What does it really take to achieve meaningful, transformational change in capital projects?
Why is it so hard to achieve transformational change in capital projects?
Change management is not only an art, but a science. The field is very well-established, with countless academics spending their entire careers studying change management at Ivy League schools dedicated to helping people and organizations through momentous change. A search for “change management” on Amazon yields some 10,000 volumes. Some of the world’s mightiest corporations have leveraged proven change management tactics to achieve wholesale transformation in their organizations.
Why hasn’t this happened in the capital projects industry?
Simply put, our industry doesn’t understand change. We haven’t invested in understanding what it takes to make change happen, and we don’t even agree on what factors improve results and outcomes. In this article, I’ll explore five key roadblocks to transformational change in capital projects, with the hope that, together, we can begin to dismantle them.
Roadblock #1: Over-Reliance On Best Practices
Many organizations look to best practices to improve organizational efficiency and profitability, and in many cases, this is a good first step. If your objective is limited in scope and you’re aiming to improve a single deliverable or outcome — say, improve your front-end loading practices or inter-departmental alignment — then adopting a proven best practice will work.
Unfortunately, however, the sum of best practices does not equal transformational change in capital projects. We’ve learned this the hard way. In the early days, we thought that implementing a few key concepts and workflows would lead to improvements across an organization — but it takes far more than that.
Roadblock #2: Failure To Invest
Leaders need to recognize that change management is a project of its own, not a simple task that can be added to the margins of your project manager’s day. The fact is that transformational change in capital projects requires a significant investment of time, money and human resources. Leaders must be prepared to invest.
What does this look like in practice? It starts with dedicated funding and adequate staffing — if you want to create change, you need boots on the ground. You need to allow time for preparation, you need to establish KPIs, monitor progress and required an outcomes-based assessment at each milestone — just like every other project you run.
Very few companies invest in transformational change for capital projects, and so very few companies succeed.
Roadblock #3: One-Size-Fits-All Training
Ultimately, you need your people to embrace transformational change. To do this, you need to define and deliver information about change in ways they can understand. This means that the same information must be delivered differently to executives, project managers, engineers, construction teams and field labor, among others.
To be clear, the information itself is standardized — everybody needs to be operating from the same playbook. But the way you communicate this information — the training format, the words, even the tenor — should change depending on who you’re training. Why? Because you need buy-in from all levels, not just senior management.
Roadblock #4: Unreasonable Expectations
Change takes time. When we talk about transformational change in capital projects, we’re usually talking about large-scale organizational change like building a construction-driven planning and engineering culture, adopting Predictability Thinking™ or implementing Advanced Work Packaging. For a typical project or site, this can take between two and five years. For an international corporation with multiple sites around the work, it can take a decade.
If you think you’re going to achieve transformational change with a few pilot programs over a couple of months, you’re going to be disappointed. You can change a system or workflow overnight, sure, but changing people and business culture takes time.
Roadblock #5: Unwillingness to Commit
I’m going to be blunt: Don’t try to fake it. When it comes to transformational change in capital projects, leaders can’t be talking out of both sides of their mouths, promoting change in public while clinging to the past in private.
Leaders have to be sold out for change, and they must be embarking on a change management project for the right reasons. If you’re only adopting Advanced Work Packaging because you need to be able to put it on a project bid, your team will sense the absence of commitment and your attempts at change will fail. Change requires commitment and integrity.
Here at Concord, we take a collaborative approach to the transformational change required for predictable project delivery. If you’re looking for guidance as you embark on this journey, we’re standing by ready to help. Contact us here.