The SIO Model

Posted by Elizabeth Harrin

White board planHave you heard of the SIO model?  It’s a way to ensure that you are always operating at the right level for your project, and in fact it is an approach that sits within wider business management theory, not just project management.

SIO stands for:

  • Strategise
  • Implement
  • Operate

These are the three levels of activity that all organisations should do.  Project and programme managers can operate at all of these, and as someone leading a project, it is likely that you will get involved with tasks at each of these levels throughout the lifecycle of the project.  Together, the three levels ensure the translation of strategic thinking into sustainable action.

At this level you are setting the strategic direction for the business.  Project and programme management tasks here would include things like:

  • Defining the project management methodology and lifecycle for your organisation.
  • Developing training plans and succession planning approaches for your team members.
  • Setting up a project management office.
  • Developing criteria by which to assess new projects.
  • Putting together a benefits management or benefits tracking model for use in your company.

As you can see, these tasks are very high level and will affect the strategic direction for project and programme management within your company.


At this level you are defining work packages and establishing how to implement the corporate strategy.  Corporate strategy will be set at the Strategise level, but probably outside the boundaries of the project management elements of that.  To make that a bit clearer, the corporate strategy may be to become the most trusted electronics retailer brand – this has nothing to do with project management, but you can, at the Implement level, contribute towards making this happen through a series of targeted projects.  Project and programme management tasks here would include things like:

  • Developing project plans using tools like Seavus Project Planner.
  • Resource management activities to ensure that resources are working on the right things.
  • Risk and issue management.
  • Scheduling.


At this level you are actually ‘doing the doing’.  It is the next level down in detail from implementing corporate strategy, and here you get the job done.  While at the Implement level you may have planned work (that supports the strategic objectives) here you carry it out.  Project tasks at this level include things like:

  • Completing and processing timesheets.
  • Approving invoices.
  • Using the change management process to authorise project changes.
  • Status reporting.
  • Documenting the outcome of meetings in the form of minutes.
  • Catching up with people by phone for informal updates.
  • Writing project documentation and taking this through the approval process.

As you can see, these tasks are very low level.  But if they don’t happen, neither do you projects!  These tasks are the end result of a corporate strategy.  If you are working on tasks at this level that don’t roll up to support an Implement level activity, that in turn don’t support a corporate task at the Strategise level, you have to ask yourself why you are bothering.  All your work – at this level and the others – should support the corporate strategic objectives.  If you are not clear on how your work helps the company achieve its goals, ask your manager!  And don’t make your project team work on things that will not fit with and support where you company wants to be.

The SIO model is a good way to see how corporate goals filter down into operational level tasks.  In this way we can see how what we do day to day helps the company achieve its objectives.  And we can also see if we are not doing things to help, and put a stop to those as necessary.

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3 Comments to “The SIO Model”

  • Who created the sio model?

  • Bill, thanks for the question. I heard about the SIO model through a training course, where the original source wasn’t cited. Since then I have done some investigating and think that the original model comes from Stanford, as part of their strategic execution framework. I haven’t been able to find any academic references to it to pinpoint the exact authors, although if anyone can tell me I’ll be happy to add attribution to this article.

  • Thank you for the response. Perhaps, we should ask Stanford on the details of the model since the creator knows best.

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