Permalink to Getting Your Large Project Planning Team Ready to Hand Over to Operations

Getting Your Large Project Planning Team Ready to Hand Over to Operations

Move the work forward

One of our clients was the Assistant Project Director on the Nickel Rim South Project, which is now a major Glencore mine in Sudbury, Ontario. He told us that the key to a large project like this is being able to move work forward, and he’s right. When he spoke about ‘reaching back and passing forward,’ we thought of a good analogy. A relay race.

Think of the Olympics 4 x 400-metre relay race, and how important it is to cleanly hand off the baton to the next runner. That is often the difference between winning and losing. The difference on a project, is what constitutes ‘winning’? Is it crossing the winning line (that is, completing the project) or is it a clean hand-off to the next team? We think it’s the latter.

Forward thinking

Teams that work intentionally are always thinking forward and asking the right questions. Who is waiting for the work I’m doing right now? Who am I waiting for? What are we working on together? Have we planned for a smooth progression so we can hand off the work?

All projects come to an end, whether they are smaller software development efforts or the building of mine. In this case, the ‘finish line’ isn’t really the finish at all, but the beginning of the next phase of their project, operations.

On a mining project, many technical aspects are involved in transitioning from project execution to operations, from document control to legal agreements.

For the project team, the hand-over to operations has the same goal as any other hand-over – make the next phase a success. Hand over the baton as cleanly as possible. Set up the next team members as completely as possible.

5 Ways to hand over a project

  1. From one team to another
    Up to this point the project has been the responsibility of the project team, but now they have to enable another team to take what they created and make it work as a viable operation. How should we engage the new team? Clean communications become essential in this hand over period. Integrating the new management team of the operations into the project team is crucial. That team will have to live with the output of the project team.
  2. Keeping the momentum
    Closing out a large project is a gradual process as work is completed. While there is a formal hand-over point when responsibility for the site transfers, many members of the project team will have moved on to new projects by the time that happens. Still, the team leader must keep the team motivated and focused as the work winds down and the hand-offs take place.
  3. Planning to hand over
    As with every other aspect of a large project, planning is critical. Keeping the team focused on the end line is critical. Most likely, this becomes a joint exercise with the new operations team.
  4. Stakeholder communication
    Keeping stakeholders informed is crucial. The project-execution plan contains hundreds of individual work items that must be tracked and completed. Communication within the team, and with all stakeholders, has to be flawless.
  5. Lessons learned
    It is important to summarize in a document the lessons learned, both for the owner’s organization so it can improve its project-execution ability, and for the operation that will inherit the site since many activities will continue into the operations phase. For example, some aspects of the site may require more engineering while some pieces of work may not be completed at the time of the hand-over.

Handover success

It’s easy to think of an ‘end line’ for a project and to believe the race has been run. If this is the mindset of the project team, they have missed a crucial opportunity, to enable the new operations team to start their (much longer) leg of the relay. It’s the responsibility of the project team to do everything they can to set the operations team up for success, even as the project team winds its effort down.

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Permalink to Do You Keep the Team Moving Even When it is Out of Scope?

Do You Keep the Team Moving Even When it is Out of Scope?

Who Pays for Snow Clearance ?

Imagine this: Your company, Workerbee Inc, is the construction contractor on a major capital project, the White Hills mine. It is owned by a major mining company, Big Kahuna. Your project is in the Canadian North, where winters are long and cold. You are the project manager for Workerbee on the White Hills project.

You receive a phone call at 4 AM on a January morning. “We’ve had a major dump of snow at the site,” you’re told by your operations manager. “The problem is the snow removal company is a no-show this morning and we’ve got 30 centimeters of the white stuff preventing the crews from getting to the site and it’s still coming down. What should I do, boss?”

Your instinct is to say “Call the Project Director for White Hills at Big Kahuna and get him to do something about this. The snow removal contract is with them, not us.”

Your second thought, the one you go with, is “Get some equipment together and get to clearing the snow. Our crews need to get on site or we’ll be behind on the deliverables for the week and we can’t afford to wait.” Later in the day you clear the course of action with the project director from Big Kahuna. Production goes on and you’re making the progress you need to against plan.

But We Kept The Project Team Moving

A month later your project accountant comes to your door. “That snow clearing we did for the project a few weeks ago? Do you know how much it cost us? I’ll tell you – $9,000. We had a crew working on it for 10 hours because of the blizzard. We didn’t have enough equipment and we had to rent some. How do we bill the client for the work as it’s out of scope for us?”

The answer to this question depends on what sort of agreement you have set up with the client, Big Kahuna. If your project is like many, you may struggle to get payment – you may run into objections based on the fact that this was not your role to fulfil. There was a snow clearance contract with someone else and the client should have dealt with them (even if it meant a slow down at the site).

Alternatively, you may have run into few problems because this type of eventuality had been anticipated and a course of action determined long before the snow fell.

Probably your agreement is based on the spirit of understanding and cooperation and anticipates this kind of eventuality. Perhaps you and your client have already determined a course of action for these kinds of issues.

Our research at Big Tree Strategies, shows that stand out projects are set up using interest based agreements. Once in place these agreements allow for greater success in settling disputes of the type outlined above.

Interest-based Agreements

Getting to Yes, the best seller book based on the Harvard Negotiation Project, lays out the two paths that are possible in setting up (and managing) agreements:

Positional Bargaining Interest-based Bargaining
We are adversaries We are joint problem-solvers
We seek victory (over you) We seek agreement (together)
We want concessions We want to work together to agree who gets what
We dig in to our position We dig out to find shared interests
We mislead We are open and use principles
We insist on our position We insist on objective criteria
We use pressure We use reason and yield to principle, not pressure
We want to win We want win-win

If your White Hills project was set up using an interests-based approach, you and the project director from Big Kahuna would already have the principles in place that would guide an out-of-scope activity; the conversation would be about how to accommodate the snow clearing activity which was undertaken to keep the project on time.

In the absence of these principles and agreements, the conversation could quickly disintegrate into a finger pointing, recriminations and a lack of payment for the doing the right thing for the project.

So, how are you and your team doing in managing to principles and not positions?

  • Do you have agreements set up that are principles-based?
  • Does everyone always keep their eye on the long game (i.e. accomplishing the business goals)?
  • Do positional behaviours get dealt with immediately so that all parties can find a win?

Find ways to reset the conversation. Seek principles you can agree on and insist on using them in solving problems and disputes.

Big Tree Strategies is a consulting firm for senior executives in charge of teams managing  large projects that are critical to their organization’s success. We provide a consistent, coachable and repeatable program that teams learn and apply as they do their work.
Drop us a line or give us a call if there may be an area on your large capital project team that needs some help. In the meantime, sign up for our newsletter, you’ll find monthly tips applicable to the challenges faced on large project teams.

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