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Building project troubleshooting capability

Alain Mignot
July 21, 2011

Here is a double whammy scenario to test your project management mettle.

The management team made an important decision for the project that was not unanimous, but which needed all managers to commit to fully and to communicate genuinely with the rest of the project team. But when the minority that did not agree with the decision walked out of the meeting, they expressed their misgivings with wider project team members about the best-for-project-decision. The damage started to show as mixed messages divided the team and undermined respect for the decision makers.

In the meantime, some members of the leadership team started to dip down into day-to-day matters rather than maintaining a governance focus on the next 6–12 months. They sometimes interrogate down to a lower level of detail, not trusting that things are being done right. This annoys some of the management team who prefer more autonomy, but everyone is too pushed for time to address the issue.

What is at the heart of these issues? And how do you switch the focus from profit, program and time mid-flight in a project to deal with non-technical issues such as these?

It takes practice to recognise that the problem with the management team in the first part of the scenario lies in their inability to achieve alignment and put aside individual ideas and egos to accept the decision. And that the governance and management teams in the second part need to resolve trust issues and better understand and accept their responsibilities.

However gaining such insight into the pitfalls of project management can be hard won when it is learnt on the job. Wouldn’t it be helpful to develop troubleshooting capability and avoid or better manage some of these scenarios? To know how to uncover and address the beliefs held by individuals that drive unproductive behaviours and limit project performance?

We developed a training course for project managers—’Troubleshooting Guide to Alliances and Collaborative Contracting’—to look specifically at these issues. While the course focuses largely on alliances, which represent the most complex collaborative model, the content is highly relevant to any collaborative engagement.

Scenarios based on real life experience have been developed to create awareness around typical pitfalls and to prompt discussion and learning about the strategies and choices to resolve them. Participants can gain deep insight into what goes on in collaborative contracts, what drives an alliance and what impact individuals can have to save cost, time and reputation.

If you think taking one day out of your daily duties is complicated, imagine how much time it might save untangling a potential issue or delay on the job?

Alain Mignot
Alain Mignot is the executive director and co-founder of the Alliancing Association of Australasia (AAA), a not-for-profit, independent, cross-sector initiative connecting the infrastructure industry to create better projects.
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