The telling question!

I read a discussion a while back in a LinkedIn group that asked “When would projects or programs be strategically aligned?”  The question seemed so bizarre to me that I clicked through to read the full discussion.  The detail didn’t explain the question much further, but it seemed that the writer was indeed asking that question (I thought he might have missed out the word “not” after ‘programs’!!)

Talk about asking a telling question!  If any of my clients asked me this, I’d be seriously worried about firstly, how they spent their time, and secondly, whether I should be spending my time and energy working with them.  It’s very enlightening when someone asks a question that so clearly should only ever be asked in the reverse.

If he had put the ‘not’ in there after programs, that would make sense.  It would show that he understood that projects and programs should always be strategically aligned, but was wondering if there was ever a time they wouldn’t be.  In other words, ‘I understand the rule, but is there ever an exception?’  And likely there are one or two exceptions.

But he asked it the other way, as if the rule was the reverse – the rule is that projects and programs are not required to be strategically aligned, so is there ever an exception when they should be aligned?  So presumably in his organization, there is little or no link between the strategy, and the projects that are undertaken – no link between strategy and implementation.  Therefore people are busy implementing something other than strategic priorities.  Hmmmm…..

It’s often the way in which questions are asked that indicate common practice in an organization.  If culture, practices and processes do not require people to think about strategy, and align their decisions and priorities with the strategies, then that culture will not encourage strategic thinking, nor be successful in implementing strategies and achieving long term goals.

What types of questions do people in your organization ask about priorities, decisions and projects – and what does that indicate about strategic thinking in your organization’s culture?

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