Building for builders

Having experienced a difficult partnership dissolution, this national project infrastructure firm had concerns that their people weren’t happy anymore; that the dissolution, and recent downturn in work had made them think they’d be better off elsewhere. Having coached the Directors through the dissolution, I was invited to audit their culture and climate; to reveal what mattered to their people, and how they could create an environment they would want to be part of for a long time.

I conducted fieldwork in the Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane offices as well as on construction worksites; observing and participating. As part of my fieldwork, I interviewed over 50 (internal and external) stakeholders nationally. I also had many casual conversations whilst interacting day-to-day with individuals over coffee and when completing the daily crossword during lunch.

What I discovered was that the project managers loved their work. They lived for their projects. What I also discovered was that they wanted to learn more from each other but didn’t have the means nor opportunity to do so. Nor did they want to take time away from their projects to do so; or increase hours worked.

With them, I designed what can be best described as a capability framework, that looked remarkably like a standard project life cycle. Journey mapping the life cycle of a project enabled us to identify the opportunities for learning and development that were happening within that cycle. It was simple really. We made the tacit a little more explicit and in doing so, encouraged team members to reach out to one another nationally as subject matter experts to share their knowledge, and their lack thereof. It was all about seeing themselves as perpetual apprentices, and teachers, within the project; and within a community.

it's personal

This legal services firm of approximately 100 people had experienced exponential organic growth over a relatively short period of time, but their employees weren’t hanging around very long and rumours of a revolving door of talent had started to spread. Conversations about a potential sale to a larger player in the industry had also stalled, possibly as a result of these rumours.

I was invited inside to reveal the ‘why’ and to design a solution. In addition to a review of their existing structures, strategies and ways of working, I spent two months interviewing over 80 employees and presented my findings and proposed solutions to the Board. I then facilitated an executive team session in which we together established strategic priorities and identified areas for improvement and development. I stayed on for an additional six months as an implementor, and coach.

The new organisational design ensured the firm was ready and capable of exploring new opportunities for business growth and talent acquisition, as a community. Growth after implementation included the appointment of four new Directors and expansion both regionally and nationally. Sale discussions recommenced and, much to the owner’s delight, the business was sold in 2014.