Chartered Management Institute Companion John McDonough, group CEO of Carillion, on creating effective project management teams.
The dictionary defines a project as a 'planned undertaking'. Therefore, any endeavour becomes a project if we create a plan for its delivery.
Having spent many years in the automotive industry before joining Carillion, I've learnt a great deal about project management, and the leadership qualities and skills needed to be a successful project manager.
Delivering the required output on time and to budget is the headline objective of any project. The skills required to be a successful manager depend on the nature of the project. But the ability to lead and command the respect of a large and often multi-disciplinary team is fundamental. It is a controversial truth that in the past, engineers had something of a reputation for being more interested in building things than in making a profit. This is a luxury our industry cannot afford, and today our project managers must be good business people too.
At Carillion, project management has changed dramatically over the past decade or so, as the scope of our services has widened and contract periods have become longer. We still undertake large, complex construction contracts for public and private-sector customers, which typically take up to three years to complete and for which we require project managers with specialist skills. But the growth of our infrastructure management and support services activities, where contracts tend to be longer (five to 10 years), has required the development of different project management skills.
The biggest driver of change has been the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), which has brought the need for a new set of skills and leadership qualities. Providing integrated solutions that use all our skills and resources is key to Carillion's strategy, and PFI offers the opportunity to do just that.
It requires the integration of project finance, design, construction, maintenance and facilities management, typically over contract periods of 25 to 30 years.
Recruiting and developing people with the leadership skills to manage the integration of such a wide range of activities and produce high-quality solutions with the lowest whole-life costs is our greatest challenge.
Project managers need to understand these activities and how they interact in order to identify the risks attendant on every aspect of the project.
The risks can then be allocated to whoever in the supply chain is best placed to manage them.
The emphasis then switches to managing the supply chain and to ensuring that we have the appropriate processes in place at every management level, up to the main board. If we don't have the right calibre of people available to lead a project, we will not bid. …