Research Paper: Project Management Considered as the "Father

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Project Management

Considered as the "father of the modern strategy field" (Harvard Business School. Faculty and Research. N.D. PP. 1) Professor Michael Porter contends that over the past decades amidst: globalization, intense competition, "dynamic markets, and changing technologies… management tools have taken the place of strategy" (Porter, M. November- December 1996. PP. 1 ). Much like productivity enhancement tools, total quality management, benchmarking, and change management platforms; project management is a tactic designed to positively impact operational effectiveness, but is not to be confused with competitive strategy. "The essence of strategy is in the activities- choosing to perform activities differently or to perform different activities than rivals…to deliver a new mix of value" (Porter, M. November- December 1996. PP. 6). These unique or differentiated competencies provide the cornerstones of a strategic framework "defining a company's positioning, making trade-offs, and forging fit among activities" (Porter, M. November- December 1996. PP. 19); to drive long-run profitability.

Strategy and Project Management

As strategy is built on differentiated value added propositions; project management provides a functionality and process in facilitating maximum levels of operational effectiveness. Succinctly, PM as a tactic or tool augments strategic value through productivity and efficiency gains, concomitant with lower operating costs and higher gross margins. A firm's core competencies which define their competitive advantage are the activities, projects, and efforts conducted by management and employees. "Project Management then, is the application of knowledge, skills and techniques to execute projects effectively and efficiently. it's a strategic competency for organizations, enabling them to tie project results to business goals -- and thus, better compete in their markets" (Project Management Institute. N.D. PP. 1).

Balanced Scorecard

It is this concatenation of strategy and operational effectiveness through project management which provides cohesiveness to a firm's organizational blueprint. Among the myriad of strategic frameworks circulating in the global corporate environment; the balanced scorecard (BSC) originated and designed by Robert Kaplan and David Norton, is "used extensively in business and industry, government, and nonprofit organizations worldwide… to enable organizations to clarify their vision and strategy and translate them into action" (Balanced Scorecard Institute. N.D. PP. 1). At its core the BSC was crafted to more effectively measure the success of the organization in achieving its strategic goals; acknowledging that "financial measures are inadequate, for guiding and evaluating the journey that information age companies must make to create future value through investment in customers, suppliers, employees, processes, technology, and innovation." (Balanced Scorecard Institute. N.D. PP. 1). The BSC acts to "align business activities to the vision and strategy of the organization, improve internal and external communications, and monitor organization performance against strategic goals" (Balanced Scorecard Institute. N.D. PP. 1).

Project Management's Role in Balanced Scorecard

In this context the connection between strategy frameworks such as balanced scorecard or Mckinsey- 7S model, and project management is one of enabling coordinated action on all organizational activities. BSC "provides a framework that not only provides performance measurements, but helps planners identify what should be done and measured. It enables executives to truly execute their strategies" (Balanced Scorecard Institute. N.D. PP. 1). As a strategic framework the BSC measures and plans across four functional areas: financial measures, customers, internal processes, and learning and growth (Balanced Scorecard Institute. N.D. PP. 1). Project management intersects and impacts all of these benchmarks as an analytical and logistical process driving efficiencies and productivity.

Reflecting back on strategy as a firm's value added differentiation, their chosen framework is not as relevant as is "aligning organization strategy with the work people do on a day-to-day basis" (Balanced Scorecard Institute. N.D. PP. 1); those activities and projects which must be coordinated and completed through effective project management. In essence project management provides a greater efficacy for the fulfillment of organizational strategy.

Strategic Frameworks

Robert Kaplan of BSC notoriety articulates that: "whichever strategic framework the organization is using, it still needs to translate and communicate it across all business units and to all employees if the strategy is to be implemented effectively" (Lagace, M. February 2, 2004. PP. 2). According to the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, there are three distinct categories of frameworks from which organizations may choose to develop their long-run strategic plans: integrative, customer, and competitor (Duke University.edu. Fuqua School of Business. N.D. PP. 1). Integrative "examines multiple elements in the firm and environment to derive strategy; customer "frameworks focus on customer factors to derive strategy"; and competitor with "focus on competitor factors to derive strategy" (Duke University.edu. Fuqua School of Business. N.D. PP. 1).

Integrative-Customer-Competitor

Beginning with the integrative framework, the balanced scorecard returns as the standard bearer for an approach which looks to understand not only the dynamics of the industry and exogenous environment, but also to incorporate endogenous elements of the organization into planning and measurement; "intangible assets, such as human capital, information, and culture" (Lagace, M. February 2, 2004. PP. 1). The BSC approach continues to be the benchmark for the large organization on a global basis. "According to the Balanced Scorecard Collaborative, no less than 60% of Fortune 500 companies use the balanced scorecard in some form" (M.J. de Koning, G. July 8, 2004. PP.1). The integrative frameworks also contain such strategic blueprints as: SWOT and Porter's Five Forces; indispensable applications for Fortune 500 firms as the survey the competitive landscape.

The customer strategic frameworks adopted by Fortune 500 firms typically involve segmenting strategies which target customer groups based on size, profitability, market, or product. Yet, one of the more recent customer strategies to emerge is one of shareholder value. "Companies focus on the core benefits that customers are looking for and respond accordingly…thereby generating cash flow or shareholder value for either the long or the short-term" (Duke University.edu. Fuqua School of Business. N.D. PP. 1). This strategy however, has been modified over the past decade and now does not reflect the fundamental tenets from which it originated. Now shareholder value is all about stock price, not working to gain profitability from effective segmenting of customers. "Jack Welch, who is regarded as the father of the 'shareholder value' movement indicated that "On the face of it, shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world. Shareholder value is a result, not a strategy?. . . Your main constituencies are your employees, your customers and your products" (Guerrera, F. March 12, 2009. PP. 1).

Lastly, the competitor strategy returns Professor Porter to the forefront of strategic frameworks. The three generic strategies outline a firm's methods of differentiation in the marketplace. This occurs "when the collection of integrated and aligned activities enable the company to offer a value proposition -- whether low total cost, product leadership, complete customer solutions, or system lock-in -- better than competitors" (Lagace, M. February 2, 2004. PP. 2). This strategy contends that the competitive environment should impact considerably how an organization maps its future to position effectively for profit margin expansion.

Strategic Framework Conducive to Project Management

If as Kaplan contends, the choice of organizational strategy framework is less crucial then its communication and delivery to management and employees; is one of the structures more suited to this end user delivery? The continued advancement of technology and information dissemination in the corporate world suggest that organizations which favor flatter, horizontal structures are more likely to empower employees with the tools and knowledge they need for success. This is critical because the day-to-day activities, the project management objectives depend on the flexibility and sharing of information across the organizational structure. In this context, the BSC remains most conducive to an effective PM culture, for the very reason that its four-pronged approach accounts for company strengths beyond the financial and captured in shareholder value strategies; specifically, "human capital, information, and culture" (Lagace, M. February 2, 2004. PP. 1).

Conclusion

Corporate strategy and project management may initially seem bifurcated… [END OF PREVIEW]

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