Each year in our business, around 900 project managers and 170 project sponsors oversee approximately $4.6 billion worth of capital projects around the world.
Despite the diverse nature of the projects carried out across networks, consumer products, small and large businesses and government, there exists a core set of project fundamentals that can lead to successful project outcomes across all our projects. These fundamentals are informed by insights derived from post implementation reviews and key stakeholder interviews across all of our business units.
When understood and used effectively by project sponsors and project managers, these fundamentals can act as both lead indicators for project success and as a code of professional conduct for your project workforce. Furthermore, these fundamentals support our agile ways of working principles, so they can be applied to any sort of delivery method.
The 12 fundamentals are grouped into four categories: Role Clarity, Front End Loading, Experience and Assurance.
Alignment is key. Having clarity on what you are setting out to do and having everyone aligned on the business or customer outcome is a key success factor. Ensure that all project team members and stakeholders are aligned to the project objectives, the goals of the project and the values and methods to which the project is being delivered. Stop and check for alignment regularly.
Single point of leadership and accountability for project outcomes
Act as the person accountable to deliver the project outcomes. This includes the ultimate responsibility for decisions on implementation and fulfilling the promises made to seek approval. If you have two sponsors or two project ‘leaders’, fix it – this will erode accountability and will result in people bypassing you for decisions.
Collaborate on Expectations and Goals
Collaborate, clearly outline and communicate expectations and goals to the project team members. You cannot over communicate in a project. Utilise daily stand-ups, floor walks or whatever you need to get expectations and goals in front of the team at all times. Take a pulse check each week – ask “Do I understand what is expected of me this week and why I need to complete it?”
Front end loading
Optimise the Solution
Albert Einstein once said “If I had an hour to save the world, I would first spend 55 minutes defining the problem and only 5 minutes finding the solution.” Too often we are too eager to get started on building something when we don’t yet know what we are trying to solve.
In a rush to build something, we end up delivering a product few people want and have spent far too much money on getting it out the door. After all, the right answer comes from asking better questions. It takes discipline and courage to investigate all possible project options and pursue the most optimised project solution. The most optimised solution ensures the best outcome for Telstra, its customers and minimises waste in delivery.
The key word here is adequate. This logically follows from the finding above. Don’t over plan for the phase you are in – undertake only sufficient analysis and planning to meet the phase objectives. Your aim is to achieve a significant level of accuracy and confidence in being able to move forward to the next phase of work. This includes making sure you have the resources allocated to you in order to move to the next phase successfully.
Manage Upwards Effectively
Manage requirements, expectations and perceptions from key business decision makers. Seek guidance on a regular basis from the key business leaders so that you can give confidence and direction to the project team.
Consistency and Discipline
Ensure consistency and discipline in keeping all project scope/features, schedule, cost, risk and other information up to date and transparent in systems, dojos, war rooms or any other common environment. The more you share, the smaller the perception that you are forming a moat around your project.
Don’t neglect your stakeholders
Ensure consistent, concise and unambiguous information and communication to stakeholders at all times. This includes producing status reports on a regular basis and to the satisfaction and needs of stakeholders, and inviting them into showcases at every opportunity. You are likely to run into the same stakeholders again on another project, so don’t walk away from your project with a bad reputation.
Applicable project experience
Demonstrate that you have the necessary skills and experience required for the project. This includes knowledge in the delivery way of working and in the product/content itself. If you don’t have it, make sure you obtain it during the project.
Subscribe to independent reviews to tap into knowledge and experience so that the project can benefit from progressing into the next phase with greater confidence. Think of it like servicing your car every 6 months, rather than having to call a tow truck one night. Make the reviews proactive so that they occur in parallel to getting ready to move to the next phase.
Once you have agreed on a set of features or scope for the upcoming cycle or phase, keep changes to a minimum. Manage changes in a disciplined way so that everyone knows there is a proper process and so that the impact to deadlines, budgets and benefits are understood before those changes are carried out.
Risks are measured uncertainties that could impact your project. At every opportunity, you should assess the risks against your project and make decisions accordingly so that the project is delivered with minimal unmitigated risk events.