Collaboration: The Key to Project Success?

In October 2012 the BBC broadcast a 2-part series by Evan Davis entitled ‘Built in Britain’ http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01nd290.

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In these programmes Evan explored the potential for major infrastructure projects to act as a catalyst for reinvigorating the UK economy. In part 2, the story focused on two major projects; the high speed rail link between St Pancras /Channel Tunnel and the 2012 Olympic Park. The projects and the potential economic impact were very interesting.

The programme explored the reasons for the success of these two projects and sought to explain the reasons for our ‘new found ability to deliver complex projects successfully’. In addition to funding and engineering excellence, key project people identified a significant reason for the success of these projects in comparison to previous experiences was the contractual relationships set-up; which really encouraged people to work together – a very practical demonstration of the power of collaboration.

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This is music to the ears. For many years I have worked with projects, engineering, construction and business change projects. In my experience the most successful projects emerge when project teams really do work together and engage their stakeholders effectively.

Global Change

The Project Director inherited a global business change project that had experienced two previous false starts. The Director instigated monthly, off-site, facilitated workshops which meant from the beginning of the project all the stakeholders in the project got together to set expectations, reviewed progress and sorted out challenges that were being faced. By doing this they really pulled together.

New IT Systems

Many business change projects incorporating new IT and the solutions need to be rolled out across numerous business units in the country.  For one organisation they made a significant step towards collaboration by arranging a short sequence of facilitated project launch workshops .

During these different workshops the facilitators focused on providing processes that enabled participants to absolutely engage in the highly uncertain situations.

These workshops went much further than the traditional project kick-off meetings where PowerPoint slides are shown and contact details are exchanged. In these facilitated workshops differing viewpoints and perspectives at the start of the project were seen as enriching the process. Through a series of professionally facilitated steps, all participants were able to share, explore and ultimately shape their projects. This led to true collaboration.

Just as in the recent infrastructure projects described in the Evan Davis programme, these business change projects were all delivered very successfully.

Perhaps the evidence points to an emergent clue – the key that unlocks a stream of successful projects – true collaboration requires time together to build trust and engagement
Talk to us about how we can help you to set up early project team engagement sessions  info@centreforfacilitation.co.uk

 

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What Makes Change Programmes Stick?

Currently I am working on four independent pieces of work which can be described as business change. These involve, to varying degrees, changed ways of working, new IT solutions, strategic initiatives to address the market. All have in common the desire to improve the organisation. In every case there is a senior sponsor holding some fairly clear thoughts on the need for the change but not so sure about the means to achieve. Ultimately what is achieved from all of these various programmes will be largely dependent upon the extent to which people grasp the change and make it happen.
I am quietly very confident that all of these programmes will be successful. Yet this seems at odds with the numerous surveys that would suggest that as many as 3 out of 4 change programmes fail to meet expectations. In a way it feels as though we have grown change programmes into monsters – and they scare us! This often leads to a response that mobilises various resources, books, courses, consultants, complex models which in turn either leads to confusion or paralysis or both. Does this have to be so? I think not!

At the heart of many, if not all, change programmes – are people. All sorts of people, people who have identified the need for change (sponsors), people who agree the need (advocates), people who feel threatened by the change, people who can bring potentially useful specialist expertise and other people, probably the majority, who either haven’t heard about the change programme at all, or if they have – just wonder what is going on.

If the situation described above is the reality, then it seems that fundamentally that to move forward and to build momentum it is simple…. people need to talk to each other. However, somehow this gets lost in the hustle and bustle of the day-to-day pressures. Combine this with the noise from the advice and teachings of the books, courses, consultants, complex models and the desire to be ‘seen to be doing something’ and surprise, surprise whatever results are, or are not delivered, there are always massive gaps versus expectations.

Compare this to my current role as a facilitator on the four different change programmes. In each case I am working closely with the sponsors to ensure that we create the appropriate environment for people to be able to talk to each other. Of course, it is not just to talk, it is to listen, to ask questions, to challenge, to propose, to explore and to listen again – so that everyone builds a shared understanding, not only of what the change is aiming to achieve, but also how they can shape, influence, contribute to –  and ultimately own the change. I know how important these discussions will be in making the change stick and I am looking forward to observing how powerful this seemingly simple process is in practice.

nigelchapman@centreforfacilitation.co.uk