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Project Execution in 2016 and Beyond: Secrets for Achieving Best Results (Part-2)

As explained in Part-1, project execution in 2016-beyond will not be business as usual – it will need to be viewed as a mission of that of a special ops force (SOF) unit. Accordingly, the planning, training and preparation of the project execution team will need to be adapted based on the concept of SOF. 

As mentioned in Part-1, some key elements of a typical modern day SOF operating concept are:

  • Culturally-aware/astute and skilled/trained Operators
  • Understanding and influencing narratives
  • Deliberate macro- and micro-level operations linking engagement activities and operational missions in time, space, and purpose
  • Dispersed vs episodic engagement
  • Command, Control, Communications network
  • Networking, relationships and partnerships

The fundamental to mission success will be ‘Culturally-aware/astute and skilled/trained Operators’, i.e., properly trained and honed project directors, project managers, project engineers. ‘Hire for attitude, train for skill’ has to be the underlying principle for developing the winning team for project execution. The training of the human domain would need to address, inter alia:

  • 100% commitment to succeed
  • Critical forward thinking capability
  • Eagerness to embrace culture of ‘Innovate-Adapt-Integrate’
  • Understanding different ways of thinking
  • Ability to see the whole picture as well as the parts of it
  • Basic knowledge relevant to the project
  • Mastering the interpersonal skills
  • Ability to operate fluidly within the project group
  • Understanding the second and third order effects of project management team’s decisions

Now, let’s move to second key element of SOF concept and see what is meant by ‘Understanding and influencing narratives’ and how it would relate to project execution in 2016-and beyond.

What it connotes in the context of project execution is that the project management team must understand the ‘narrative of the project’, i.e.,

  • The Business Case of the project (including project basis),
  • Project objectives
  • Project Charter, Project Scope (current and provisions for future, if any)
  • All the stakeholders
  • Resources available, including capex
  • Summary of PESTEL analysis

‘Understanding the narrative’ is part of Front-End-Planning (FEP), and all the time that is required for it should be spent on FEP and the project execution team should be thoroughly up to speed on this. Proper FEP is the second most important key to mission success. Quite often the owner companies allocate less time and resources for this very critical activity (FEP) and they end up spending more time and money during project implementation.

FEP (including ‘Innovate-Adapt-Integrate’ approach) will be discussed in greater detail in the next part of this series in the context of ‘Deliberate macro- and micro-level operations linking engagement activities and operational missions in time, space, and purpose’ and we will see how important this activity is.

Once the ‘project narrative’ is clearly and comprehensively understood by the project execution team, the members of this team should be able to ‘influence/manage the narrative’ during the project implementation sequence of the activities. This involves making sure the other groups of the project team, namely, technical support group, procurement, construction and the start-up and operations groups are all aligned with the project objectives (scope, time, cost, quality and risk).

By knowing the ‘project narrative’ thoroughly, the project execution team can manage the ‘narrative’ with external as well as other internal stakeholders too. Projects can get negatively impacted if the narrative during the whole project implementation is not managed properly – we all know the narrative tends to digress as the project progresses. Managing the narrative requires skillful handling by the project management team which has been alluded to above as ‘Ability to operate fluidly within the project group’.

In the next part of the series, we will look at FEP, including ‘Innovate-Adapt-Integrate’ approach in the context of ‘Deliberate macro- and micro-level operations linking engagement activities and operational missions in time, space, and purpose’ – quite a mouthful perhaps but it has its own deep significance.

What is your view on criticality of understanding and influencing project narrative?



Partho (Parth) Mukherjee is Co-Sponsor/Coordinator of Center of Excellence in Project Execution and also Owner/Principal at InnoFusion Consulting, Calgary, Canada.

Grateful reference acknowledgement: USSOC material available on the internet.

Anirudh Kumar