Fund managers around the world have been focusing closely on the ability of the resource companies they invest in to deliver cost-effective projects on time. “Blow outs” have been impacting projects all over the world. Even though cost pressures at this writing (September 2009) have decreased since the Global Financial Crisis, there are still regions suffering from acute shortages of resources and consequent increases in wages, salaries, and materials.
The project cited herein was running late by many months, with no clear path to completion. Cost overruns were projected to be significant, but the exact scope of the overruns was not well understood.
Working with the new Project Director—who also conducted technical reviews of engineering, costs, planning and controls—JMJ examined the “subjective” aspects of the project: attitudes, beliefs, values and intentions of individuals and an assessment of the existing culture. Twenty-five individual interviews were conducted on site and at the project’s engineering office.
On the positive side, industrial relations and safety performance ranked well relative to the owner’s other projects in the region. Morale on site was improving. Technical design was leading-edge. The project team comprised many hard-working, high-caliber people who were committed to producing an outstanding facility.
On the negative side, there was a distinct lack of urgency. Morale in the engineering office was low. People appeared complacent despite the poor condition of the project, preventing any possibility of improving performance. There was serious division between the owner and contractor teams. Open communication was hindered by fear of passing on anything that could be considered bad news. There was considerable conflict between certain project and functional departments. A number of leaders were not sufficiently visible on site, remaining remote from the action. The schedule was highly uncertain, with severely impaired ability to measure and control progress and costs. Direction and clarity of goals was missing. Disputes over technical issues dominated the attention of managers. Problem-solving was poor as a result of defensive behavior.
The new Project Director’s preference was to inspire people to action rather than replace them. Skill levels were acceptable; the missing ingredients were a high-performance culture and effective leadership. Additionally, the tight labor market in the region made large-scale team replacements impossible.
With JMJ’s input, the Project Director articulated a vision for the team as “Zero Harm, One Team, Delivery Focus.” Zero Harm demonstrated that project leaders were authentically committed to safety and taking care of people, which were critical elements in retaining good people and eliciting discretionary effort. One Team harnessed the efforts of a demoralized group by removing unproductive conflict from the system, encouraging team work and discouraging cynicism and division. Delivery Focus was the re-baseline of schedule and cost, with clearly defined goals and milestones on the way to successful project commissioning.
The Project Director realized that a mission and vision roll out was going to be insufficient to enable the team to work together effectively. JMJ worked with him to develop an integrated, multi-faceted strategy of leadership development, communication and implementation to create the desired shift in culture and performance.
JMJ’s High-Performance Projects™ (HPP™) approach supported the leadership intervention. This model ascribes equal importance to the subjective aspects of project management (e.g., culture, values, beliefs, and the intentions and attitudes of individuals) alongside the traditional focus on “objective” elements (systems, controls, planning, performance measurement and behavior).
In the JMJ model, leadership is the key driver to creating conditions in which outstanding results can be accomplished. Leadership is treated as an ongoing activity, rather than a character trait or a set of behaviors. Under the JMJ approach, leaders:
Senior leadership on the project took a number of steps to illustrate their commitment to the “One Team” philosophy:
Importantly, leadership constantly reinforced to the previously demoralized team that the project was going to be recovered successfully, demonstrating an authentic positive attitude backed up by meaningful action. This was supported by JMJ’s HPP team model, a four-phased approach that includes:
Comments from the project team illustrate their perception of the benefits of JMJ’s approach: “It was all about going forward and taking strong steps…passion, pride, resolve, conviction, energy and dedication on a daily basis.”
Overall, the High-Performance Projects approach has, in partnership with the client, created excellent results. For example:
“JMJ's High-Performance Projects™ approach brought out a passionate commitment from leaders who successfully won over the sceptics. Their multifaceted model combined the excellence of the 'hard' aspects of project management with excellence in the 'soft skills.' JMJ is the expert in building high-performance cultures.”
Project Director, Global Mining Company
Global Mining Company
Building High Performance Projects™
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