As practitioners who support clients in the delivery of major projects, we are always looking for ways to learn from others who deliver similar projects. What are the lessons learnt? What worked well? What didn’t? How can we apply these lessons to future projects?
These are all questions that allow us to continue to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of delivering major projects which can be challenging for all of us.
Given this, I was very happy to stumble across a very recent and succinct summary of lessons learnt/principles for project success on major projects which has been recently developed by the United Kingdom Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA). It is a short but very succinct summary that was developed to help drive a step change in the delivery of major projects. Given government agencies will need to be even more prudent with taxpayer’s dollars during and post COVID-19, it has a real focus on working smarter, faster and more productively.
The summary document can be found here.
The document identifies key principles for project success based on lessons learnt. The principles are intended as core propositions to help guide thinking and behaviour in project delivery. What I have done is taken the eight principles they have identified and put my own words around why I think they are important based on my experience working with clients on major infrastructure projects. They are follows:
1. Focus on Outcomes. A really important principle to start with given the importance of everyone involved in the project being clear on the outcomes to be achieved before we start a project. What does this mean in terms of our decision making around time, cost, quality and other functionality requirements? What does value for money look like and what will success look like? How will this be measured? What are the benefits and how will this be assessed? All key points to this principle.
2. Plan realistically. What a terrific principle. The key message for me is invest time up front to identify the deliverables and key timeframes and ensure you utilise evidence based cost estimation resources to ensure we are set up for success. Use ranges for your costs, dates and benefits to plan for the best and prepare for the worst and also make sure you hold people accountable for delivering against the plan.
3. Prioritise people and behaviour. This is my favourite principle. People deliver projects together not companies. This is often lost. Get the best people on your projects, be clear on your delivery structures as well as role clarity and accountability. Take the time to align on the behaviours and culture you are looking to develop to deliver your major project. Measure how you are tracking against your culture and behaviours regularly.
4. Tell it like it is. Similar to Principle 3, this principle focuses in on creating an open project culture that creates a safe environment where people are trusted and supported to speak their mind. This also requires good reporting on how the project is tracking and constructive conflict focussed on taking action when it is need to ensure we stay on track.
5. Control Scope. A critical one for clients and government agencies. Managing scope creep and ensuring robust scope control is critical. Ensuring you have gate reviews and again regular reporting on this is critical to ensure we deliver what was agreed up front rather than a wish list of nice to haves.
6. Manage Complexity. For me, this is about making things simple for your people to deliver the project. This requires taking a big picture or system wider view to ensure that we plan effectively for this environment. For me, this also includes streamlining decision making, bureaucracy and things that will get in the way of what matters.
7. Be an intelligent client. I love the focus on this and this is an area I have written previous blogs about. At BRS, we love the P13 UK model around being a mature and intelligent client which I wrote about in this blog. In simple terms, it means understanding your supply chain, ensure you listen to them and collaborate and build trust based relationships based on win/win outcomes.
8. Learn from Experience. For me, this is a great principle to close out on. Learn from other projects, value previous relevant experience and build a learning and growth culture. Ensure you get some outside perspectives regularly through your project lifecycle and make sure you are capturing your lessons learnt along the way.
This is an excellent summary document designed to help guide your thinking in the delivery of major projects. By taking in to consideration these eight principles, you give yourself and your project team the best possible chance of successful project delivery.