Permalink to Why Compelling Direction is Key to a Project Team

Why Compelling Direction is Key to a Project Team

Smart leaders know that a clear, compelling picture of what success looks like is crucial for engaging and motivating their team. And really smart ones have a fully developed story with ‘chapters’ to be used for different audiences.

Nasa’s compelling direction

The Mars Pathfinder, which delivered a huge amount of information about the red planet, was successful for NASA because team leaders had a story to tell and stuck to it. What was it? To show NASA’s commitment to exploring planets through a relatively low-cost project with the slogan of ‘faster, better, cheaper’. It’s all about having a compelling direction which means a project with a story to tell.

Like a story

Consider a book. Books have chapters – a road map for where the book is going. A good book doesn’t stray from its story from one chapter to the next. It’s the same with big projects. A good leader stays on theme and focuses on that compelling direction through the project.

The chapters are the building blocks of the story and each one is important, but all must operate as one entity. Likewise, a smart project leader continues to use the story to engage, focus and refocus, if necessary, the team and all the stakeholders.

All the chapters make up the story as the entity becomes an integrated whole with no individual piece more important than another. The leader may emphasize certain elements or chapters, depending on the audience, and ensure that all stakeholders remain aligned during the journey, but never lose sight of the compelling direction. And neither should the team.

Some of the individual chapters might be:

  • The ‘Why’ of the project – the business case.
  • The Scope of the project which comes after the business case is established. This is when you ask questions like: Based on all our assumptions about cost and execution, is it feasible?
  • Readiness – prepare for execution. This requires constant updating and communication to ensure alignment between all the groups, and may include your purpose as a team, the team’s values, and how it works together, resolves conflict, communicates, and organizes.
  • Who is on the Team. This might involve an organization chart with concentric circles.

It’s one thing to have the chapters of the story, but the story must still be compelling, so the leader should simplify the message, fight or manage complexity, and initiate critical metrics.

Finally, how should this ‘book’ be used? The leader uses the story to clarify and to work on deliverables, roles, schedules, highlighting best practices, resetting expectations, communicating value, coaching team members, and bringing on board new team members and new partner organizations. Ideal times to re-tell the story are at 90-day milestone meetings to check in on team performance, communication with the workforce, and in-team meetings.

Now the book is done. The ‘reader’ is happy and your project is successful.

To learn how to use Compelling Direction in your work, contact us. Stay in touch by subscribing to our monthly newsletter.

 


Permalink to How to Keep Your Team Aligned on the Road to Success

How to Keep Your Team Aligned on the Road to Success

To keep your car on the road, you need to ensure that the wheels are aligned. If you’ve ever driven a car with misaligned wheels, you’ll know it’s a weird, not to say, dangerous condition.

The car seems to have a mind of its own, tracking to one side or other; steering is vague and your confidence is shaken. Will I make it round this corner? Will I get where I’m going?

Alignment of all team members

Large projects can often have the feeling of being on the verge of chaos. There are so many variables that teams are managing that keeping them all in the right order can be a challenge. Our work with teams on large capital projects shows that there is often a predictable pattern as we work with a team.

First, there is firefighting, where many urgent issues need attention.

Next we observe a shift to the leaders and team becoming a little more reflective and open to talking about how the team is doing.

Finally, the team recognises that if it invests time and effort in team productivity, the payback can be dramatic.

We suggest team leaders think carefully about alignment when they embark on team development.

Is your large project team aligned?

3 questions for leaders of teams to ask themselves:

  1. What stage is your team in? Are you in the firefighting stage? If so, you’re likely thinking about ‘banging heads together’ (an expression a client used not long ago). There are probably many challenges that your team could be working on – clarity of the execution plan; support of sponsors; getting work done on site; relationships between owner and contractor; making sure you have the right people on the project; and on it goes…
  2. Are you clear about what development the team needs to be aligned? Do you have a vision for the kind of team you want to lead? One of our clients speak passionately about the need for his team to be intentional because he has been on a team that successfully completed a challenging, dangerous piece of work. He has a model in mind of what his current team needs to be to be successful. Do you?
  3. Are you committed to spending the time and money on developing the team? Developing a project team (or any other team for that matter) takes sustained effort. An aligned team is created over time, by developing habits and behaviours that will ensure the team stays on the road and is successful. As with any effort, this takes commitment and investment.

Success is found through the repeated application of the right effort at the right time. Alignment means that team members are working effortlessly towards the goal of project success.

Click here to learn more about the work we do with large project team alignment and what results you can expect from your team.

 


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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