understood that no organization would have all the resources, including financials, to undertake all the projects that they have identified. Trade-offs need to be made between the benefits that a project could bring to the organization along with the risk exposure associated with delivering this project as well as the amount of investment it needs. The Investment Portfolio Analysis Map will provide the decision maker with the insight to analyze those parameters and decide on which projects the organization needs to select now and maybe delay the decision on the other projects to a later date should additional funds become available or changes that will make the project attractive to select.

Those selected actions need to managed by adopting the best practices of project management from the initiation phase to the project closeout covering the phases of planning, execution and monitoring and controlling. The project management knowledge areas of scope, time, cost, quality, human resources, communication, risk, procurement, stakeholder and integration management needed to be managed professionally to ensure successful projects’ delivery. Sometimes, and due to the specific of the organization’s projects, additional project management knowledge areas need to be added. Those could include safety, sustainability, financial, claim among others. PMWeb stage gate module is used by many organizations today who are seeking project governance to ensure that the deliverables associated with each project management process are formally completed and approved before proceeding with the next project life cycle stage of a project.

Again, using the NTP2020 as an example, executives can have a real-time report to monitor and evaluate the performance of each project being executed. The report will be designed to identify performance trends and to alert executive management of troubled projects.

Project executives can drilldown to a specific project from the projects performance dashboard should there be a need to have more details on the project’s performance. The project or action dashboard could be used to report on the project schedule, budget, contracts performance, risk, issues, sustainability compliance among other aspects that are of interest to the organization.

Conclusion

The ten-year old girl has summarized the key challenge that faces organizations across the globe, “Vision with No Actions is a Dream, but Actions with No Vision is a Nightmare”. Decomposing and aligning actions with the desired vision and them managing those actions is a must to avoid having the dream and the nightmare. The Project Management Institute (PMI) in 2017 recognized a positive change in the way organizations are managing projects and programs. Hence, instead of $122 million, organizations are wasting an average of $97 million for every $1 billion invested, due to poor project performance—that’s a 20 percent decline from one year back.