The strategical level represents the management level of the executing organization. That might be the management board, a special group of manager related to the overall management, a dedicated steering committee, the program level related to a project, etc. This level is often called the "Executive Level".
It is recommended to set up and describe the strategical level before a project starts.
The strategical level is fed by many other areas of project management like planning, risk and issue management, budgeting, procurement and sometimes the quality management. Each of these relations is described in the several chapters and always linked to the respective management level.
There is no exact classification of tasks that should be performed in this level. Coming from the definition above it may provide and support these functions:
- Overall view of the business impact of the project to the objectives of a company or organization.
- Relation in terms of programs and portfolios.
- Final recipient of reports that show the project status.
- Decisions in terms of the completion timeline, additional budget, major change requests.
- Support in case of any blocking issues inside or outside the executing organization.
- Mediator and escalation point if several stakeholder groups may not be able to solve an issue in their relation.
- Stopping or prolonging the project.
There are might be more functions that are assigned to this level. The final structure and the influence of this level depends largely on the project, the executing organization, the complexity, the number and the structure of the stakeholder and other influences.
Communication between the Strategical and Tactical level is often formally conducted in a Steering Committee or a similar institution. This comittee is mainly seen as equal to the entire Strategical Level. This fact may be misleading because it omits the other stakeholder on this level. It provides the formal frame for the communication and gathers the input from the Tactical Level. Although these sessions are supposed to provide a regular exchange of information in both directions the communication towards the Strategical Level usually dominates. Therefore, this stream of information should be prepared very carefully because it enables the Tactical Level to give a view on the status and obtaining the necessary support if required. Particularly the last topic is occasionally overlooked or not used properly.
Executive Project Sponsor
Many projects are often initiated and supported by an executive project sponsor. There are several definitions how such a role should influence the project and its deliverables. Basically, it is recommended to define this role and the expected influence to the project. The sponsor may support the project in two ways: The first one is the obvious allocation of money and resources. The second one is often overlooked: It includes the view of the Strategical Level in terms of the development of a project. The source in [G2] gives a short and very good description of this fact: "...the impact of senior management is not per se a “success factor”; rather, its impact depends on the prospects of a project." This fact is very important because the project manager always executes the project as described in the project charter. He or she will usually not take into account any changes of the executing organization that may impact the project. Or the other way: If a project manager discovers such a change he or she might not be able to implement the resulting modifications in the project without the right support.
The main flow of decisions goes certainly from the Strategical Level to the Tactical Level. There are several kinds of decisions that might trigger a formal order to the project:
- Additional scope to be considered in the project.
- Constraints in terms of time and/or budgets.
- New milestones for certain deliverables.
- Stop of the project because of strategical business considerations.
- Appointment of a new project manager.
Apart these decisions there may be some that goes the other way and feeds the Strategical Level. This could apply when the Tactical Level takes urgent decisions to run the project that might be controversial in terms of former decisions in the Strategical Level. It is absolutely necessary to give the Tactical Level a certain degree of discretion that enables the project to takes decisions and inform the Strategical Level later.