Today, the ability to continuously adapt and improve in ways that meaningfully serve your overarching business purpose is one of the most important strategy-making skills. A clear sense of purpose – purpose that’s shared across the organisation –  has the greatest influence on the strategic performance required for thriving in today’s ever-changing business environment.
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Strategic plan v reality

Devising a strategy is an organisational journey. Like all journeys, it needs a destination. It requires that you set a course – or at least a direction – to take you toward that destination. To make the journey, you need to choose an appropriate vehicle – one that is suited to the terrain. Finally, for it to be an organisational journey, you need to mobilise your people to head off in search of that destination – and one of the most effective ways of doing this is through project prioritisation.  Read more

Over the last three decades, the safety of the construction environment has improved dramatically. Yet, construction sites are still one of the most dangerous workplaces the world over. As a result, today’s safety management efforts are focused on ensuring that no amount of harm is considered acceptable on a construction site. This commitment to the “zero harm” standard is now regularly included on company logos, plastered across work site and is a mantra that has become a part of standard industry speak.

However, all of this focus on zero harm, and the approach that it entails, begs a few questions that very few people are asking:

  • Are we actually making construction a safer place to work?
  • Are safety statistics and field reporting becoming a more or less reliable source of information to improve the wellbeing of our people?
  • Does it drive the behaviours and actions from our people that we intended?
  • Are we bringing safety and our work methods closer together or are we driving them further apart?
  • Are we making conversations about safer ways of doing work easier and more open, or are we creating a language of political correctness?

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Projects are enablers. They are investments that your organisation makes to enable the business outcomes that help deliver your vision. Whether those outcomes are improved operational efficiency, a new revenue stream or improving your customer’s experience, projects are the stepping stones to a thriving business.

Unfortunately, far too often projects fail to deliver the promised return on that investment. For the majority of organisations, they fail to provide that enabling step more than half the time. Many projects will languish in an incomplete state while the project team tries to find the time to finish them. Some of the most aspirational don’t get off the ground because it never seems to be the right time for working on aspiration. The most critical projects will often get done under the pressure of deadline but fail to produce particularly innovative or cost-effective results.

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I am periodically asked why, as a project manager of 25 years, I say so little about project management in my speaking and writing. The reason is that a tremendous amount has already been said and written about current “good practice” in managing projects. There are countless groups and forums that discuss and expand on this traditional practice knowledge. There is much of this practice that I agree with and little addition useful contribution I can make.

Where I believe that far too little has been said and that a fundamental shift in our project thinking is required is outside what we currently believe about traditional project management.

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I’ve been struck by how consistently I see, read and hear that price (or expenditure) and service are a zero-sum game – to increase (or maintain) service, the price must go up; to reduce price, the service levels must go down. Our politicians tell us that to maintain levels of social service (without ballooning deficits) they need to increase sources of tax revenue, or, vice versa, depending on the political message du jour. Businesses that operate in price-competitive markets often look to find their customers’ point of pain…what services can be reduced, eliminated, or made “cost adders” before the customer cries foul and takes their business elsewhere.

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Businesses over the last 30 years have learned to respond to changing economic climates, competitive pressures and market conditions in large transformational steps. Organisational re-engineering and change management – as well as a number of spin-off approaches – have been developed and refined over this same period to enable this incremental step change approach. Read more

Inspired by the LinkedIn series on Big Ideas 2016, I have devoted my final blog of the year to my perspective on what I believe will be #BigIdeas2016 – Adaptation Management.

Change management has been around as a business process since the 1980s and is so entrenched in our organisational approach that it is now being taught as part of the curriculum in many business schools. Although not solely, a large part of change management principle and practice is focused on the people side of change – managing people’s resistance to the change we are trying to make. The relatively poor success rate of this attempt to “push” change past people’s natural inclination to resist it, has resulted in the perspective where there is a need to lead change so that you “pull” people on the change journey. Read more

Projects represent one of the most powerful ways to harness collective human capability. Bringing people together in service of a common set of objectives around a defined scope for a prescribed duration – the very nature of projects – can have a catalysing effect. It can create an environment where engaged and motivated teams thrive. The shared purpose and the tangible goals can allow a team of people to deliver ten-fold more business value than the sum of the individuals. Read more

In the current complex and dynamic business environment where disruptive forces abound and competition is fierce, it is more important than ever to have a workforce that is engaged and motivated in a way that makes your people the organisation’s competitive advantage. Yet we still consistently see organisations that view their businesses like complicated machines and the people in them as components of the overall machinery. To make this machinery run smoothly – to get people doing what we want them to do when you want them doing it – they believe they need to reward desirable behaviour and punish unwanted behaviour. Read more