Utility Week

UTILITY Week 22nd January 2016

Utility Week - authoritative, impartial and essential reading for senior people within utilities, regulators and government

Issue link: https://fhpublishing.uberflip.com/i/628815

Contents of this Issue


Page 25 of 31

26 | 22nd - 28th January 2016 | utILIty WEEK Operations & Assets Market view C urrent market conditions notwith- standing, the outlook for megaprojects (defined as projects costing $1 billion or more) is bright. By some estimates global spending on energy, infrastructure, mining, and real-estate-related projects could be double today's levels by 2030. Meanwhile, the importance of the megaproject director has risen over the past decade in lockstep with the complexity and challenge of the role. Many projects cross state and national boundaries, and some crews, particularly in the oil and gas and mining industries, must work in isolated, harsh environments. To be sure, megaproject directors typically have decades of expertise in the technical skills associated with man- aging large capital projects, but they must also master so skills such as leadership acumen, political deness, and influencing ability, to manage the interests of multiple stakeholders in these sprawling, multiyear undertakings. Research by Heidrick & Struggles finds that talent-related deficits will present the greatest challenge for companies pursuing megaprojects over the next five to ten years. We conducted 70 in-depth interviews with megaproject directors and C-suite execu- tives. Their responses offer a glimpse into the current and future market for megapro- ject leadership, including directors' desire for autonomy, the importance of culture, and the relative lack of effective training programmes. By arming megaproject directors with a broader view of the business through men- torship and different types of assignment, companies can get more from the projects they undertake, while also developing their next generation of business unit leaders. Differing views Our study highlighted notable differences in perspective between company execu- tives and megaproject directors. The former assume the project portfolio is the most attractive element of a job; one executive went so far as to say: "Project directors chase the projects, not companies." But the lat- ter cited organisational culture as the most important factor when deciding whether to join, or remain, with a company. As one megaproject director explained, the most important part of the job is "having a chair around the table and being valued as part of the leadership team". More worrying is the disconnect between training and the expanding role of megapro- ject directors. The traditional perception of the megaproject director is of a professional focused on execution, managing subcontrac- tors, and attending to the nuts and bolts of a project. However, one megaproject director observed: "It's not taught anywhere how to manage the expectations of the clients and related soer skills." Building your team Since much of the knowledge and skills needed to manage megaprojects cannot be easily developed save for first-hand experience, many companies are at risk of underinvesting in training programmes, or investing in ineffective ones. Several low-cost approaches can bring megaproject directors up to speed on the strategic elements of both running a project and – perhaps eventually – running a business unit. Companies should consider keeping retired leaders on retainer as coaches for the next generation, and rotat- ing megaproject directors into other parts of the business. Ultimately, our findings confirm that to attract and keep the best people, compa- nies must not only do what they know well (maintain a portfolio of interesting and challenging projects) but also recognise the primacy of corporate culture, work environ- ment, and how valued these critical con- tributors feel when establishing executive priorities. Equally critical to the development of their megaproject directors, companies must emphasise meaningful professional development opportunities that build the strategic planning capabilities and so skills needed to meet their unique challenges. Mark Livingston is a global managing partner and Regina Madyarova a knowledge manager at the Global Natural Resources Practice at Heidrick & Struggles. Abigail Skerrett is a principal at the Global Natural Resources Practice and UK Industrial, Heidrick & Struggles Think big to retain the best Megaproject directors are a breed apart, and many employers misunderstand how best to recruit and retain them, say Mark Livingston, Regina Madyarova and Abigail Skerrett. The megaproject director toolkit The traditional view of the role (and how to prepare individuals for it) is increasingly outdated. C-suite leaders and megaproject directors agreed about the need for the latter to deepen their skills in three areas. 1) Economic viability assessment and innovation. Tomorrow's megaproject directors will need to approach projects more strategically, as a business unit leader would. Megaproject leaders with the ability to get creative will thrive. 2) Risk management. The next five years will see more strategic partnerships, consolida- tion among service providers, consortia, and joint ventures – shining a light on the primacy of risk management. One executive explained: "If you think about the scope and complexity of a megaproject, you begin and end with the management of risk, much like running a business." 3) Cutting-edge technology. Megaproject directors must expand their understanding of technol- ogy beyond operational tools to the impact of technology on the business itself. However, the cur- rent career trajectory and training of megaproject directors does not always offer enough exposure to the strategic side.

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Utility Week - UTILITY Week 22nd January 2016