UCLA Extension

Strategic Project Thinking: Designing Action Plans to Achieve Complex Objectives

A 3-Day Short Course

This course offers a structured thinking process and practical tools for planning complex projects in less time. This step-by-step process builds the solid foundations needed to achieve success faster and with greater certainty. Strategic project thinking provides a common language and approach that is both systematic and street-smart. Projects of all types, scopes, and sizes will benefit, and the concepts apply to both personal as well as professional objectives.

Complete Details

Both individuals and teams will find this process especially valuable in tackling unstructured, complex, or ambitious situations. Examples include launching new products, managing R&D, sparking innovation, upgrading systems, launching internal initiatives, implementing change efforts, shifting organizational culture, and other “knowledge projects” where incremental learning is necessary or where the best approach is not easy or obvious. This systematic planning approach accelerates results, reduces risk, and ensures maximum payoff from the resources invested.

This course is broader than traditional project management courses and presents practical concepts drawn from the scientific method, strategic planning, systems thinking, management by objectives, and team building as well as project management.

Participants are encouraged to bring an important project, problem, or opportunity to the course. Classroom activities blend presentation of concepts and tools with hands-on application to these projects and to case studies. Participants should leave the course with a first-cut, ready-to-apply set of action plans that will multiply their opportunities for success.

Specific course topics include:

  • Creating clear, logical, and actionable strategies and bullet-proof project plans
  • Linking your effort to organization strategic objectives to ensure high-level payoffs
  • Understanding and aligning the drivers that affect your success
  • Reaching consensus on objectives, strategies, and measures
  • Identifying the hidden “killer factors” and reducing risks that may doom your efforts
  • Organizing and motivating a project team to move faster and achieve results quicker
  • Sharpening your personal and organization’s competitive position

Course Materials

Lecture notes are distributed on the first day of the course. These notes are for participants only and are not for sale.

Coordinator and Lecturer

Terry Schmidt, President, Management Pro; and Principal, Centre for Strategic Management, Seattle, Washington. Terry Schmidt is an internationally-known executive management consultant and master strategist. He has three decades of broad experience assisting corporations, governments, and research institutions worldwide. He earned his BS in aerospace engineering from the University of Washington and his MBA from the Harvard Business School. Before starting his own consulting company, Terry worked for Boeing, NASA, the U.S. Department of Transportation, Management Analysis Center, and the U.S. Embassy in Thailand.

In addition to consulting, Terry teaches in university executive education programs and corporate universities worldwide. He has been the top-rated instructor at UCLA Extension’s Technical Management Program and is also on the Los Alamos National Laboratory Management Institute faculty.

Terry’s book Strategic Action Planning will be published in 2006. His other published books include Managing Your Career Success: Practical Strategies for Engineers, Scientists, and Technical Managers (Van Nostrand Reinhold); Planning Your Career Strategy (Van Nostrand Reinhold); and The Winning Proposal: How to Write It (with Herman Holtz, McGraw-Hill).

Terry’s career accomplishments are listed in Who’s Who in International Training and Development (3rd edition), Who’s Who in Finance and Industry (23rd edition), and Who’s Who In the World (6th edition). Active in civic and charitable causes, he is past President of the Harvard Business School Club of Puget Sound.

Daily Schedule

Day 1

  • Understanding the factors that cause projects to fail
  • Becoming a big-picture strategic thinker
  • Six steps to project success
  • Clarifying strategy using causal thinking and if-then logic
  • Applying the scientific method to project planning
  • Designing your project for maximum impact
  • Chunking a problem/objective into logical parts
  • “Mess-mapping” to clarify context and boundaries
  • Using objective trees, decision trees, alternative trees
  • Involving stakeholders in the right way
  • Developing Logical Framework action plans

Day 2

  • Designing your game plan
  • Fracturing the problem into chunks and objectives
  • Merging top-down and bottom-up thinking
  • Reaching consensus on objectives and strategy
  • Identifying major uncertainties and risks
  • Considering alternatives and choosing best approaches
  • Preparing Project Logical Frameworks
  • Choosing measures that matter
  • Defining and testing key assumptions
  • Surfacing hidden success factors
  • Applying concepts to participant projects

Day 3

  • Clarifying who does what, when, and how
  • Mapping power dynamics and relationships
  • Creating high-performing work teams
  • Building cross-functional collaboration
  • Keeping involved stakeholders informed
  • Celebrating success and leveraging learning
  • Applying key concepts on the job
  • Launching projects and task forces with momentum
  • Sharpening your project plans and taking next steps

For more information contact the Short Course Program Office:
shortcourses@uclaextension.edu | (310) 825-3344 | fax (310) 206-2815