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Project Execution Models

“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.”


Project Execution

Following on from my earlier post on lessons learned during nine action filled days in San Francisco (read it here), I wanted to take some time to discuss possibly the most important part of your project once you have selected it – project execution.

From the time I spent in San Francisco, I learned the following:

  1. Diversity is a positive force and one to be embraced fully.
  2. Always expect the unexpected and be prepared.
  3. Exercise is an energy giver – make sure you find a form that suits you best and make it a daily practice.
  4. Gratitude for what you have and for those who are an important part of your life, makes you a better, more complete person.
  5. Don’t forget those who are currently riding a bad streak – help them break that bad streak.
  6. Building a reputation is all about living your values through every interaction you have with your clients.
  7. Invest in the youngest members of society as they hold the keys to the long-term success.
  8. Identify and focus on what is most important to you.
  9. Environment is everything – create one that promotes interactions.
  10. Creating a multi-dimensional environment for working and living is key to innovation – both the working and living environment.
  11. Don’t forget to spend time with and on the things most important to you.
  12. Don’t forget to unplug from the internet – it rekindles the thinking process.
  13. Embrace the new, but don’t forget to retain the best of your history.
  14. Whatever you do, do it with style.

Each of these has an application when we are looking at improving our project execution ability/capacity – let’s take a look at each in turn.

Diversity is a positive force and one to be embraced fully.

Not diverse enough!

Not diverse enough!

People, Team, Operating Model and Mindset.

Having the foresight and confidence to both identify and recruit the key skill sets required for optimal execution is critical to developing a high performance team. As a project or function manager, it is essential that you recruit a diverse team, some of whom will be better than you at certain critical activities. Focus on building the team you really need and if you are not a little nervous about some of the decisions you are making, then you may not be thinking about them hard enough.

Another important dimension of the team you build, is that they are unified by a common purpose and are prepared to operate within your chosen operating model (often documented as a project execution plan). The common purpose should be established from the outset of the project, and is the role of the project sponsor and project manager, plus certain key stakeholders – make this crystal clear to everyone on your team.

The operating model is a unifying force that set the ground rules for how the team will execute on a day-to-day basis. I like to develop this with advice from the team and get them to sign up to it – if we need to adopt it along the way, then we do it based on the benefits, regardless of what the source of the improvement is. It is very beneficial to have this well documented to avoid any conflict or misunderstanding. The only way that there can be any conflict then with respect to execution is if people breach these procedures and principles.

Operating principles and the collective mindset of the team are essential ingredients to executing as a high performing team. You need to take the time out to develop and agree these with the team from the outset and ensure that when you add new members to your team, you have a process to help them operate within and understand the value of these principles.

Always expect the unexpected and be prepared.

Project delivery is not a linear journey from the start to the finish. By definition, it is an exercise with a degree of discovery and we need to be prepared to encounter, understand and deal with these discoveries while continuing to make progress towards our big objectives – easier said than done.

One tool which can help is greatly is a robust risk management process. With experience and input from subject matter experts, we can analyse the likely risks associated with our project delivery and based on their potential impact, decide to build particular mitigation strategies to manage the risks. Risk management is a critical activity in the successful execution of projects – however, I would like to add some caveats.

  1. Dont be afraid to take calculated risks, looking firstly at the potential downside should the risk materialise and then deciding on your course of action (read a great article from Richard Branson here.
  2. Don’t create phantom risks – too many project pay lip service to risk management and develop a register of “risks” that have been developed by the “team” – almost to satisfy someone else rather than to manage their project execution effectively. Make sure you are not that team.

Another tool is your “Mindset”. In the face of the unexpected, remain calm and gather the best data that is available and deal with these facts. A calm measured approach is always a good starting point, as opposed to a panicked approach. Ensure that there is no blame or recrimination – the focus should be on solving the issue at hand.

Exercise is an energy giver – make sure you find a form that suits you best and make it a daily practice.

Energy is a key ingredient in getting things done – we need our teams to have the requisite energy. Make it easy for people to take time out for exercise. Try team celebrations that involve physical activity, make sure people are not overworking (hours, more than 45-50 hours per week on a consistent basis is not good).

Gratitude for what you have and for those who are an important part your life, makes you a better, more complete person.

Thank you – these two words make your life better and that of the people you say it too. Make sure you take time to show your appreciation to team members for their efforts and achievements – it is the fuel of life. Ensure that you really mean it and that what you appreciate is meaningful to you – authentic. Make this one of the teams core operating principles.

Don’t forget those who are currently riding a bad streak – help them break that bad streak.

Together we can reach greater heights!

Together we can reach greater heights!

To operate as a team, you need to support each other – in good times and bad. I will be looking at my teams to see how I can help anywhere that there is someone who is having a run of bad luck – often this can be turned around by minor changes, such as better focus or even relaxing a little more and letting the process deliver the results as opposed to forcing results.

That cover the first 5 lessons learned and with a view of what we can do differently from now on to improve our project delivery. I will write about the other lessons learned and how to apply them in another post next week. Please share your thoughts on the topics discussed here – I would love to hear from you.

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