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  • Annie-Mei Forster

Any.Talk Podcast Episode 6 - Team Mobilisation

Effective team mobilisation can make a huge difference. When done properly, mobilising the right team with the right resources can mean a successful project that is delivered on time and on budget. We've all seen the stories on the news. Delay on this project, delay on that project. So how can a team be effectively mobilised? Listen to our newest episode of Any.Talk to find out what can make the difference.



What is team mobilisation?

Team mobilisation is about finding the right people to:

  • Resource a project

  • Deliver a project

  • Deliver successful outcomes

Why is team mobilisation important?

The first reason, is that the right resources in place at the right time can keep a project on track and build momentum.


Having the right people delivering a project is imperative from the start. For a project that is running over a period of a few years, mobilising a team in a couple of days compared to a couple of months can make a huge difference.


Listen to the full episode below. You can also find us on any platform you listen to podcasts.


Full Transcript

Any.Talk Episode #6: Team Mobilisation


Annie-Mei: The goal of a project can sometimes be forgotten as team members get caught up doing different tasks.


Sometimes the goal can change, especially when it’s a project that is being delivered over several years.


However, effective team mobilisation can ensure projects not only strive towards their goal but also get completed on time and on budget.


Today, we discuss why effective team mobilisation is necessary and what resources are needed to mobilise a team.


I’m Annie-Mei Forster and this is Any.Talk.


Annie-Mei: Alright, so welcome back to Any.Talk. Today I’m joined by general manager Steven Kouloumendas. Hello, Steve.


Steve: Hi, Annie-Mei. Thanks for having me.


Annie-Mei: and we’ve also got managing director Adam Evans. Hello, Adam.


Adam: Hi, Annie-Mei. Thanks for having us again.


Annie-Mei: Ok, so today we’re going to be talking about team mobilisation in projects. So Steve, if I could just start with you. Can you briefly explain what team mobilisation is and at what stage of a project does team mobilisation occur?


Steve: Yeah, thank you Annie-Mei. So I almost want to almost set the scene first before I talk about team mobilisation and talk about typically complex types of projects here. These aren’t one- or two-month projects we’re talking about. We’re talking about two-year plus projects. Very complex. So involve a number of companies in a supply chain. Typically, might involve an element of design, engineering and R&D. Also involve an element of build and a lengthy commissioning period or handover period to a customer. To then take what they’ve rightfully paid for and be able to operate it and realise benefits to end users.


Some of the projects I’m talking about are typical in Department of Defence. Also in other government procurement aspects, and they’re generally at high capital dollars associated with them. There’s typically large corporations that are bidding for these projects and the resources required to deliver these projects that are in the order of 20, 30 people, all the way up to organisations that are about 200-odd people required to deliver them.


So now that the scene is set, I think the next aspect we talk about is mobilisation. At what stage does it occur and what is it? We’re really talking about finding the right people to resource a project, to deliver a project and to deliver successful outcomes. When governments spend this amount of money on a project and in many times these projects are often in the spotlight, they’re generally after results and schedule is one of those key elements that they want to make sure.


We hear in the papers all the time: delays, delays, delays. Everyone has egg on their face when see these papers. They think, ‘how on earth is this project taking so long to deliver?’


It’s not good for anyone and this is part of team mobilisation. So having the right resources in place at the right time can really help keep the schedule on track. It can really help momentum.


We talk about successful projects being about the people, the way it’s resourced, the processes that they have and the tools they have to deliver. This is one of the key elements of that.


Getting the right people in there to deliver when they should be is fundamentally what we’re talking about. I’ve witnessed projects in the past where it’s taken at least months or so to provide the right team in place. I’ve also seen other projects that we’ve been involved in and taken an active role in mobilise the team being developed in a matter of days.


The difference between a couple of days and a couple of months to mobilise the right team can often mean years to the actual schedule in a large multi-year’s plan project.


Annie-Mei: OK yeah, so you mentioned needing the right resources for team mobilisation. So what are those resources that you need apart from having the right people?


Steve: Certainly when we’re talking about resources it’s the right people, it’s the right structures, it’s the right tools and it’s the right processes. So if we’re talking about a large project with a design aspect to it then it’s having people with the right skillsets as well.


So it may involve 3D CAD design, for example. In mechanical projects where we’re talking about fabricating items or designing items to then be fabricated and form assemblies and sub-assemblies and larger systems. Having the right people in place to provide structure, to provide a design life cycle that is reliable and then understand how that’s going to be delivered and meet the customer’s objectives as well.


So everything from having project managers, to having engineers, having dedicated individuals looking at the project schedule to make sure expectations are aligned. All the way down to having the right PCs and software, and security architecture. All of these things are incredibly important in bringing together and mobilising a project team that can deliver.


Annie-Mei: OK, and Adam. To you, why is effective team mobilisation important. Steve spoke before about being able to deliver projects without delays and having the right people to deliver those projects, so to you, why is it important?


Adam: Well, let’s have a look at projects that fail. Projects that don’t do as well aren’t as effectively mobilised. Typically rely on a ‘bums on seats’ model for resourcing. They may not have invested time and effort into the purpose to the project and setting the right culture. So there’s a thousand reasons why projects would fail if it’s not taken seriously. If you don’t fully appreciate the value of correctly planning and mobilising a project, then there is a much greater likelihood of failure.


Steve made reference to the people. It’s absolutely true in the early stages of mobilising a new project that people are the core. If you get the wrong people or you make compromises on the people you are selecting for that core team, the probability of project failure increases dramatically.


During those early, early stages of project design and mobilisation. There should be absolutely no compromise on who it is that you are putting into the project because they’ll be helping to define the ‘why’. The purpose this project is going to deliver. And they are the people who will be setting the tone, the standard, the pacing, the momentum, the communication-style. They’ll be setting the culture of the entire team.


They are the people that should be defining what kind of tools are going to be needed to deliver the project. So it’s critically important to set it up for success to minimise the chances of failure.


Most projects fail. Most projects don’t deliver exactly what they’re supposed to deliver, at the budget they’re supposed to deliver it within the timeframe that they are supposed to deliver it. Properly resourcing the front-end of a project during mobilisation dramatically reduces the chance of project failure and significantly reduces the impact because it sets the right conditions with people, processes and tools


Annie-Mei: So when you say that most projects do fail, has there been a situation where there has been a project that Anywise has worked on that has failed and how were you able to rebound from that.


Adam: So when I say projects fail. When projects are kicked off they have certain set expectations internally and externally on scope, schedule and budget. They make promises that they can deliver ‘X’ capability by ‘Y’ amount of time at ‘Z’ cost. And they are best guesses at the time but they are bold promises. Along the way, things change. Project team needs to adapt and evolve to treat known or unknown emerging risks or challenges to the project.


We’ve had a couple of projects that were long-term. Typically, not delivered internally by us, rather these were projects we were complementing by providing mobilising staff to and consulting staff into a client’s team that have shown very dramatic and early signs of failure. Primarily because there was insufficient time and effort built into the front-end to correctly identify the kind of team that would be required to mobilise it. Then to converge that thinking to the absolute core elements of that project that must be delivered.


We make it a habit of being excellent at our own jobs but then pursuing excellence for our clients’ processes and their own projects. So no project ever follows every business rule in every company. It needs to deviate to deliver success. In the two projects that I’m thinking of now that showed signs of dramatic failure, our consultants did a number of things.


The first and foremost thing they did put their hand up and identified that there was a trend for this particular project heading in the wrong direction and encouraged collaborative discussion around mitigation strategies to keep the schedule and to keep the amount of deliverable scope on the right side of success at the right cost.


Large bureaucratic organisations can be overly constrained and can’t adjust in time. In a couple of examples that was the case, where the client was literally unable to adapt or throw resources or adapt the project delivery model. So our consultant team requested additional support from Anywise.


We uplifted a small planning team into both of these projects to conduct quite a simple dip check of where the projects were against their own expectations. Quickly modelled the resources required to achieve those critical tasks and then encouraged and worked with the client to reallocate resources so that they were making the right decisions. Their decisions, we just helped them realise them. The right decisions on the right priority of tasks to be completed to ensure a more successful project.


See what normally happens in any team is that people get busy. And they all get busy doing what they think is the right thing. And where the right thing, the ‘why’, the purpose of the project hasn’t been established really well and invested in upfront during mobilisation can be lost. So everyone gets busy. All pulling in their direction and sometimes those directions are opposing. So there’s this inertia around project success which just can’t get to the finish line quick enough.


So for those two projects specifically, our consultants pulled the lever when they realised that they didn’t have the resources available to them in the client’s project to do it in their own right. We offered additional assistant to conduct a review of the project against its expectations and then we worked with the client to mitigate any further losses.


If we were to ask the five why’s of root cause analysis – why did that happen? Why were people working on the wrong thing? Why was dissatisfaction among the project team so high? Fundamentally in both scenarios, it comes back to a poor effort of mobilising a project at the front end. These two projects in particular were just never set up for success.


All of the hard work from all of the projects. Staff, they were just never going to get them over the line because everybody was working with what they thought was the right thing to do. They didn’t full understand the purpose, their role in the purpose and therefore, what everybody should have been focused on.


Annie-Mei: OK, and Steve. What Adam was saying before about Anywise being able to talk to clients to make sure the project is delivered to the best ability of the team. What are some other reasons that Anywise is able to mobilise their teams well compared to larger organisations?


Steve: Yeah, thanks Annie-Mei. I think at the crux of trying to answer that question simply, I’m going to say it’s our expertise. So there’s deep expertise in a number of environments that make us acutely aware to some of the risks that generally occur in large organisations as well.


So if I take an example which happens all too often, in particular in large organisations where there’s typically a bid team responsible for the winning part of the project and then there’s an operations team which is responsible for the delivery side of the project. All too often the case with winning these types of projects is that the bid team isn’t necessarily talking to the operations team. The bid team will define and design a project or win a project with certain themes and as soon as that signature is signed, the bid team celebrate, pop the champagne and say, ‘operations team, over to you guys now. Go deliver it. Our job’s done here’.


I’ve personally seen this a number of times and I’ve then seen those consequences. So touching on what Adam said before that and touching on the themes of purpose, often that transition period and the handover period, that purpose can often be lost. Certainly some of the underlying assumptions can be lost. All of those things can start to morph away from what the project is trying to achieve and understanding the customer’s expectations.


And this is where mobilisation comes into it and what we as Anywise have offered is this real tangible value to clients is at this point in time be acutely aware of those really early symptoms of that just by having some conversations with folk, sitting in an environment and realising where those risks are. So being able to raise it and do something about it really early in the piece before it runs away and it turns into that project that ends up on the front page of the paper.


Annie-Mei: Alright, great. Thanks Adam and Steve for talking to me today about team mobilisation.


Adam: Thanks for having us, Annie-Mei.


Steve: Thank you, Annie-Mei.


Annie-Mei: That’s all from us today. Thank you for listening and make sure to follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram, or check out our website at anywise.com.au. Until next time, I’m Annie-Mei Forster and this is Any.Talk.


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