Supporting people so your project thrives

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Projects can only thrive when their people are properly supported.

What makes a great project or project delivery organisation? The familiar triad of people, processes and systems? An organisation’s ability to develop an appropriate project baseline by the time the business case is approved, giving projects a chance of successful delivery?

How often does a project or project organisation have a mature understanding of requirements and design, or the numerous interfaces, varying risks and potential impact of market forces over time?

Projects and delivery organisations spend a lot of time developing processes and systems, including establishing the initial baseline, with varying degrees of success.

But, when it comes to people, projects focus on ‘do we have enough?’, as opposed to developing the environment to recruit the right people, promote success and develop a resilient pipeline in which people feel valued and are encouraged to succeed. How often do the people within a project really feel that HR has understood the needs of the project and supported it with an appropriate and responsive recruitment strategy?

The experience of project managers is that, as delivery and baseline pressures mount, it is people and support functions that are put under pressure in order to reduce costs. The harsh reality is that, as risks materialise and the performance-to-baseline debate heats up, projects tend to lose shape and discipline. Rather than fostering an environment for people to successfully discharge their duties, focus diverts to critiquing data sources – along with the performance of the resources employed within them.

Projects that deliver efficiently usually have processes, procedures and systems appropriate to the complexity and risk associated with their scope. The congruent factor in establishing this is having the right resources, with the appropriate set of technical competencies and experience, balanced with professional behaviours and common objectives. After all, it is the people within the project who develop the rules and tools, administer good project management and oversee execution. It is the people that develop the communities of good practice, share lessons learned and develop the industry.

How often do projects truly focus on developing people, nurturing talent in a linear and scalable way so that project professionals contribute to the development of the project management industry as a whole? And how often do delivery organisations realise that, through the process of developing, nurturing and retaining talent, they harness the true potential of resources within an organisation?

HS2’s vision is simple – to ‘ensure we have the skills to deliver the HS2 programme and leave a skills legacy for the transport infrastructure sector and the wider UK economy’.

One of our objectives in achieving this is to work closely with APM, promoting professional accreditation and the new APM chartered status within our organisation. We want to ensure we use the best of industry learning through APM’s and other professional bodies’ networks and knowledge hubs to drive delivery efficiency.

To achieve this, HS2 has developed a technical competency framework for project and programme management in alignment with the APM Competence Framework. We want to empower the individual to take an active and pragmatic view of their own development within the organisation, so they can plan their career around opportunities that exist within HS2 and its supply chain. We want to promote learning through on-the-job training, collaboration, sharing and mentoring, as well as professional accreditation through APM qualifications.

How many project professionals project manage their own career development? That’s what HS2 is encouraging. Understanding that projects are transient, HS2 is looking to develop its resources in a manner that enables people to transfer their skills to other major projects and organisations within the project management community, including supply chain partners. We have an opportunity and responsibility to leave a legacy of smart, experienced project professionals who embody not only technical skills, but also the right behaviours.

We have piloted the project and programme management competency framework across a diverse range of our project management and project support community. We are now tracking and capturing the progress of individuals through blogs, interviews and other feedback methods to ensure that we embed and realise the benefits of the framework, and we’re actively sharing this data with APM and other APM Corporate Partners in the industry to promote the framework’s use throughout the sector. A number of the HS2 executive and senior leaders have also endorsed the APM chartership programme by undertaking their Chartered Project Professional (ChPP) accreditation assessments.

We are sure that many of our team will go on to be ChPPs in line with APM’s vision. They will have rewarding and fulfilling careers, and be senior leaders in the project management community of the future.

In doing so, HS2 hopes to drive an increase in Britain’s project management capability and develop the country’s project management skills legacy.

This article, Foster the people, originally appeared in the winter 18 issue of Project, the official journal of the APM. APM members can read the full issue. Or you can request a copy.

Image: slabdsgn/Shutterstock.com

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Posted by Suresh Sadanandan on 10th Apr 2019

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