Acorn Coaching and Development

Improving business performance


Creating and Embedding a Collaborative Culture for the Lifetime of a Project Team

  • Collaborative culture

Despite the economic recovery now becoming mature, and many sectors being finally ‘on the up’, the economic pressure on projects is ever present, with tighter margins and an increased need to deliver the product on time and within budget. Project performance is equally if not more critical than it was several years ago.

Our clients are telling us more and more that clashes of culture and processes in complex and JV projects are leading to reduced levels of performance, over-runs, over-spend, and problems with technical delivery. In such situations there is often a failure to deliver anticipated returns or KPI’s for key stakeholders.

This raises the following questions for Project Managers and Directors:

  • How satisfied are you with the performance of your team and its individuals across the whole of the project?
  • Do areas of ‘poorer performance’ impact upon budget, scheduling or quality?
  • What changes to the processes and culture of your project teams would further enhance their performance?

The good news is that it is possible to resolve differences and create a collaborative culture and aligned processes that result in exceptional levels of functioning within the project team.

Creating and embedding a high performance culture for the lifetime of a project

Creating a high performing culture within a project team requires more than providing a single goal or taking the whole team away for a team build. Without strategic planning the chances are that the project adopts the dominant partner’s systems and procedures, and the clashes of culture continue to exist, both sabotaging the project’s performance. Our own conclusion is that projects should be approached as mini businesses in their own right, with key groups engaged in collectively determining and shaping the culture and processes for that project.

Research carried out on creating and maintaining high-performing collaborative research teams has found that “Effective interdisciplinary collaboration requires careful attention to processes and goals, and understanding and managing basic philosophical differences among team members.” (Benda et al. 2002; Eigenbrode et al. 2007).

In this example from the nuclear industry, we assisted key stakeholders to identify the requirements of culture and expectations and systematically introduce and re-enforce them from the ‘top down’ to delivery teams. The process in this case embedded a culture of innovation which has already delivered multi million pound cost savings to the project, and has put the decommissioning site amongst the top ten high performing sites in the country due to its delivery savings.

Raising the team’s performance

The success or otherwise of a project usually comes down to the degree of team performance, be it a project team or a JV Board team, and again it is possible to create fundamental change. Using Acorn’s Team Coaching process we analyse a team’s capability against five essential components of high performing teams and how they specifically affect the project in question, providing essential data to improve the team’s behavioural and functional performance.

In this example we took a long-standing client in the construction sector through the Team Coaching process during a complex site build. The project came in ahead of schedule and under budget, and won both internal and external awards for its achievements – achievements we’d like to think our efforts had a hand in.

When you really need collaboration…

We can also offer our on-line diagnostic tool, which specifically measures the degree of genuine collaboration within the team and monitors it over time, leading to remedial actions being determined.

The evidence is clear: it is possible to embed a collaborative culture for the lifetime of a project. It takes genuine commitment and engagement at all levels, from the boardroom to the delivery teams on the ground, and continued reinforcement throughout. By investing the time to create that culture you can you be sure that, whatever costly problems your project might face, they won’t be down to avoidable inefficiencies and internal tensions within the project team.