In addressing why ultra large projects continue to fall short of expectations—despite all the experience, learning, discussion, and analysis that has been fed into this area down the years—Mckinsey and Company compiled a report titled: The art of project leadership which set out to explore the unique success factors drawn from the experience of “project practitioners”—people with hands-on experience in ultra large project delivery.
The following leadership practices were identified to be key in increasing the chances of successful delivery of ultralarge projects.
At the setup phase leaders should uphold as crucial the following 4 practices
Define purpose, identity and culture
Effective project teams have a unique and shared identity, and create a culture of mutual trust and collaboration. Project leaders should articulate purpose, role model behaviours, and nourish the desired culture.
Assemble the right team
Besides shared values, owner and contractor team members need to have the appropriate blend of leadership qualities, cultural and local awareness for the task ahead. This must complement the requisite technical skills and experience.
Carefully allocate risk and align incentives
Successful owners thoughtfully delegate only those risks that the contractor is better positioned to manage. Leaders should establish and maintain relationships, not only contracts, to facilitate ongoing alignment of incentives.
Work hard on relationships with stakeholders
Strong and transparent trust-based relationships with stakeholders enable prevention and rapid resolution of problems. Invest in stakeholder management as a core activity.
Throughout the delivery phase, project leaders need to focus on the following 4 practices
Invest in your team
Delivering an ultra-large project requires continual investment in the effectiveness of the team. Leaders must think deeply about how to develop and challenge their people throughout.
Ensure timely decision making
Timely decision making depends on the delegation of decisions to the lowest appropriate level. To achieve this, leaders must have confidence and trust in their systems and people. Leaders are then free to resolve and anticipate critical issues.
Adopt forward looking performance management
Effective project leaders use fact-based performance dialogues to strengthen trusting relationships and instil accountability. This allows for early problem resolution and opportunity identification.
Drive desired behaviours consistently
Effective project leaders inspire their teams—especially in challenging times. They define, communicate, and role model expected attitudes and behaviours. Leaders should take the time to connect with team members on a personal level.
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