Looking through my stash of photo’s and other memorabilia I came across this newsletter from my time as a Program Manager. Firstly, I reminisced about the way the Program, which was an Alliance between the Australian Department of Defense and two of Australia’s largest Defense Contractors and a great example of project integration management, managed its communications exceedingly well. The Alliance was distributed all around Australia, however there was a great deal of emphasis on getting people together, newsletters like this one and open lines of communication.
But what really struck me, when I had a second look at this photo was the makeup of the people in the photo. Now, a lot of these photo’s are staged, but I can honestly say that this photo represents a true demonstration of stakeholder engagement at its best.
Just as an quick overview of the context of the photo to help explain, the Alliance was a three party agreement to manage and execute the modernization and upgrade of Australia’s fleet of 8 ANZAC Frigates, a true challenge in integrated project management. The Alliance was unique in that from a commercial sense it operated under a Master Alliance Agreement (not a contract and with no recourse for litigation, quite a leap of faith), was staffed and managed on a best for project basis, meaning project team members could hold any position regardless of who they were ultimately employed by and financial compensation was on an “all win together” or “all lose together” basis, that is a Target Cost Estimate was set, if it ended under the target cost, all parties would share in the savings and it it ended over the target cost, all parties would share in the additional costs, a truly innovative approach to defense contracting and one specifically designed to encourage better than business as usual outcomes. The photo shown in the newsletter was taken during a walk around by the Alliance whilst the first major ship upgrade was in progress and by the way, which yours truly was Project Director.
But back to the main point I want to emphasize. This photo represents stakeholder engagement at its best, we have from L-R, the Upgrade Project Manager, the Ships Weapons Engineering Officer (the main upgrade was a new missile system), the Navy’s Senior Officer in charge of the all Surface Combat Ships (End user & Sponsor), the Alliance General Manager, The Navy’s ANZAC Ship Program Manager (Client & Sponsor) and the Contractors Senior Supervisor.
At the heart of the Alliance was the encouragement of open and honest communications and it was a feature of the Alliance that this group, were intimately familiar with each other, this was not a a walk around for the press, but an opportunity for all parties to discuss in a “best for project” manner, progress, risks and issues and is the kind of environment we should all aspire to in all our projects and programs.
It is also interesting to note from an individual career development point of view that stakeholder communications is also vitally important from a personal perspective and project managers should develop and nurture relationships with all parties, for example from this group, I went on to work for the Senior Navy Officer after he left the services to bid and win a $2 Billion defense program, the Alliance GM went on to work for the Dept of Defense as the Manager of that same program and the Upgrade Project Manager and I later went on to work together in Oil & Gas in Dubai, it’s a small world after all.
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