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The 12 fundamentals for project success at Telstra


Posted on March 5, 2018

5 min read

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.

Role clarity


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.

Adequate Planning

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.

Project Management at Telstra


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.


Independent reviews

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.

Manage Change

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.

Manage Risk

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.

The way forward for the Next 100 Women in Tech

Telstra Careers Advice

Posted on October 19, 2017

3 min read

Did you know that 14% of executive roles are currently led by women? While discussions around gender inequality in the workplace have become more prevalent, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.

The Next 100 Women in Tech is a networking event designed to promote and attract females to workplace opportunities in the technology industry while also raising the profile of roles available to them. It aims to assist in balancing out the number of females working in traditionally male-dominated industries through a variety of means.

I was chosen to participate in this year’s event as a panellist and I couldn’t be more excited. I’m passionate about speaking about gender equality in the workplace and I’m actively pushing the boundaries. I know we can correct the perceptions around workplace gender inequality and it all starts with having the right conversations with the right people at the right time.

During the panel, I talked about balance for women in the workplace as well as the perceptions and misconceptions that go with balancing parenthood with your full-time job. I also discussed why gender balance is so important in the workplace. This included what we need to do to make changes for the better, and ensure more equality in future workplaces for the next generation.

Here at Telstra we run a fantastic Graduate Program where we have a strong focus on female talent, and are looking to increase our female intake year on year especially in the technical, STEM-related roles. Our Operations Female Sponsorship programme also helps to promote networking opportunities for our female leaders which will help to create connections across the organisation and open doors for future possibilities.

Events like this are important to help us leap-frog the issues we’re faced with in our workplaces across the country. Telstra’s current female gender representation goal of 35% by 2020 is admirable, but sometimes I wonder about a future where this is higher. Will we ever over-achieve if we don’t aim for 50%? I know this may seem a little ambitious, but as they say, shoot for the moon and even if you miss, you’ll land amongst the stars!

These events also provide great networking opportunities and help raise visibility for candidates who are looking to prove themselves in a new industry. I hope that my time there can help make some potential applicants feel confident in their abilities, seek out and apply for a role that suits them, and help in attaining equality for a more balanced workforce.

You can learn more about the Next 100 Women in Tech event where I recently spoke, but if you’re looking for more information on where to start your own career in tech, you’re already in the right place.

Leadership lessons I learnt early on in my career

Telstra Careers Advice

Posted on October 9, 2017

4 min read

For some people leadership skills come naturally, while for others it’s learnt through mentorship or management programs at work.

Our Executive Director of Global Products, Michelle Bendschneider, became a leader early on in her career and had to learn pretty quickly what it takes to lead a team.

So we asked about her leadership journey and the things she learnt along the way that could help others.

Here is what she told us:

When did you first become a leader?

I first became a people leader at a young age. I was 22 and I had a team of roughly 15. I had just started in the world of SAP, which was taking off in the mid-90s in the rate of knots and we were, at the time, deploying one of the largest solutions for that product in the world.

What I had carriage over was the leadership of a team that focused on financial transformation strategy in that business. It was a big change for me; previously I was an individual contributor without a team and had to learn how to become a leader, virtually overnight.

This role was my first bridge into leadership, transitioning from purely technology to business technology, and I never lost that straddle between a strong technology background but with a focus on business leadership, business strategy and eventually sales and P&L related roles.

What was the biggest challenge you faced as a young leader?

My biggest challenge was the team that worked for me was significantly older in age and older in tenure in the organisation.

It was a big cultural learning for me in terms of how to deal with a new team dynamic, so I had to lead with a big dose of empathy and being able to see it from their perspective, which was a really hard skill to come to terms with at a young age.

Did you have mentors along the way?

Absolutely.  I had several coaches and I still do. I look to a variety of leaders that I admire for a variety of reasons. The way they communicate, the way they focus on the financial hygiene of their business, the way they handle problems and situations etc.

I find that my learnings are strongest in motion and alongside great leaders. At the time I had two or three leaders in the business that I looked up to and I would bounce ideas off. I had a great relationship with my mentors and they helped shaped my leadership to this day.

Which current leader do you look up to and why?

I have a great relationship with an industry leader who I have known for a long period of time. What I love is their balance between strong humanistic style of leadership where you can engage and connect with hearts and minds, but balance the needs of the business.

The ability to make tough decisions with cadence and speed, but be authentic and human in doing so.

What advice would you give to your younger-self when you first became a leader?

I would tell myself to slow down a little; that is, not to respond in the moment.

I would give myself the permission to balance the passion and energy and pace with a moment of mindfulness, and to enjoy the ride.


– Find a good mentor who you can learn from
– Gain insights from leaders in your business
– Be authentic

If you’re interested in learning more about where a career at Telstra could take you, you’re already in the right place.

Curious to learn more? Don’t miss:

5 ways to make meetings hearing smart

Business and Enterprise

Posted on January 11, 2016

1 min read

It’s a new year and that means most of us will be returning to work soon enough for another year of endless meetings. Love em or hate em, meetings make the corporate world go round….but not everyone can always contribute evenly for various reasons.

For example, if you are like me and suffer from a hearing impairment, they can make contributing really tough. So what can we do to make meetings easy for everyone involved? Rather than just saying these are tips for people with bad hearing, consider these tips to start your 2016 meeting schedule fresh, so all your team members get the best out of them.


Disclaimer: This is a personal entry and part or all of it is based on third party product descriptions, without further research; any commentary on third party products in this article is not intended to be an endorsement by Telstra, which has no association with the mentioned products unless expressly stated otherwise.

Who is Telstra’s new CEO, Andrew Penn?

Telstra News

Posted on February 20, 2015

2 min read

This morning we announced that Andrew Penn will be stepping up as CEO here at Telstra from 1 May, following David’s retirement as CEO after almost six years.

Who is Andrew Penn? Read more about his career below. (more…)

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