Acorn Coaching and Development

Improving business performance


Project Start-up and Delivery

  • Acorn-project-start-up-1

Acorn’s 20 years of experience of working with complex projects within the construction and infrastructure business leads us to believe there to be three key issues that impact project success.

1. Creating collaboration at the top.
Creating a collaborative culture within an organisation or a project must be initiated and led by the most senior people within the organisation. For example, senior members of a Joint Venture are continually scrutinised in the language they use in reference to their Joint Venture partner as this can vividly reveal their true collaborative intent.

2. Developing a new way of working, ‘against the grain’.
Promoting staff to avoid the archetypal response of apportioning blame to others, and instead to work towards joint problem solving, requires a number of support mechanisms to be present in order to support and challenge individuals and teams to behave in the desired manner. Highly effective leadership that performance-manages staff is essential.

3. Creating a culture that is sustained throughout the duration of the project.
Developing a culture that is truly conducive to project efficiency, that is collaborative, transparent and solution focused, occurs when the key people are acting in accord with the intended culture, and when there is a sufficient ‘critical mass’ of people acting in alignment.

High Level Programme for Developing a High Performing
Joint Venture Project

Our Process with You

Before embarking on a programme, we would meet with the key principal individuals from the Joint Venture partnership to discuss and agree a way forward. Following the initial steps, we will agree the requirement and commit to a time schedule. Appropriate review mechanisms will be built into the process between steps.

From our experience of working within complex projects we have found two key interventions important in developing a high performing project culture:

  1. Creating high performing teams
  2. Developing successful project culture through engaging leadership

1. Creating High Performing Teams

The Senior Project Lead Team is one of, if not the key group that will greatly impact the performance of the project. This group must model the intended culture in order to create a successful Joint Venture project.

Acorn has developed a means of accelerating the time it takes to become a high performing team that is cohesive, unified and focused on project performance.

We are now in a position with our multi functional bid team - only 3 weeks into the bid - that took us in excess of 8 months to get to in our previous bid. The development intervention from Acorn has been highly beneficial in accelerating our team’s performance.” Helen McArthey, Bid Manager, BAM PPP

Acorn develops a long-term relationship with a client, providing a number of team coaching interventions at regular and consistent intervals in order to provide sufficient time and focus on each of the five key contributor areas that accelerate a team towards being a high performing team. For more information see Acorn’s Team Coaching Model.

The application of Acorn’s Team Coaching Model accelerates a team to full effectiveness. This is of particular importance for the Joint Venture Senior Team as this team is typically made up of representatives from both partnering organisations.

2. Developing Successful Project Culture through Engaging Leadership

The culture and capability of a project is largely determined by the quality of leadership within it. Key leaders, therefore, need to have the skills and confidence to communicate, influence and 'role model' effective collaborative behaviours.

A key skill of leadership, which is not always apparent within complex projects, is the capability of leaders to:

  • sufficiently influence across the project, in-particular their peers, rather than adopting a directive approach
  • notice and identify the ‘good project behaviour’ and to performance-manage effectively those individuals who are poorly performing

Acorn has developed a leadership model that is highly practical and directly assists leaders to be more effective in their ability to lead and influence across the project. See Acorn’s Leadership Action Checklist.

Acorn’s Leadership Action Checklist is a highly pragmatic view of leadership, demystifying the role of leaders, and making the subject pertinent and accessible to all. It directly assists the leaders to recognise the balance needed between actions that deal with operational issues, and actions that deal with the more abstract ones e.g. equipping individuals to positively influence the performance of others, or developing clarity of expectation.

Multi-Stage Process

Acorn has developed a multi-stage process that accelerates a Joint Venture’s effectiveness from project start up though to close. Whilst this indicates the whole process, individual stages can be selected. The overall outcome of this multi-stage programme is to "maximise the potential for successful Joint Venture partnership projects through creating a sustainable collaborative culture".

Step 1. Project Start Up - Defining Project Success

Purpose: Identify project success

Discuss and identify with the key Principals (from each of the Joint Venture partners) the vision for project success, beyond the financial measures, and identify a clear expectation of how collaboration will optimise project success.


  • Develop a Shared Understanding of What Constitutes a Successful Project
  • Agree purpose and expected outcomes from Principal involvement, as a group plus working and representing the Joint Venture within their own organisations.
  • Identify the Principal’s role in ‘creating and leading the culture’ of the project
  • Create a behavioural expectation which clearly identifies how the Joint Venturing partnering organisations are expected to act throughout the construction phase

Step 2. Senior Project Lead Team - Leading the Project Culture

Purpose: Bring together the project’s Senior Lead Team

"What do we need to do, as a key leadership team, to positively influence the culture of the project? What behaviours do we need to proactively demonstrate for project success?"


  • Develop a shared understanding of what constitutes a successful project. The vision from Step 1 is discussed and further refined if required
  • Appreciate and understand each of the Senior Lead Team Joint Venture partners’ different 'drivers’
  • Agree the purpose and focus (see Acorn’s Team Coaching Model) of the project’s Lead Team – "what and where do we focus our efforts in order to provide greatest value?"
  • Agree the expected behaviours that will be demonstrated by the Lead Team, when together and when communicating within their own organisation
  • Discuss, agree, and amend if required the Behavioural Code of Conduct (initially created during Step 1) to take account of the Lead Team’s expectations of behaviour
  • Agree the leadership expectation and the key processes and interaction required to deliver the expected purpose and focus of the project’s Senior Lead Team, e.g. meetings, clarity of roles and responsibilities
  • Begin the leadership skills development process
  • Discuss and define the next stage

Step 3. Planning the Wider Project Team Engagement Communication Sessions

Purpose: Define how to cascade the culture down and throughout the project


  • Determine the key groups and individuals who need to embrace the project culture
  • Discuss how each group is to be engaged
  • Agree purpose and expected outcomes from Principal and Senior Project Lead Team members involvement in further ‘cascading’ the culture

Step 4. Engaging the Wider Groups

Purpose: Identify and engage additional ‘key teams’ into the project culture


  • Develop a shared understanding of what constitutes a successful project
  • Review and discuss the Project Code of Conduct, where appropriate adding to and enhancing the Code
  • Openly discuss the expected behavior by ‘visioning’ where and how individuals will behave at critical points within the project
  • Review and define the key areas required in order to develop a cohesive and collaborative project culture
  • Definition of key ‘marginal gains’ that can be accomplished in the short term to create collaborative project working

Step 5. Project-Facing Collaborative Working

Purpose: Create project collaboration at key interfaces of work packages


  • Greater understanding and reinforcement of the intended project vision & culture
  • Open discussion of techniques for resolving key issues that are impacting project success
  • Identification of solutions that lead to greater project performance

Step 6. Leading and Influencing Skills Development for Key Leaders within the Project

Acorn’s experience suggests that leadership and influencing skills required to develop a successful collaborative culture are very often lacking: the skill of influencing across the project, where there is often no direct line of authority, requires a leadership capability seldom possessed by all.

Purpose: To identify and practice key collaborative leadership and influencing behaviours required to create a collaborative JV project.


  • Identify and apply ‘push and pull’ behaviours as appropriate in order to develop a collaborative approach
  • Use different leadership behaviours to apply situational leadership process
  • Develop insight and understanding into the behavioural implications of leadership and the development of a high performing collaborative project culture
  • Identify with and use the collaborative Behavioural Code of Conduct for application in their own leadership
  • Complete a stakeholder map and devise appropriate influencing strategies based on it
  • Coach and performance-manage the wider team members in the application of the Behavioural Code of Conduct

Step 7. Coaching for Performance Workshop

Purpose: To ensure leaders and managers have the skills to demonstrate effective support and challenge to team members, thereby modelling the required behaviours.


  • The application of conscious, skilful coaching behaviour by members of the lead team and other nominated key leaders
  • The modelling, demonstration and reinforcement of the desired collaborative behaviours

Step 8. Project Performance Review

Purpose: Assess the effectiveness of the collaboration occurring across the Joint Venture


  • Identify the levels of collaboration across the project
  • Assist in identifying where additional development intervention is needed in order to promote greater collaboration