Case study

Delivering better projects with multiple stakeholders in the new normal


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Allan Ryan
Founder and Executive Director at Hargraves Institute

Allan Ryan, Founder & Executive Director, Hargraves Institute, explains how to deliver better projects with multiple stakeholders in the new normal. His insight will help you learn how to align employee well-being, company culture, remote work and productivity to create better outcomes.

The challenge: help project teams to improve performance

It may surprise you to learn that only 30% of corporate projects are successful, which means that a huge number of these end up back at the drawing board. And when there are large numbers of stakeholders involved, reaching a successful outcome gets even tougher.

Allan Ryan is an engineer by training, and he spent the first half of his career in manufacturing before joining Hargraves Institute. Established in 2006, the Institute works with large complex organisations in Australia and globally, helping them to thrive, collaborate and grow, with a particular focus on multi-stakeholder (complex) project management.

Since the pandemic began in 2020, Ryan has witnessed a number of trends within the project management space, but, he says, most notable of all is the divide between teams that have improved their performance and adapted well to the new environment and those who are really struggling. Ryan points out that before Covid, the performance of teams typically looked like a bell-shaped curve, but since Covid, that curve has been flattening and widening, with some high-performing teams, but others barely performing at all.

The Hargraves Institute is focused on improving the performance of complex projects, so it’s not surprising that they are now trying to identify why teams are struggling to perform and find solutions that could help to buck this particular trend.

The solution: the teamwork revolution to be confident and connected

Innovation is and has always been difficult, but the pandemic has even more increased its level of difficulty. The Hargrave Institute recently partnered with Price Waterhouse on a major survey of Chief Information Officers from organisations across Australia. The results, representing 1.5 million workers, showed that the biggest issue is this spread of performance and Ryan believes this is a result of the increasing importance of the people side of projects.

Ryan describes the decade between 2010 and 2020 as the technology decade (after all, the iPhone began its steady march to dominance in 2007), but the decade we’re in now is all about humans. We are, he suggests, just beginning to get to grips with that technology and work out how best to utilize it.

From a project management perspective, this means that we’re seeing more people led problems than we might have done ten years ago. Why is this?  Well, because the circumstances we find ourselves in necessitate coordinating within teams (often in multiple time zones and geographies), between teams, customers and suppliers. We’re having to organize our time while working remotely, all while mourning the loss of the social moments (chats by the water cooler, bumping into colleagues in the hallway) that used to make up our day to day working life. We’re yearning for social contact and it’s the people magic that makes projects happen.

What does Klaxoon have to do with all of this? Well, it can help you protect the diversity of your teams by providing a way of working that allows for creative, collaborative working from wherever you are in the globe. Klaxoon's tools take down some of the automatic barriers that can hinder remote team working, and the ability to work asynchronously is a total game changer. Klaxoon Boards also encourage listening as well as sharing – accounting for those team members who prefer not to speak up as well as those who do, and information is readily available for teams to share and update entirely on their own timeframe.

A person working remotely on desktop, and posting an idea about a Personal Skills Assessment meeting that just took place. | Klaxoon
Before or after a meeting, Board still leaves the possibility to interact asynchronously as a team.

Many people would agree that we’re working harder than ever before, but we’re missing the quality component necessary for successful complex teamwork and the question of what makes effective project management has never been more pertinent. Organizations used to spend a great deal of time and money bringing people together in order to build the relationships that could maintain teams when they weren’t physically together – but this isn’t happening at the moment. As a result, solving problems and conflicts is increasingly difficult and it’s simply not possible to get people into a room and bang heads together as we might have done in years gone by.

So, what are some of the solutions to these issues? There are two core messages we’re receiving from high performing organisations: teams need to be confident and they need to be connected. Confidence comes from autonomy and a sense of progress, while being connected is about a sense of belonging, trust and engagement with the organization you’re a part of.

We know that the best teams for complex projects are diverse, in terms of people, mindset and skills. Maximising diversity in teams may make collaboration harder, but it also makes outcomes more successful. And you don’t get results by dictating what people do – teams thrive when given the autonomy to make their own decisions and find their own path to a solution, something which Klaxoon makes happen.

The result: improved collaboration in complex projects

Research shows that extremely connected teams are 24% more profitable than their counterparts, and employees spend more than half their time working collaboratively - even though 3 out of 4 companies plan to permanently shift to more remote work. In fact, it’s thought that communicating now takes up 80% of an average employee’s time and people are on twice as many teams as they were 5 years ago.  

Allan Ryan: "Using a virtual board, people can work asynchronously, they can work quietly, and more importantly, they can work to an agenda." | Klaxoon

There’s no doubt that the world has changed enormously and as a result, we have to expect different ways of working – the most obvious of which is perhaps a more global approach with teams spanning from one end of the globe to the other.

How can you make sure you start off on the right foot? First of all, have a continuous improvement plan. Measure the impact of what you do and when you’re building your team, spend time practising and really invest in the people and processes you know you need. Ryan suggests thinking about it like a professional sports team which spends more time practising than playing together, but the outcome of one is entirely dependent on the other.

Klaxoon allows you to make adjustments and refine your processes in real time and with design thinking at its heart, you’ll be able to deep dive into the areas that you’re focusing on safe in the knowledge that you can pull off automated reports and refer back to your Boards at any point. Think of it this way – if you’ve got a team of twenty people and you improve their performance by 5%, that’s the equivalent of having an extra person on the team. In real terms, that’s a lot of money and time saved during the lifespan of the project.

Want to deliver better projects – even complex ones? Invest time to build the best team, then give them the best tools to do their work. Then, and only then, can leaders get out of the way and let their teams do their work. We may be biased, but we think Klaxoon is right up there leading the way with innovative ways of working.

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