Executive Perspective: The Key To Capital Project Performance

Executive Perspective: The Key To Capital Project Performance

In an era of profound technological disruption and intergenerational change, perspective matters more than ever, writes Olfa Hamdi.


Capital projects leadership is not a well-researched topic, even though it’s one of the most challenging, important component of capital project performance. In working with some of the top leaders in capital projects, I’ve been privileged to witness firsthand how their approach differs from those who are less successful. Much of their advantage boils down to one thing: They have perspective.

Extraordinary leadership demands perspective. This sounds trite, but it isn’t — it’s a sorely needed reminder in an era of profound technological disruption and intergenerational change. The ability to put things into perspective is not an inborn trait, it is a skill that must be cultivated and honed through both focused training and practical experience. It takes work, and those who master it become effective, sought-after capital project leaders.

Here are four of the most common traits I see in executives who effectively employ perspective on a daily basis.

They Consider Everything Relevant To Capital Project Performance

These leaders have the unique ability to put things into perspective on all levels. When assessing a situation, collecting information and making a decision on behalf of a project or company, they consider every factor that’s relevant to capital project performance, including:

  • geography
  • context
  • subject matter
  • future
  • risks
  • trade-offs
  • re-alignment of priorities

They can look at multiple data points — both quantitative and qualitative — and make a decision that considers both short and long-term impacts. As Stephen Covey famously said, they begin with the end in mind.

They take time to think 

Perspective doesn’t appear out of thin air, it must be sought out, and earned. Gaining perspective often requires retreating to a quiet place, alone, and either reading or thinking. During this time, leaders give themselves space and time to marshal facts and opinions, cultivate insight, and weigh likely outcomes.

You cannot do this kind of deep, strategic thinking when you are running between meetings, talking on the phone or replying to emails. There is certainly a place for brainstorming meetings, fact-gathering missions and other focused work with groups of people, but gaining perspective almost always requires solitary time to sit and think. One has to do her homework.

They master modern project delivery systems

If you’re a leader and you’re aiming to improve capital project performance, you should strive to understand modern project delivery and technology systems. If you and your leadership team are contemplating a cloud transformation, blockchain, Advanced Work Packaging (AWP), Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) or another way of delivering capital projects, it’s important to make an effort to master the system first, so that you’ll have a good understanding of the potential impacts across your organization. You’ll also garner a better understanding of the maturity of your organization, and it’s readiness to adopt a new system — you’ll be able to see that some of the inefficiencies and risks that present themselves are linked to your current stage of maturity.

We must think broadly and deeply, leverage cutting-edge training and insights, and always remember that it is people - not technology or methodology - that drive real results.

In the case of AWP, the most successful companies we’ve worked with here at Concord® are those led by Chief Operating Officers, Site Managers and other top-level executives who seek out and engage deeply in AWP training and strategic Predictability Thinking™ — ideally before the pilot, and certainly before the company-wide rollout. Why do these organizations succeed where others fail? Because they enter into the transition with leaders who have a solid understanding of AWP mechanics and they can better manage the transition to a new way of thinking and doing business. In other words, these executives succeed because they develop perspective.

They understand that perspective is about people, too

So many capital project initiatives fail simply because they’re led by the wrong person. The person assigned to the task doesn’t have the clear vision, can’t connect, or can’t move the agenda forward. As a capital project leader, you need to have a working appreciation of each person on your team to avoid situations like this. Study character, strengths and weaknesses, leadership styles, and you’ll have the perspective you need to put the right people in the right roles. Most of us aren’t born with this ability, but we can develop it over time, through coaching and practice.

In sum, what I’ve learned from top capital project leaders is that cultivating and exercising perspective requires conscious, sustained effort. We must think broadly and deeply, leverage cutting-edge training and insights, and always remember that it is people — not technology or methodology — that drive real results.

If you’d like to learn more about how Concord® can help you get some perspective, connect with us by clicking here.

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