Creating the project leaders of the future

“The learnings gained by professionals completing the Executive Leadership in Major Projects program are being translated into immediate action, making positive changes to the major projects they are leading”, said Marc Vogts, Executive Director of the John Grill Centre of Project Leadership at the University of Sydney.

Over the past year a cohort of project professionals from infrastructure, oil & gas, telecommunications, construction and banking & finance industries have joined a year of studies to enhance their  leadership capabilities. Their studies have focused on effective leadership practices, driving high-performance teams, collaborative engagement and stakeholder management, shaping projects as part of the strategic environment, planning for value creation and creating execution agility.

“Drawing on expertise from across the University and also on the experiences of executives from industry and government has allowed us to develop a truly relevant and contemporary program for those leading major projects”, said Professor Suresh Cuganesan, Deputy Director, John Grill Centre.

Collaboration with the Business School, Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies, Faculty of Law, the Graduate School of Government, the School of Social Sciences supported research, the development of case studies and project immersions to ensure the participant learning experience is both dynamic in nature and based on current project issues.

Participants have been supported throughout their leadership transformation by their direct supervisor, a mentor appointed from their organisation and coupled with a John Grill Centre executive coach with major project experience. This support network has ensured participants align their learnings with their action plans, allowing them to bring these new practices back into their organisation.

A highlight for participants has been the lessons learnt from major project executives, including Tony Shepherd, Chairman, WestConnex; Charles Swartz, Global Business Director, The Dow Chemical Company, Robert Edwardes, Executive Vice President, Woodside, Leigh Clifford, Chair, Qantas and Bechtel, Belinda Hutchinson, Chancellor of The University of Sydney,  The Hon Nick Greiner, Chairman, Bradken and former Premier of NSW; Michelle Tredenick, Non-Executive Director, Bank of Queensland; Peter Meurs, Director Development, Fortescue Metals and  Steve Sargent is President and Chief Executive Officer of GE Mining.

The cohort now turn their attention to the final stage of the program involving a project currently underway within the organisation with the aim to develop solutions for the project challenges by drawing on course learnings and mentor insights and formulate a detailed strategy and implementation plan and embed the revised approach into current project plans in collaboration with their project sponsor.

The first cohort have unanimously voiced the value of the program. When commenting on his expectations coming into the new program a cohort member who leads a major road infrastructure project in NSW noted, “whatever expectations I may have had, they have been exceeded.” A cohort member from a major Australian bank noted how “the coaching element of the program is helping me understand myself better and therefore helping me become a more effective and better leader and drive better project outcomes.”

Dr Maurizo Floris, Program Director of the ELMP program, noted that the cohort members are keen to remain actively involved and help build a network of senior project professionals:  “We are currently exploring different ways to nurture and grow such a network through, for example, an  alumni program and involving past participants in future ELMP programs.”.

Participants who complete the ELMP program gain credit points to the university’s Global Executive Master of Business Administration (GEMBA).

The next ELMP cohort will commence in August 2015. The program runs across a year period comprising of 6 weeks of course work (undertaken in 2 week residentials), an in-organisation project and executive coaching throughout. Applicants close on 29 May 2015.

The centre is also developing Governance programs to support boards and executives to achieve successful project outcomes for their business defining projects. These will be delivered from September 2015.

The John Grill Centre for Project Leadership was established in October 2012 with a landmark donation from University of Sydney alumnus John Grill, on his retirement as Chief Executive of WorleyParsons.