Collaborative executive project management workshop for innovation and research organization.
Our customer is an innovation and research organization, established to provide funding for science and engineering research projects. Their focus is the development of innovation capacity through nurturing the discovery of new knowledge and encouraging its application. In support of their mission, the organization manages a number of internal projects to enable the funding and dissemination of research, as well as providing funding support to external researchers and organizations.
Interthink Consulting was engaged to facilitate a discussion of how the organization could improve how they internally communicate, collaborate and manage the various projects and initiatives that they were responsible for. While the organization was relatively small in terms of the number of staff, they had a broad reach and an extremely high level of activity. A number of internal staff identified challenges in terms of effectively managing priorities, maintaining a reasonable workload and ensuring that commitments were successfully delivered. Through improved communication and management, it was believed that the organization could improve its ability to support and deliver its mandate while maintaining existing staffing levels.
We facilitated an intensive two-day workshop with the organization, in which all members of the staff—from the executive director to front-line support team members—explored the current challenges, evaluated potential future strategies, and collectively designed an approach to improve how they managed their projects. The result was a process that the organization collaboratively developed for themselves, drawing on a variety of potential management options and shaping and tailoring those approaches in a manner that was appropriate for the organization. Over a period of several weeks, we continued to support the discussion as the organization piloted, reviewed and revised its management approach. The result was an effective delivery strategy, as well as a noticeable improvement in culture, collaboration and co-operation within the organization.
As a result of Interthink Consulting’s work with the organization, the municipality has been able to realize a number of significant and valuable outcomes, including:
- A significant improvement in the culture and interaction of staff within the organization. As a result of the workload and co-ordination challenges, there was a high level of frustration amongst staff. Co-operation was low, and there was a perception that the workload was larger and more challenging as a result of the actions (or failures to act) of others. We were able to help participants to articulate these frustrations, explore where and why they were being experienced, and help to develop management and communication strategies to prevent them from recurring.
- A greater degree of visibility regarding workloads, commitments and progress. The resulting management process provided a greater level of clarity regarding expectations of how work would be managed, the process that would be applied and how staff throughout the organization would communicate and collaborate on project commitments. The approach the organization adopted was simple and straightforward, with just enough rigour to address their needs and solve the problems that had been encountered, without creating a perception of additional workload or bureaucracy as a result.
- As a result of having collaboratively worked to develop the approach by which they would manage and interact, there was a greater level of ownership and commitment to adhering to the process. Members of the team understood why the practices were in place, and the problems that had existed prior to them being created. There was a willingness to use the processes the group had designed, and to work together—and keep each other honest—during the first few weeks of adoption.
- A greater degree of alignment of work with organizational priorities. By being clear about the work that was being undertaken—and why—there was a significant improvement in ensuring that projects were a priority for the organization. Staff were more comfortable asking questions about relative priorities of work, and there was an increased acceptance that not all ideas would become projects, and that not all projects would happen now. The result was a streamlined workload where people could focus more effectively on immediate priorities, manage their commitments and feel that those activities they did work on got their full attention and best effort.