Strategic planning, from the corporate to project level is an area that can benefit from the use of systems engineering principles. Far too often, managers and executives become locked into the “flavor of the day” business school or HR based strategic planning approach. As a result, money and time are lost as organizations fail to benefit from the “futurity of present decisions” (credit to Peter Drucker). Strategy development is more than simply executing technical projects. It’s executing the “right” technical projects within a longer-term vision.
The author proposes that systems engineering principles can be applied to the development and performance of a strategic plan. Within an Enterprise System Context (see figure 1), core systems engineering practices such as managing stakeholders, tracking milestones and verifying deliverables can (should) be utilized in the institutionalizing of an organization’s mission and vision. But without the underlying performance targets, strategic objectives and action plans to support the evolution of strategy into tactical execution, the strategic plan remains just a list of things that never happen.\n\nResearch from the Software Engineering Institute has demonstrated that the more mature an organization’s systems engineering processes, the higher the probability for project success. These results apply to all complex projects. Unfortunately, many organizations fail to realize that their strategic plan is a complex project, with far reaching impacts.
Organizations must address strategic questions such as:
- The organization’s core purpose,
- The challenges that it faces, and
- Plans for long term sustainability to ensure that they will be ready for an uncertain tomorrow.
In order to improve the probability of successfully executing their strategic plan, executives and managers need to see their organizations as systems (more accurately, a system of systems). From that vantage point, the strategy becomes a project with objectives, roles, resources and progress measures. In this way, all members of the organization can work tactically while supporting the larger strategic goals.