How to instil the right behaviours in your project team

Our next Intelligent Projects Forum will be on Wednesday 6th March 2013. We will meet in a central London restaurant from around 6.30pm onwards.

Our agenda for the evening will be:

'How to instil the right behaviours in your teams?'

We have been hosting these events for two years and the group has grown considerably in numbers and also developed some frameworks for success such as theNine Serial Project Killers and Sponsorship Matters.  We are in the process of reiviewing our plans for the year going forward and we would be interested in your views on a group that is dedicated to progressing project success. 

We would be delighted to hear from you with any thoughts around the agenda items or if you would like further information about the Intelligent Projects Forum.

 

Posted on September 24, 2014 and filed under 2013, People.

Coast to coast charity bike ride

You may well remember that a group of the Pelicam team undertook a cycling challenge for our nominated charity Lifelites.  We cycled the 90 miles of the Ridgeway in two days and successfully raised £5000 for the wonderful charity that gives IT support to children’s hospices around the country.  Two years ago another team of brave cyclists took part in the London to Brighton bike ride - “never again”, they said!

Time does dull the memory and we are planning our next challenge in a hope to raise some much needed funds for Lifelites and the children’s hospices.  Our plan this year is to cycle the coast to coast in the north of England.  The route is from Cumbria to Northumberland – across the Pennines and Hadrian’s wall!  I’m sure it will be hilly, it certainly could be wet but the experience will be second to none.

Pelicam would like to complete this challenge as a team and we would be delighted if our clients and Practitioners could join us.  We plan to complete the challenge over three days and need to build that inot our schedules.

Please can you contact me if you would like to take part, either for the whole three days or just for part of it.  Any hints and tips that the professionals out there may have then please let us know! 

 

Posted on September 24, 2014 and filed under 2013, Charity.

Sponsorship Matters -doesn't it?

We all know that the contribution of the sponsor (responsible owner or accountable executive) in any project remains a defining critical success factor, as does the interaction between the sponsor and the project team members.   The Pelicam Health Check research identified that 84% of failing projects had evidence of poor sponsorship! 

Sponsorship is a subject that has been discussed at length by the Intelligent Projects Forum (IPF), all members of the forum admitted that their companies were aware of the issues and were taking steps to improve them, but that they have not consistently resolved the shortfall in performance in this area.  
Through the IPF, Pelicam has devised a management framework that should address the challenge from a new angle – Sponsorship Matters.

 

Posted on September 24, 2014 and filed under 2013, Sponsorship.

Do our sponsors need coaching?

In business today people are assailed by some version of the phrase ‘change is permanent’.  Modern business pressures are intense; globalisation, the pace of new technology, regulation, to name but three.  Most businesses have significant change programmes.  Often this change in being implemented in the domains of one’s peers who themselves have tough targets to achieve in their line roles.  Leadership of this scale of change can be very challenging.

Sponsors, project partners and change leaders may have exceptional performance and knowledge in their field of specialism and they often benefit from the change that they are managing, but where do they go to for support and advice on how to sponsor this process effectively? 

One option is coaching/mentoring.  The two terms are often used interchangeably, in my view incorrectly but both are extremely valuable tools. 

Coaching involves skilled questioning to arrive at the solutions to their problems. In this context it is not essential for the coach to have subject knowledge.

Mentoring however, involves the sharing of the mentor’s knowledge and experience. Clearly subject knowledge is essential in this relationship.

Whilst discussing the challenges around sponsorship of projects, some of the members of the Intelligent Projects Forum found that coaching and mentoring sessions can be a valuable haven for leaders under the intense pressure of both the day to day and the change programmes, some offer it informally, others as a formal induction to being a project sponsor.  Coaching is a time for leaders to focus on themselves and their issues in an environment designed to help them solve their problems and think clearly through what needs to be done.  A good coach will use these sessions to firmly challenge the coachee for the benefit of both the coachee and the business.

In their assurance work Pelicam have seen where coaching and mentoring support has had a profound effect on the capability of leaders to deliver change and offer this service as part of their support for clients.  Following the Realising Project Intelligence courses a follow up mentoring session is extremely valuable offering the delegate a chance to talk through their challenges and how they are implementing good practice when running their projects.

Pelicam’s Phil Lee is qualified as a coach to level 7 of the Institute of Leadership and Management.  He has previously held Board level roles with leading Building Societies and the Co-operative Bank, prior to that he worked in retail and with Ernst & Young.  His roles have included Finance, Operations, IT and Change.

 

Posted on September 24, 2014 and filed under 2013, Marketing.

The Intelligent Projects Network - ‘Sponsorship, Complexity and Do-ability’

Pelicam’s ‘Intelligent Projects Network’ event took place on Wednesday 12th September, at the Royal Exchange Grand Café in London. The evening was very successful, with guests networking over drinks and canapés whilst discussing the topic for the evening, ‘sponsorship, complexity and do-ability’.

We asked expert independent speaker and author of The Lazy Project Manager, Peter Taylor, to give a talk, providing an external perspective on the subject-matter. Peter’s background in project management and marketing for the last 27 years, with the last 8 years leading PMOs, enabled him to share his extensive experience of dealing with sponsors. This was supported by his key findings from the research for his new book Strategies for Sponsorship, as he explored what makes a ‘good’ sponsor and called everyone into action in his Campaign for Real Project Sponsors.

There was also a short presentation from Senior Pelicam Practitioner and ex-Head of Project and Portfolio Management at Royal Mail, Alan Ogrizovic. This offered guests an alternative perspective, as Alan used his experience as a practitioner to discuss ways of getting the most out of stakeholders and sponsors, to ensure project success. He supported this with his own industry intelligence, as well as Pelicam’s research into the subject - showing that poor stakeholder involvement is evident in 84% of failed projects.

These talks stimulated some interesting discussion, challenging questions and differing perspectives; as all guests, practitioners and speakers were able to voice their varied experiences. The most significant points raised were surrounding the role of the sponsor and their responsibilities in a typical project. This included their interaction with the project manager, their position within the hierarchy of the organisation, and the difficulties of managing a sponsor that you do not choose to work with. One of the greatest concerns that emerged was the general assumption that sponsors already know how to fulfil their role, resulting in a lack of training available to them.

Overall, it was both an enjoyable and productive evening, involving some in-depth discussion which encouraged guests to reconsider how they can promote good sponsorship. Attendees were also able to develop new contacts and share their own insights, over canapés and drinks. We’d like to thank all our guests for a great evening, and look forward to the next ‘Intelligent Projects Network’.

 

Posted on September 24, 2014 and filed under 2012, Sponsorship.

Good sponsorship - a case study of success

Last year, I worked alongside someone who demonstrated the powerful effect that a good sponsor can have over the execution of a successful project.

The Managing Director of Group Technology at a large telecoms organisation acted as the sponsor for the largest project ever undertaken by the company. The project consisted of replacing the core revenue and customer management systems; a huge task which required the support of a new team of over 200 people, and impacted on every part of the business.

Despite the vast scale of this project, the sponsor’s attributes, experience and skills proved that anything is possible with the support of an effective sponsor. These can be summarised in four key areas:

Leadership

Strong leadership is one of the most vital characteristics of a good sponsor in their contribution towards the project’s success. Our sponsor proved this by displaying decisiveness and assertiveness at all times, as he was prepared to make tough decisions quickly when presented with the right level of supporting information. He consistently maintained strong commitment to the programme and never faulted, even during the most difficult and challenging times. Many sponsors would have fallen by the wayside and taken a get-out when things got really tough, but he didn’t, because he genuinely believed in the project and our ability to deliver.

Whilst strong leadership demands a disciplined approach, our sponsor demonstrated the importance of pairing this with support. Although he provided constant, consistent, and robust challenge to ensure that the team was always on the ball, this was always implemented in an accommodating way. For example, he understood that a team working as hard as we were, may miss things; so he voiced any neglected areas he could identify with honesty, but never with accusation.

Programme Board

A sponsor’s interaction with the programme board is an area that demands both discipline and support for the project to run smoothly. Our sponsor’s method of managing the programme board involved enabling us to get on with delivery, whilst he dealt with their issues and concerns. Nevertheless, he was always on-hand to support the team with difficult messages. It was this fine-balance that enabled the programme to go live successfully despite significant compromise along the way from the senior stakeholders.

The sponsor ensured that the programme board was effective by making sure decisions were always made in a timely fashion, and guaranteeing collective responsibility from all involved. Members of the board all had a voice, which was respected; and whilst the sponsor supported the programme team, he rightly did not prevent us being subjected to significant challenge.

Work Ethic

Led from the front with a truly inspiring work ethic, the programme team were working six or seven days a week and fourteen hour days for long periods during the programme, yet the sponsor matched the team hour for hour. I spent several hours on the phone with him at weekends and in the evenings on conference calls; he proved himself to be a do-as-I-do sponsor not a do-as-I-say sponsor.

Another valuable, yet often rare attribute of a sponsor, is the ability to remain personable and approachable, despite being under enormous pressure. During critical periods, our sponsor not only maintained this attitude, but also managed to reflect it onto the behaviour of his peers. He encouraged them to give us space when we needed it and to have a presence when appropriate – something the team very much appreciated. For example; on one occasion both the sponsor and the finance director stayed in the office until 2am, waiting for us to finish something, because we needed them to support our validation of a particular activity so that we could continue.

Challenge, Focus and Detail

Sponsors must be able to provide challenge, and accept challenge in return. During difficult times there were some robust conversations which our sponsor respected, reacting impeccably to ensure that the right outcome was reached. This sponsor thus demonstrated a great attention to detail, and the ability to identify potential issues and potential opportunities from a very high level. He was genuinely able to provide solutions to problems as well as providing the challenge. 

When Pelicam was asked to intervene with this project, it was an outwardly impossible task. The programme team and leadership must take enormous credit for making the impossible possible; however, this simply would not have been possible without, what I can call, the most complete, committed and competent sponsor I have ever worked with.


Posted on September 24, 2014 and filed under Sponsorship, 2012.

Change Sponsorship: Art or Science…?

Can change sponsorship be effective by simply following a set of rules? Or are a much subtler range of skills required?

I would certainly argue a bit of both; key pre-requisites for effective sponsorship are a combination of personal commitment (emotional and time), together with a strong change governance framework within which to function.  

Sponsorship and governance related issues are one of the most common shortfalls that Pelicam encounter whilst conducting assurance assignments. This is evident in our recent analysis of serial project killers, indicating that over two thirds of the project failures we reviewed have been attributed to stakeholder/sponsor behaviour to some degree.   This brief article highlights the key dynamics associated with successful change sponsorship.  Furthermore, it provides both change delivery leaders and sponsors themselves with a series of considerations that can be applied to determine whether sponsorship related ‘conditions for success’ are prevalent within a particular project or programme.

Let’s begin by identifying the dynamics associated with a good sponsor. I believe that Eddie Obeng in his book Perfect Projects* captures these well, defining the ideal sponsor ‘as a person who:

invented the idea and really wants to do it

controls the money

wants the end product or will end up living with it

can provide effective high-level representation, and smooth out the political battles before you get to them

‘owns’ the resources

acts as an effective sounding board/mentor.’

The last of these in my experience is key, and more often than not sadly missing.  An effective sponsor is one with emotional attachment to a project and who provides a combination of support and regular constructive critical challenge to the project manager.

Coming back to the question of ‘Art or Science?’: for me the ‘Art’ dimension is the key prerequisite – the emotional attachment and intellectual investment in understanding the role of the sponsor.   The ‘Science’ dimension is then translating the understanding of the role into day-to-day behaviours. This involves ensuring effective project governance and delivery frameworks are in place; that the project team remains 100% focused on realizing the desired outcomes, and that obstructions and challenges are quickly and decisively resolved.

In terms of specific shortfalls to highlight;the following are those that Pelicam most often encounter as related to project failures:

  • Sponsors don’t necessarily understand what good  sponsorship means (and it is difficult to tell them)
  • Sponsors delegate/ leave  duties, which they should personally handle, to the programme manager
  • Sponsors don’t resolve  senior stakeholder differences
  • Sponsors can be parochial, allowing projects to compete against each other
  • Sponsors can be difficult to engage with / pin down
  • Sponsor commitment wanes over time due to crowded change agenda
  • Sponsors don’t communicate the vision / create the organisational will  and energy
  • Sponsors fail to provide constant reinforcement
  • Sponsors don’t always provide the necessary resources
  • Sponsors don’t like bad or unpalatable news
  • Sponsors don’t provide enough recognition for success
  • Sponsors fail to provide the necessary motivation to the project team
  • Sponsors don’t naturally drive good governance
  • Sponsors put their own reputation and career before the project’s needs
  • Sponsors do not have the gravitas and experience to drive change
  • Sponsors don’t role model the behaviours required
  • Sponsors celebrate success too early,  failing to embed change or realise benefits
  • Sponsors don’t develop meaningful relationships with key suppliers
  • Sponsors move on
  • Sponsors don’t know what questions to ask
  • Successful change sponsorship is thus both an art and a science. The scientific element demands the execution of sponsorship and change roles rigorously and effectively, whilst the artistic side involves knowing how to do that well, which predominantly comes from experience.
  • I am sure that these sponsorship related shortfalls will resonate with many of the readers of this newsletter.   Resolving them can be a very difficult (though rewarding) task, and one that Pelicam are regularly engaged to support. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms highlighted above and would welcome thoughts on how to resolve these, please do not hesitate to get in touch. 

 

 

Posted on September 24, 2014 and filed under Sponsorship, 2012.

Sponsorship is a bit like driving

Very few of us would readily admit that we were poor drivers, but we all know there is plenty of poor driving around. It’s a bit like that with sponsorship of major projects, very few senior individuals will admit to being poor sponsors but .....

We explored this issue of sponsorship at our recent Intelligent Projects Forum event to try to acquire a better understanding of how deeply rooted sponsorship problems are across industry today. Not surprisingly, there was a consistent view from the industry leaders present that poor sponsorship continues to be one of the major causes of project failure.  Pelicam can back this up following an analysis of around 50 project healtchecks during recent years where poor sponsorship was found to be common across most of the nine serial project killers that we often refer to.

This being the case, one is left wondering why, as these are the individuals who are accountable (or should be) for project success and given their senior status as senior individuals one would expect that they would have the skills, experience and gravitas to grasp this sponsor role.

The group talked about educating sponsors, ensuring that they understand what good sponsorship means, but this can be difficult, even career limiting. For example, should an emerging project manager suggest this at their first one-to- one session with their sponsor it may not be well received, so we need to be more discreet than this! A couple of organisations present said that they had tried “sponsorship training/coaching”, but the people who volunteered were actually the more capable sponsors. Those who really needed the coaching didn’t volunteer, i.e. the poor driving analogy.

The general consensus of the group was that the relationship between project manager and sponsor is vitally important. So, if we agree that it may not always be straightforward to get our sponsor’s properly equipped, we can help our project managers by ensuring their toolkit includes “how to get the most from my sponsor”. We considered three areas -

 

1.     The first is the development of the relationship between project manager and sponsor such that regular and ad-hoc conversations are taking place and that healthy challenge is viewed as positive.

2.     The second area to focus on is to ensure there is clear delineation of duties between the sponsor and project manager. One of the most common problems we see with sponsors is that they delegate too many of their duties to the project manager, and given that the project managers  are usually in a more junior role in the organisation they find it difficult to push back. This is where the project manager needs to demonstrate courage (an important behaviour for all good project managers) as well as skilful influencing techniques.

3.     Thirdly, a good project manager will need to demonstrate understanding from a business perspective as this will help the sponsor/project management dialogue. 


By addressing these three areas, the project manager will be in a stronger position to get what he/she needs from the sponsor. Not the perfect answer to the problem by any means but it goes some way and would likely reduce the stress levels currently tolerated.  

 

The group agreed that it’s not that sponsors in today’s business world are incompetent, more that there is such a crowded business change agenda that they don’t often have the headroom to properly discharge their responsibilities as sponsor. So this really becomes a strategic boardroom issue. All organisations have a change agenda, so their challenge is to ensure that it has the right resources to fulfil the change requirements, i.e. can they properly manage their portfolio of change. In many cases we believe it can’t and that they are taking on too much which manifests itself in poor sponsorship and failure.

The next IPF forum is planned for September at which we will be aiming to provide some practical solutions to the issue or poor driving, ... sorry poor sponsorship.

 

Posted on September 24, 2014 and filed under 2012, Sponsorship.