By Tony Llewellyn, author of Big Teams: The key ingredients for successfully delivering large projects, publishing 26 March 2020.
The world is in serious need of better project teams. Seismic shifts in our social, environmental and technological landscapes are creating an urgent need for change. In response organisations are continually setting up projects, often on a massive scale. Major projects have a distinct set of challenges that sit outside the experience and comprehension of those in charge of permanent organisations. They require a different approach to leadership where the primary skill is less about understanding the technical challenges of the task, and more about managing the complexity created by multiple stakeholders, and the integration of extended supply chain.
The project management profession is relatively young and is still working out its models of best practice. Too often however the focus of education is on the technical and commercial aspects of project delivery, and the belief that most problems can be resolved by the use of process. The reality of project life is that it is people who deliver the outputs, not machines. All too often major issues such as cost overruns and program delays arise from poor communication and a lack of collaboration between the many small teams that make up a project enterprise.
In my latest book, Big Teams, I attempt to refocus project leaders onto the human aspects of project delivery, showing how they are fundamentally connected with effective project performance. Having spent the last seven years studying the large project teams, my observations can be condensed into a model based around six primary components:
1. Establishing a ‘distributed’ leadership model where decision making is devolved to a wider ‘leadership community’.
2. Building a collaborative culture from the start.
3. Creating alignment of all the sub teams based on a common set up process.
4. Maintaining alignment through a process of continuous engagement.
5. Setting time aside to recycle learning back into the project.
6. Building resilience into the teams so they can thrive in periods of high pressure.
By adopting a team-of-teams approach, leadership can establish the right cultural environment which will bring the sub-groups into alignment around a common vision and strategy. This approach requires a degree of investment in additional skills such as team coaching , facilitation, communication and conflict management. Perhaps more difficult for many teams, is to allow time for planning how they are going to actually work together. Managing behaviour is not yet seen as a core project management skill, but as projects become more complex, such capability is often the difference between success and failure. The payoff for such investment can therefore be huge.
Tony Llewellyn is a specialist in the behavioural forces that can be used to build amazing teams. He is a qualified chartered surveyor, and also has a Masters degree in Coaching and Behavioural Change. Tony primarily works as an advisor to teams working on major projects where collaboration is recognised as being critical to success.
Prior to starting out as a team specialist, Tony worked on both the client and the consultancy side of many major projects, including a senior management role in a substantial UK construction consultancy, and also as a director of a global engineering business.
His previous books include Performance Coaching for Complex Projects and The Team Coaching Toolkit. Tony lectures frequently, both to students at two London Universities, as well as to individuals and groups undertaking professional development training.
The Kindle edition of Big Teams is just 99p/99c until publication on 26 March.