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
We tend to think of leadership as something that the head of a group or team provides to those under their charge – direction, inspiration, motivation, vision, and decisive decision-making – a package of skills that managers need to possess if they are to lead people. These traditional leadership activities are what I refer to as “transactional leadership”. Transactional leadership qualities are absolutely necessary and have their time and place but their impact is relatively short-lived and can create a level of dependency on the leader. When a tough decision is required, it is shunted to the project manager; when direction is required, the team look for it to be given rather than forging it for themselves; when inspiration is needed, the team waits for it to come rather than creating it. 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
Recent events in Australia’s political arena and the carefully crafted speech of the new Prime Minister got me thinking about the similarities in challenges that are presented to a new government and to those of business leaders. In his speech, Malcolm Turnbull spoke of “digital disruption” being Australia’s friend; the need for agility, innovation and creativity in creating a vision of the future; the power of collaborative leadership in making high value decisions; and about the importance of explaining the “why” and “how” of meeting the challenges of tomorrow so that everyone comes on the journey with their leadership. These are all very powerful memes in current, cutting edge management thinking. Read more
Do you have a project that’s in trouble? Does it seem to get worse despite your best efforts to fix it? Having worked on many distressed projects, I’ve come to realise that projects that become troubled tend to get worse because of the very actions and mindset that we put in place to correct the course. Read more
I often hear that the key to better project performance is better communication. While I can appreciate this philosophical perspective, I have worked on a number of “troubled” projects where there was no shortage of communication. One might even describe it as quite effective communication in that messages were being delivered loud and clear. However, I believe that the more important enabler of improved performance is effective collaboration – working relationships that result in the desired output or product. Effective collaboration yields strategies that are aimed at providing holistic value to the project. It results in actionable and executable plans. It is the source operational improvements that increase efficiency. Read more
When I think about Value Alignment I am often reminded of the observations that Steven Covey makes in his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People; specifically, around Habit Two: Start with the End in Mind. Value is all about starting with (and keeping!) the end in mind as project objectives are established, as decisions are made and as work is executed. Dr. Covey uses the analogy of climbing a ladder to make the distinction between efficiency and effectiveness. He says that moving up the ladder quickly with a minimum of wasted energy is efficiency, but ensuring that the ladder is leaning against the right wall is effectiveness. Read more
Recently, while I was outlining what I view as the 3 key influences on project delivery performance – Value Alignment, Team Effectiveness, and Production Management – my focus on Value Alignment was admonished for being too conceptual, too “soft.” It was suggested that what people really want to hear about are concrete actions and activities – processes and tools that they can sink their teeth into. I countered that there is nothing soft or fluffy about the creation of value alignment when it comes to project performance – I am not referring to value in the context of what we hold dear but value in delivery of project outcomes. Read more
When I started my practice, Continuum Performance in 2010 it was, quite frankly, a self-serving enterprise – a passion that I had to help teams be their absolute best and to help individuals achieve exceptional outcomes as part of something larger than themselves.
The company was based on the premise that there are a number of performance “continua” that exist within capital project delivery that can be exploited to realise these lofty ambitions:
- Delivery performance continuum— Extends from the owner’s performance objectives for the project right through to the day-to-day work execution activities.
- Developmental performance continuum–Extends from conceptual design through design and construction and right up to commissioning and operational handover.
- Business performance continuum–Links owners’ realisation of their goals for return on capital investment with delivery organisations achieving their growth and profitability objectives.