Predictability Thinking®: Visionary Leadership in Capital Projects

Four questions to ask yourself if you’re leading a capital project organization into 2024 and beyond

Celebrated CEO Jack Welch famously said that “good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.” In this article, I want to talk about vision and Predictability Thinking ® in capital projects. What does visionary leadership look like, in this sector? How do you build and communicate that vision? What do you need to relentlessly drive your vision to completion?

Start Where You Are, with Predictability Thinking®

If you’re reading this, chances are that you’re responsible for a portfolio of work connected to the delivery of capital projects. Maybe you’re leading a company that needs to build capacity while simultaneously executing projects on-time and on-budget, or perhaps you’ve inherited a struggling organization facing safety and operability challenges. Maybe you’ve acquired a company, or been acquired; maybe your organization is thriving and your task is to make sure nothing breaks.

Regardless of where you find yourself, the fact is that business never stands still: if you’re leading, you’re changing. Your mission is always about transformation. This is why vision is essential: You must always know where your organization is headed, and you must bring your team along with you — and that’s where Predictability Thinking ® comes in. Let’s look at four questions that can help you bring your vision into focus.

Question #1: What is your business mandate?

Your business mandate might come from a board of directors, or it might come from the yellow legal pad on your desk. Either way, you need to know what it is. If it is surprising for you to read this basic point here, you should know that it is surprising to me that I have to write it. After more than a decade of working alongside capital project leaders, however, I have learned that this essential piece of the leadership puzzle is not always in place.

Understanding your business mandate is particularly important as the gap between Business and Engineering has grown significantly in our sector. It has always been the case that business leaders are rewarded for taking risks, and project leaders are rewarded for mitigating risk. Today, however, I see an increasing number of situations where business assumes project delivery people can deliver all business requirements, and project delivery folks do not always convey the limitations or the trade-offs required to deliver on a new business case. Business and project teams don’t speak the same language, do not communicate in the same way, and approach risk in a different way. The antidote to this is a robust consensus on the business mandate, and capital project leaders should take the initiative in achieving this consensus.

In short: if you cannot articulate your business mandate right now, off the top of your head, your top priority is to get clarity about it.

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Question #2: How is the business climate impacting my organization?

In order to answer this essential question, leaders must accurately survey the economic and project delivery market environment and assess what impact market forces might have on project delivery operations. Staying on top of the news, reading trade publications, and attending webinars and conferences are excellent ways to keep a finger on the pulse of the market.

You also need to understand industry trends that affect the risk profile of your project delivery organization. What is the impact of AWP? Where does the industry stand in its approach to digital project delivery? How about contracting strategy trends? Are we heading toward a hot market for engineering services or not? What about procurement? And how will these trends impact my projected portfolio delivery expectations?

Question #3: Am I capable of leading change in my organization?

If you’re in a leadership role, someone certainly believes you have the capacity to lead, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have all the skills to handle the challenges you’re facing. You need to conduct an honest self-assessment. Do you really have the skills you need to implement your vision? To usher in transformative change?

Some key questions to ask include:

  • Can I communicate effectively about change?
  • Do I understand the lifecycle of initiatives?
  • Are there organizational politics within my circle of influence?
  • Have I mastered Predictability Thinking ®?
  • Do I understand the needs of the people in my organization, at all levels?
  • Do I have the right resources and tools to successfully lead and execute the vision?
  • Is the vision clear for me only? How about the various teams that are executing it?

Question #4: Do I understand my organization’s level of maturity?

What is your project delivery system (PDS) capable of, right now? If you’re not delivering on-time and on-budget — and most capital project organizations aren’t — your PDS is not functioning the way it should. Do you know why? It can be very difficult to assess how and why a PDS is failing, as internal patterns and biases can come into play during internal evaluations.

Consider an independent Concord® PDS Maturity Assessment™ to see where you stand, what your PDS is really capable of, and how you can improve. The maturity assessment is a fast, cost-effective way to get started with Predictability Thinking ®, today.


Answering these four simple questions will help you become a well-equipped leader who can define a clear vision and lay the groundwork for transformational change inside your organization. If you’re interested in learning more about the Concord® PDS Maturity Assessment™ or Predictability Thinking ® training for executives, send us a note and our team will be in touch with you soon!

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