Creative Leaders view projects not so much as a series of tasks to perform (in a static project system), but more as a series of human interactions to navigate the dynamics of a typically “emergent” project system. With this perspective, the efficiency and effectiveness of the delivery process and the final product become more a function of the quality of the human fabric of the project than the application of formal methodologies and processes.
Why is this relevant?
Its core relevance lies in the paradox that we typically commit by far the lion’s portion of our collective focus on the formal methodologies (with limited potential return on investment) and virtually leave the cultivation of the human fabric to chance or, at best, as an after-thought or pay lip service to it (overlooking potentially infinite return on investment given this area need not cost much or take that much time but can deliver outstanding outcomes).
The collaborative structure is a common and effective method of major project delivery, marrying the strengths and reputations of multiple organisations to produce a well-rounded and highly capable team. The down side, however, is that the sprint from tender to mobilisation often does not allow time for groups to integrate properly or for basic systems and processes to be defined, leading groups to isolate themselves on a day to day basis. This ‘silo’ mentality is a minefield for issues around communication, teamwork and best practise, underlined by an inherent lack of trust.
It can be difficult to approach a challenge that is neither tangible nor quantifiable, but ignoring trust issues can be rapidly detrimental to project culture and, ultimately, its overall success. In addition, the solution is incredibly simple and can be implemented by anyone.
1. Have faith in trust as a solution – lead the way into the trust vortex
Unlike traditional corporate or operational environments where trust can be allowed to develop over a longer period of time, given their limited lifespan, projects require the development of trust to be artificially accelerated – like entering a trust vortex – where we have to take the initiative and grab trust by the horns and make it happen. Now. This requires commitment, courage and leadership.
- Commitment – because there will always be other, easier things to focus on (projects are “busy” places)
- Courage – because taking the risk of trust can feel vulnerable (“am I the only loony here,” “what will they do with the information I am sharing?” “Is it OK for me to ask for help or admit to not knowing X or Y?”)
- Leadership – “I am going to take a punt on my conviction that this stuff matters and others will follow if they can be inspired by someone daring to go first…so here goes”
The vast majority of people are worthy of trust and have knowledge or information that could help you. Scan the project for opportunities to enhance the human fabric, raise the quality and quantity of energy available for productive effort, and take the lead by reaching out to someone and instilling your faith in them, you could be mutually empowered. “Your success is my success – how can I help you to be effective and successful on this project?”
“If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even though I may not have it at the beginning.” – Gandhi
2. Start with yourself – allow not knowing everything to be OK
Be honest. If you can trust yourself, your decisions and your own beliefs, it will shine through for others to see. If you are open and approachable, you may attract someone on a similar mission.
“A man who doesn’t trust himself can never really trust anyone else.” – Cardinal De Retz
Start by not only allowing yourself and others not to know everything – but actively encourage “not knowing”. “Hey – I don’t know XXX? That’s great – let’s find out…” Harness the collective intelligence of the team rather than assume and expect everyone to know everything they technically should.
How do people leave the space when they have interacted with you? Bored, flat, confused, angry, and indifferent? Or energised, confident, focused, clear and pumped? The only difference is the way you interacted with them! Be intentional in how people leave your space. Multiply that effect by the 100 or so conversations you can have in a given day and multiply that by the several hundred people on your project means a brighter, tighter, more energised focused human fabric committed to excellence and to the success of all involved.
3. Reach out
Extending trust to others is an initiative from which only great things can transpire. At the very least, it is a mutually beneficial exchange, and at best it can create a chain of positivity, reaffirmation and confidence that can permeate the entire project.
“Increase the level of trust in any group, company or society and only good things happen.” – Thomas Friedman
So take a chance, start a conversation, break down the divides, pay confidence forward and acknowledge yourself for single-handedly making a difference – one conversation at a time.
Leveraging the information already resident in your people and company may be one of the most effective things you can do to decrease waste, increase productivity and even the longevity of your people’s commitment to the organisation.
Is a reluctance to change holding you back?
In most cases, people are busily getting on with what they do in the way they’re most comfortable. And that just happens to be the way they’ve always done things. A natural resistance to change (or uncertainty), coupled with the tendency not to do things until they have to be done (which is often too late), can result in errors and inefficiencies that seem to be built into the system.
Many companies struggle with instituting change, let alone a practiced philosophy of continuous improvement. Yet, as we move at a faster pace and competitive advantages become more and more focused on efficiency, making change on a regular basis and constantly improving is almost essential.
According to Hunter Dean, a Knowledge Management expert and Lean Enterprise consultant at Systemix, the role of business leaders today is as much about providing vision and the traditional aspects of leadership as steering an organisation toward effective knowledge management and leveraging learnings.
Knowledge is power
“Organisations that can truly learn from their experiences, both good and not so good, become very smart, very fast. This gives them confidence and agility which makes them very difficult competition”, Hunter explains.
Knowledge management and actively leveraging learnings are both critical factors at an organisational and project level to competing successfully in today’s market. So how do you approach this in your business?
Information is not enough
Your servers and people are no doubt full of information. But unless this information is retrieved, managed, shared and integrated in an effective manner it cannot translate to knowledge.
When it comes to determining if your information is truly knowledge, consider these few questions:
If your team learnt something of value today, how likely is it that…
- They will still be using it still in six months?
- That new recruits or people in other business areas will learn this too?
- They will still be using and refining this information in 2 years or 5 years?
Knowledge is something that is resident in the company, not just the people or one or two divisions. It’s like the corporate wiki that everyone turns to and learns from.
So the key competency becomes: ‘How do we embed know-how for the long haul?’
Embedding know-how for the long haul
Systemix uses the ‘Know-how Pyramid’, an illustration of how information becomes knowledge that can reduce risk, increase productivity and overall business performance. Developed by a partner organisation, Information Leadership © 2012
Working through the pyramid, Systemix move organisations from the informal know-how space to the ‘definitive’ space where knowledge now underpins the fundamental functions of the business.
The process to achieve this involves the thorough investigation of either a project team or organisation as it is now in relation to the pyramid. This will reveal critical insights into the areas where knowledge is seeping away and how it can be harnessed more effectively. Then, through collaboration and communication, people can see the insights for themselves and design a new pyramid to work toward.
“Once we have communicated the insights we gain from this process, we focus on training and developing a roadmap to strengthen the method for learnings staying learnt,” says Hunter.
Through tightening business processes and workflows, implementing mechanisms to drive improvement, measuring the right things, making information more available through hard systems and zeroing in on key messages to communicate, an organisation or team can quickly become ‘smarter’ and more effective in a short space of time.
Following the completion of major projects, we regularly hear the words success, pride and achievement but, more often than not, they are accompanied by stress, exhaustion and sacrifice. With projects being pushed to ever tighter delivery schedules, is the human element being overlooked?
With the most skilled and committed employees often being rewarded with more work and shorter deadlines, people are frequently being pushed to breaking point. Wellness Systemix focuses on the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing of individuals, teams and entire organisations. We believe that achieving balance is critical to a happy, healthy workforce with the stamina and motivation to remain at the top of their game.
The following points can help you to better understand the needs of your team and create an environment in which wellness and family is valued as highly as meeting deadlines:
Cultivate a culture of openness and honesty in your workplace in which people can freely express their concerns. People often feel defeated by admitting they have too much to do and need to feel supported by management.
Every individual’s level of work commitment will vary over time. Young employees may wish to contribute more in order to gain recognition in a company. Conversely, employees with young children may find they suddenly have more distractions and less time. Pursuing channels of communication will allow for better understanding of individual circumstances and allow your team to continuously adapt as a living organism.
3. Realistic Targets
Often when establishing deadlines, individuals and teams will underestimate the time they need under the pressure of the overarching schedule and the desire to please. Remember that being realistic will ultimately attain better results than wishful thinking.
With technology increasingly bringing the office back into people’s homes, it is more important than ever to recognize and reaffirm the boundaries between work hours and personal time.
For more information about wellness, culture and how Systemix can help you to implement these policies, please contact us:
p: 1300 551 835
We had a fantastic day with the MTM Operations Division Safety Forum last week, facilitating an Appreciative Inquiry process for 100 of the leaders in the business. We were proud to be part of this event and were inspired by the team’s appetite to make a profound and lasting difference.
Great leadership, great commitment and great momentum!
Thanks for having us on board Mike, Anthony and the SLT.
In October 2013, Safety Systemix joined forces with three other industry leaders – Generative HSE, Amberwise and OHS Leadership – to establish Safety Excellence Partners (SEP). We are deeply committed to evolving safety management globally, across all industries, organisations and projects to realise the vision of eliminating worker injury; by working with our clients to develop World-Class Safety Leaders and High Performance Safety Cultures.
Closing the gap between good or business as usual and world class safety performance has become a critical business imperative for many industries. Every company, every industry and every country have varying degrees of sophistication in their approach to safety management. Despite the existence of well-established safety management systems, there is more often than not an inconsistent level of safe working behaviours and practices throughout organisations and projects.
Recognising the need to address the human side of safety and to create a work place comprised of a critical mass of individuals who rapidly promote and improve safety performance is the first step. Organisations wanting to advance this type of engagement are commissioning and embedding recognised Safety Culture and Leadership programs to empower their leaders, management, staff and contractors at all levels to participate, contribute and take ownership for the safety of themselves and of others.
SEP’s programs are based on emerging philosophies, principles and state of the art approaches in the OHS field. The need is for Safety Culture and Leadership to powerfully address the human factors in order to win and lead the hearts and minds of staff, workers and contractor personnel at all levels in their organisations. Our clients use the SEP’s approaches of cultural transformation, inspirational leadership, coaching and consulting in concert with existing safety practices, to accelerate the development of leaders, managers and entire employee bases in order to facilitate the next leap in their safety performance.
To enable this next leap, SEP introduces a creative approach to health and safety culture, leadership and management; with a focus on creatively addressing the disparity in beliefs, attitudes and commitment that exists within projects and organisations and creating a genuine and shared mindset for health and safety excellence. The mindset is about making safety more personal and compelling for everyone. Achieving health and safety excellence requires engaging a wider audience of people to participate in the safety conversation. This challenge is made achievable by launching and embedding a program in which staff and contractors already have a self-interest in and commitment to.
For more information, please visit: www.safetyexcellencepartners.com
Projects can fail as a result of poor decisions or management at any stage from the initial tendering through to procurement and delivery. Almost always, the delivery team gets the blame, but a closer look reveals there may be other issues.
According to recent research by Caravel Group and Melbourne Business School, major project success rates in Australia are around 40-50% and this poor result can be attributed primarily to failures in governance.
These are the findings of a ‘self-assessment’ survey of approximately 100 public and private sector board, CEO and senior management-level project participants across a range of industries.
Governance at it’s worst?
We’ve seen the catastrophic results of poor governance play out with the Queensland Health Payroll disaster. In his recent report into the matter, Former Supreme Court judge Richard Chesterman QC plainly states “The replacement of the Queensland Health payroll system takes a place in the front rank of failures in public administration in this country. It may be the worst.”
In his report, Chesterson identifies numerous failures on behalf of both the State’s management and the supplier, IBM. But regardless of the blame and finger-pointing that takes place in the aftermath of a failure like this, it’s difficult not to draw the conclusion that better Project Governance could have led to a much different outcome.
Lessons to learn
The payroll fiasco will most likely be remembered for the pricetag – an estimated $1.2 billion in taxpayer dollars to remedy a $98m project – but according to Ken Lowe, Managing Director at Systemix, a Melbourne firm specialising in the management of complex projects, those close to the industry can learn much more from the findings.
Ken has been brought in to recover more projects teetering on the edge of failure than he can remember and in picking back over what’s gone on, he has to agree that in too many cases, governance was almost always found lacking.
“Often it takes some time before a (governance) team can acknowledge something is seriously wrong, even though failures usually don’t just happen. There is always a string of poor decisions that ultimately culminate in issues that simply cannot be ignored any longer.” says Ken.
The real reasons for failure
It would appear that in many cases, human issues can get in the way of making good decisions or failing to recognise bad ones quickly enough in a governance team. The reports highlighted in this article, as well as Ken’s experience reveal that good governance can be hijacked by conflicting motives, team dysfunction, accountability issues, poor leadership and even a lack of understanding of the true meaning of governance.
Graeme Cocks, Melbourne Business School Professor says “Too many governance teams are stacked with ‘stakeholders’ to secure buy-in rather than people with proven ability to govern projects. These people are often heavily conflicted and have no accountability for their project governance role.”
There are numerous instances in the Health Payroll Enquiry that also highlight how human issues impacted on outcomes. In fact, the summary of the enquiry is littered with human failings, stating that much of the trouble came down to ‘unwarranted urgency and a lack of diligence on the part of State officials.’ And in relation to a particular aspect of the IT, it is believed that fear of failing motivated poor decisions; ‘Decisions were made to press on regardless of other considerations which ought to have had a bearing on the direction of the Project.’ Lines of responsibility were blurred, and obvious conflicts of interest ignored.
“There are two key elements to good governance. The quality of the decisions made, and the quality of the team making those decisions: The two work hand in hand.” Says Ken Lowe.
The purpose of governance is to ensure a project meets the desired outcomes. The governance team is the advocate of the owners. It is tasked with the role of providing clarity around accountability and responsibility, and ensuring clear lines of communication exist at all levels. Once this framework is in place the governance team provides oversight and monitoring around fulfillment of the strategic intent as defined in the agreed business case.
A governance team should operate within an agreed governance plan. Its members should have a mix of skills and experience to ensure that there is an understanding of all aspects of the specific project and (importantly) of governance principals. The most common departure from these principals is around conflicts of interest, usually arising from stakeholder representatives.
Systemix works with large organisations, public and private, on high-yield project performance solutions. The Systemix heritage was built largely on our expertise in commercial modelling and commercial alignment processes. With a deep understanding of the systemic interplay between the commercial and psychological contract, Systemix has successfully established the commercial basis for many projects, programs and services agreements.
When it comes to awarding a tender, there are many factors an Owner will take into consideration and it is important to know that decision making is rarely based purely on price. Whilst price may be a major factor, Owners are on the hunt for the team with the greatest capability to deliver good cost and non-cost outcomes over the long term, especially when it comes to service contracts.
Teams win tenders
With this in mind, a winning bid team must clearly demonstrate their inherent capability, both in terms of experience and an authentic cohesiveness. Owners are assessing your teams inherent capability in a number of ways, some more intuitive than others.
As well as initial target costs (and beyond the written submission of technical aspects of your solution), your team will be assessed on:
- A demonstrated capability to drive efficiency in future years via initiatives yet to be identified;
- their confidence in answering questions on its proposed solution
- the way they interact
- visible quality of leadership
- the energy it projects
Owners realise that a successful project requires a strong and united team whose collective force will assist them in delivering on both known KRAs and overcoming the unknowns that will appear along the way. When bids are competitive in terms of price and approach, the strength of the team becomes even more critical in the decision making process.
Here are some basics to keep in mind when you’re working on your next submission:
Meet the team
To have a good chance of succeeding, a proponent must be represented at presentations or interviews by the key team members that it proposes to assign to the job. Typically the owner does do not want to meet the marketing team – it wants to meet the people that will deliver the services – hence it is important that the team presenting the proposal has full ownership of the written submission content, and comes across as a fully prepared high-performance team committed to the job.
Forget the sell
Under a closed-book tender or arms-length selection process the focus of the effort is to “win the job”. However, proponents who approach a long-term services contract selection process with that focus are much less likely to succeed than a proponent that focuses on “delivering the services”. The Owner’s evaluation panel is always more impressed by a team which is knowledgeable and enthused about its proposed approach than one which is just out to sell. Aside from the subtle shift in messaging, a focus on delivery forces the team to understand the client’s issues, risks, opportunities and challenges, and start developing ideas for addressing these – which is the foundation for becoming the team they want to appoint.
Build the team
A well-directed proponent team will focus on delivering the services and their internal team dynamics. By the time they get to presentation or interview stage they are already performing strongly as a team – for instance they are obviously comfortable with each other and are relaxed even under interview pressure; they give answers or engage in conversations quite naturally; they support each other yet are able to debate and challenge each other; there is no sense of hierarchy in the team (senior members naturally defer to other team members where appropriate); and they understand and believe the content of their written submissions because they have obviously been closely involved in the content.
There are no shortcuts to achieving this kind of team performance and non-price impact so it’s important for leaders to immediately start the team spending time working together with a common focus. Furthermore, it is important that the nominees for senior roles are fully involved in team preparation, as a senior leadership figure who is not “bonded” with the team can be quite damaging to client perceptions.
6 components of a successful bid
Ken Lowe, Managing Director at Systemix has worked with numerous proponents across a range of industries in preparing successful tenders. He has identified 6 key ‘streams’ in the preparation of a successful bid:
1. Market Stream
This part of the process requires investigation to understand the key drivers of the project as well as the stakeholders, Key Results Areas and current trends. This information then informs the development of a unique selling proposition, potential ‘win themes’ and honest “why us?” elements that fit with your brand as well as the Owners value drivers.
2. Commercial Stream
At this stage of the process, the focus turns to establishing internal alignment and developing a compliant and innovative offering.
Key activities in this stream typically include the following:
- Understanding the Owner’s proposed commercial framework
- Focussing on aspects which will make a ‘fair’ offer look less competitive or which present opportunities for a ‘fair’ offer to look super-competitive
- Quantifying and pricing risks or costs passed to the Service Provider under the Owner’s proposed commercial framework
- Identifying an optimal balance between ‘compliance’ to the proposed T&Cs (minimising departures which the Owner must concede) versus ‘departures’ (minimising headline price to be offered)
- Reviewing the potential for innovative alternative offers (particularly around incentives & risks) and ranking them in terms of acceptability and impact
- Supporting one or more reviews of the final offer from a commercial and legal perspective
- Preparing the team for commercial alignment discussions or negotiation sessions.
3. Organisation & Culture Stream
With a basic framework in place, the team has begun to form and this stage is about cementing the operational structure and organising principals at the foundation. The team and its leaders must take steps to understand each other’s skills and knowledge (and that of the team as a whole) in order to work effectively and plan ahead, and work also begins on developing a “vibe”. The all-important non-price elements of your bid are now being built.
Key activities in this stream typically cover:
- Identifying the principles which should be used to shape the organisation structure for the proposed team, then developing a coherent structure enabling clear accountability and agility
- Developing a charter of operations as a focus for the goals and culture of the proposed team
- Developing skills and knowledge in technical, human, and commercial areas which are relevant to the ‘essence’ of the solution and the approach being offered
- Developing the “vibe” – working with the team in a variety of real task-related situations whilst simultaneously developing shared awareness of self and team dynamics, and building the skills and behaviours that underpin high performance
- Ensuring through mock interviews and workshops that that a high-performance culture will be tangible during selection and delivery.
4. Staging & Methods Stream
It’s time to work on the project and develop an appreciation of job challenges and overall strategies for delivery. As well as the technical aspects of delivery, the team should spend time on framing and expressing integrated methods and approaches and developing the skills to communicate those effectively.
5. Pricing & Targets Stream
The proponent team needs a clear philosophy and plan for price and target development and should have an approach through to post-award phase. With this in place, the focus can turn to ways to fast track mobilisation to ensure success.
Key activities in this stream typically include:
- Building a clear pricing philosophy for both input costs and margin, that aligns to the published evaluation criteria
- Developing a pricing plan with clear tasks, accountabilities and timelines for constructing each price and non-price target required in the tender submission
- Testing the emerging price proposition against the pricing philosophy, in particular with respect to pricing of risks and coherence with the commercial terms
- Developing the approach and process for continuous improvement, including credibility of ongoing cost reduction methods, and the right balance between known improvements and ‘good faith’ expectations.
6. Submission & Logistics Stream
The design, development and production of a physical document is the final stage in the preparation process. Start by developing a structure and writing plan, refine content and then plan review and management.
“These workstreams are the visible manifestation of a proponent organisation which – to be successful – needs to be driven by an effective ‘core’ of management, leadership, and strategy / governance”, Ken explains.
Working through each area, and tailoring them for the individual client, the Systemix approach prepares proponents for both the price and people evaluation they will encounter during the process.
The importance of leadership
Generally, teams that ‘crank out the tender’ without creating an environment of effective management and leadership, are often perceived by the client as focused on the sale rather than focused on excellent delivery. Whilst task-focused management is essential to get the tender in the box, a high-performance team (with a high probability of success) requires effective leadership and governance. Any buying decision is highly influenced by intangible factors as calibrated by the degree of trust between buyer and seller, hence attention to these underpinning factors is essential.
When Systemix works with project teams, they focus on maintaining an undercurrent of conversations and interventions which enables effective functioning of the team – both during the bid phase and during delivery – always with one eye on the leadership dimension to ensure that the management, leadership, and governance is enabling the team to be the best that it can be.
Taiichi Ohno, whose founding role in the development of Toyota subsequently birthed the concept of Lean Manufacturing, identified 7 key types of waste:
1. Defects and mistakes;
2. Overproduction of goods not needed;
3. Inventories waiting the next stage in a process;
4. People waiting for something to happen or materials to be available before they can proceed;
5. Unnecessary processing, doing things which are not required;
6. Too much movement of people; and
7. Transport of goods that are not really required.
The same basic wastes of resources occur just as much in most projects as they do in manufacturing, causing expensive losses of time, money and even morale.
Obviously, the planning work you do at the outset can greatly reduce waste, but how do you manage if the systems in place are already inefficient?
Whether you call it Lean Manufacturing, Lean Construction or simply Lean Enterprise, essentially what you’re talking about is the elimination of inefficiencies and waste with a high-performance culture and a process focus. The result is improved profitability, happier clients, more engaged people and increased sustainability.
Old school vs Lean
Let’s take Lean Construction as an example and compare it to the traditional approach. Construction is notorious for the amount of time wasted as people stand around. That’s because typically, most attention goes into planning projects but very little on design or redesign of procedures. Add to this a strong hierarchical structure, where few people are involved at the top end and communications flow generally one-way from the top down, and it’s easy to see why the traditional approach results in almost every one of Ohno’s key waste areas.
Lean Construction takes a different approach. Firstly, there is a recognition that the grassroots work team have knowledge and ideas that could improve outcomes – sometimes resulting in enormous tangible benefits. Secondly, there is a methodology in place for this knowledge to find its way back to the leaders of the project or organisation. And finally, there is the compounding effect of the two… a more productive, more engaged workforce that delivers a better end result and an organisation that becomes literally ‘wiser’ with each completed project.
When Lean doesn’t work
The concepts of empowerment, communication and collaboration can send chills down the spines of many business leaders. Not because they don’t make sense… but because they seem so nebulous and difficult to manage. Afterall, moving to Lean (in any form) is about making a lasting cultural shift… Something that so many have tried and failed to do.
Perhaps it is helpful to consider what Lean is NOT, in order to understand exactly how it works. Lean is NOT warm and fuzzy. It’s not about ‘team building’ and high fives and staff barbeques. It’s not about cutting back to save money or increase profitability. These can (and often are) outcomes in a Lean organisation, but they’re not the basis. Often, failure to benefit from the Lean approach comes from targeting these outcomes directly and not the fundamental shifts that enable them to occur.
Lean = business intelligence = improved performance
The Lean approach is extremely formulaic and scientific. High-quality implementation involves careful examination and questioning of everything from a strategic level to a detail level, from design to implementation. The goal is to create predictability and reliability at every stage. The outcome of that is a greatly increased likelihood to meet all your objectives including client satisfaction, timeframes and budget.
By harnessing collective intelligence every step of the way, everyone who participates begins to think differently about the work they’re doing together. Claude Levi-Strauss captures the essence of this change in thinking; “The scientific mind does not so much provide the right answers as ask the right questions.” People working in Lean organisations have an increased desire to learn about how to solve problems (and from actually solving problems), which leads to a desire to understand the root causes of problems, which results in a sense of urgency to address root causes of problems. Ultimately, this creates a culture that strives for continuous improvement.
Lean actually provides leaders with information and questions that can fast track organisational and competitive advantage. By unlocking the wisdom inside your organisation, you’re better able to anticipate future obstacles, problem solve quickly and act on new opportunities. Plus, through careful analysis and redesign of the processes in your organisation or project, your business or project can become more efficient, productive and profitable.
High-yield project & business performance solutions
Systemix works with large organisations to increase efficiency, profitability and sustainability with Lean performance concepts and many others. We guide you in identifying and capturing high-yield efficiency and performance improvement opportunities both in a project context (Lean Project Delivery) as well as in the organisational setting (Enterprise Efficiency), using an array of methodologies and techniques.
Working with business leaders to create a Lean culture at a project or organisation level, Systemix addresses the critical factors of both people and process to create significant outcome improvements.