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Driving projects "looking through the windscreen": SIG multi conference 2022

Driving projects "looking through the windscreen"
Delivering success by responding to complexity, volatility and ambiguity

SIG multi conference 2022

Tuesday 18 October 2022 at the Crowne Plaza Kings Cross saw the first ever multi-SIG conference. It had taken over eight months to plan, structure and organise - coordinating the multiple SIGs was akin to ‘herding cats’. On the day we had nearly 100 attending and received lots of positive feedback such as “I found it a valuable learning experience myself as well as a great networking opportunity” and “Really enjoyed the event and speaking to so many likeminded people with a real passion and drive to improve project delivery”.

Andrew Wright and Pamela Stacey (Co Chairs) introduced the conference, welcomed everyone and outlined the day.

The aim of the conference was to look at refocusing how we plan and execute projects, and we challenged the participants by asking – “If we went on a journey the way we plan and execute projects would we get to our destination, and would we get there on time?” The focus of the day was on driving projects like cars - looking ahead, ‘through the windscreen’.

Six SIGs participated:

  • Assurance
  • Contracts and Procurement
  • Governance
  • Portfolio Management
  • Risk
  • Systems Thinking

Following the introduction Andrew and Pamela handed over to Chris Blockley-Webb as ‘Master of Ceremonies’ for the first session.

1st session – What happens if we don’t focus on the future?

Chris led the Q&A session, putting a series of questions to the panel based on our journey analogy – see below. The questions generated a range of perspectives and considerations across the different industries and stimulated the audience to think differently, focusing on the future and delivering the target benefits. The examples related by the panel helped illustrate the damage of unforeseen impacts and to contrast different planning horizons; timelines may be up to several generations in the nuclear industry.

Preparing for the Journey:

  • Why is it so important now to refocus on looking forward?

The Journey:

  • Why is it so important keep focus on looking forward?
  • Do projects ever use foresight to deliver success?

The Destination:

  • How will we know we are taking the right journey and it’s the right destination?

Key points included considering the emotional effect on the stakeholders, often overlooked, which can generate problems later in the project. Environmental and sustainability considerations are also becoming increasingly important and starting to impact our plans and project delivery.

There also needs to be a culture shift in organisations to focus on the future, and some countries have already made that shift. Japan, for example, looks at a 7th generation view in to the future; the philosophy that today’s decisions should stand for the next seven generations.

The sailing-boat analogy of managing projects was seen as useful by the group – while everything is carefully balanced it is controllable and moving in the right direction, but an unforeseen change or unpredicted event can impact progress and capsize the whole boat unless the right reactions happen immediately.

Our illustrious panel included representatives from a range of organisations. Left to right in the photo:

  • Andy Murray, Major Projects Association and Governance SIG Chair;
  • Andrew Wright, Transformation and Change Consultant, and Systems Thinking SIG Chair;
  • Dr Wendy Schultz, Futurist at Jigsaw Foresight;
  • Jo Stanford, Head of Futures & Profession, Health Education England;
  • Tony Gibson, Chief Delivery Engineer, Sellafield.


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