Six group behaviours found in all successful project teams

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There are many reasons IT projects go off the rails or fail, but one of the most common is the behaviour of the people working on them.

Over the past decade spent rescuing troubled projects, we’ve identified six different group behavioural patterns that are common in successful, failed and reformed projects.

Understanding these behaviours and finding ways to recognise and expose them has been transformative in our line of work. But as large, high-profile IT projects continue to run into difficulties, we believe others might also find value in our methodology.

We refer to the behaviours as peak performance attributes and we consider them to be the six essential characteristics of a peak performing project team. We further divide the six attributes into two key areas, which we call business solution clarity and capability to execute. However, all six are considered predictive of project success.

Within business solution clarity, the three key peak performance attributes we look for in a project team are clarity of purpose, balance and alliance.

Clarity of purpose is as it sounds. Is everybody clear about the purpose of the project? And not only are they saying the right thing but are they acting in a unified way? This is a very important measure when a project involves multiple internal groups as well as third-party resources from big suppliers.

Balance is another important attribute in the project ecosystem – that is, among the project team, suppliers, business stakeholders, executives and the customer. All have to work in unison to achieve the project’s outcomes, and so balance is the ability of the ecosystem to trade off often-conflicting performance metrics of budget, schedule and solution quality or business outcome.

It’s very common in these projects to get different answers from different people, based on their own weighting of these trade-offs. A CFO may weight meeting budget higher than time or solution outcomes, whereas the business stakeholders may have a far greater focus on the solution quality rather then time or money.The reality is that to be successful, the project ecosystem has got to be able to efficiently trade those different factors off as a whole.

Alliance is characterised by a shared commitment and shared risks to operate as a unified temporary organisation for the business outcome. What happens when a project becomes stressed: are key suppliers as worried about the project risk profile as much as their own commercial risk profile? As soon as subgroups put their own risk agenda before the program’s risk agenda, the ecosystem starts to pull apart. Successful projects are unified and all pull in the same direction.

The other three characteristics – drive, certainty, and effectiveness – are all indicators of the project ecosystem’s capability to execute.

Drive is a measure of the group’s forward momentum on the project and their ability to quickly make and hold key decisions and overcome any issues that may crop up; certainty is about the group’s ability to effectively manage project risks; and effectiveness is a measure of the group’s ability to employ structured project management techniques to deliver project outcomes.

When we come across troubled projects, underperformance on any of these six characteristics is typically not a recent phenomenon that has caused the project to become derailed. Rather, low performance on these key attributes can be traced back to project inception.

Often, the project is set up and structured poorly – there may not be adequate role clarity, or the disciplines for managing the project are poor. It then becomes a chicken and egg problem: the poor structure causes poor behaviour, and poor behaviour then prevents the structure from being fixed.

Over the years we have codified recognition of the six group behaviours and used machine learning both to more quickly recognise variations in successful patterns of behaviour and to predict where they might lead if left unchecked. Each time we measure peak performance attributes of the group, our tool learns from them and improves its ability to predict whether a project is going to be successful or fail.

We have recently launched a new tool TeamAmp, that is part of our AI Assurance Suite that embodies our methodology and offers projects the ability to measure, monitor and manage these key performance attributes right from project commencement.

Time and again, we have found the human overseers of projects need help getting to grips with people problems. People are a very complex factor to measure and understand, and computers are well suited to this kind of behavioural pattern recognition.

In our more than ten years making projects right, the absence of specific project management methodologies and measures for people is clear. There are plenty of approaches to defining and measuring a schedule, defining and measuring a budget, designing, building and testing code. But what we found was it was the way people behaved and aligned, what they were focused on and how they managed risks jointly that really mattered to a project’s success or failure.

by Michael Devlin

More Aussie firms are hiring chief transformation officers

In a 45-minute window of the half-year results period just past, two large companies made the same significant strategic move, independently of one another.

At 8.00am, ANZ Banking Group created a digital transformation executive role. At 8.45am, BHP announced the appointment of its own “chief transformation officer”.

They are not alone. LinkedIn shows there are now 124 chief transformation officers in Australia. They can be found across government departments and private enterprise, and their growth reflects a trend that is also being seen in other markets internationally.

The appointment of chief transformation officers at high-profile Australian companies is significant for several reasons.

First and foremost, it demonstrates that transformation is its own skill and domain of expertise.

Transformations are complex and a discipline in their own right. One mistake we consistently see in under-performing transformations is where executives don’t appreciate that someone who is good at day-to-day business operations might not necessarily be as adept at managing a transformation program. There is still a view that these skills are interchangeable. The reality is they are not.

It’s rare that an executive is going to be able to look to someone internally – potentially more junior than them – who really only has business-as-usual (BAU) experience, and expect them to pull off a successful transformation.

Therefore, the ideal person to a run a transformation is someone that has experienced both sides: the business-as-usual operations, as well as having past transformation experience. If the latter is a stumbling block, the skills of a BAU-focused transformation leader can be augmented with targeted advice from a transformation specialist like Certus3.

Second, the arrival of the chief transformation officer is further proof transformation needs a seat at the executive table.

The most successful transformation programs are driven from the top down. This isn’t just about executive sponsorship, though having a strong sponsor clearly helps. For example, ANZ’s chief executive Shayne Elliott has consistently pressed the case for bank-wide adoption of ‘Scaled Agile’ under the institution’s ‘New Ways of Working’ transformation. Yet, the bank still feels a need to have a separate transformation executive.

This is because while executive sponsorship provides a mandate for change, the execution and day-to-day work associated with transformation delivery is best left to someone with a particular set of skills.

As McKinsey notes, “chief transformation officers should be independent (certainly not associated with the decisions of the past), have experience of similar turbulent corporate environments in their earlier careers, and enjoy support from the board, the CEO, and top management. They should be fully integrated into the executive team (not sidelined to a separate transformation unit). Ideally, they should behave like an extension of the CEO or even the board and as such be able to hold the top managers accountable.”

Third, executive representation, when combined with the support of risk professionals and specific tools, can help reduce uncertainty and ensure risks inherent in digital transformation programs are properly understood and managed.

By their very nature, digital transformation programs deliver changes to processes, technology and culture. This can have a significant impact on the business risk profile of an organisation.

Risks that aren’t adequately managed and resolved during program execution will often manifest in operational uncertainty after the program has gone live.

Those risks can be as simple as keeping everyone in the organisation informed and focused on the end goal. A recent survey found that while 67 percent of managers were aware of their digital transformation efforts, that awareness level dropped to just 27 percent of non-managers – evidence that there is a need to better engage staff.

A well-supported transformation executive is likely to be best-placed to run that engagement and to create processes and ways of presenting information to the business in a way that keeps the program on track.

Dashboards are often a great way of keeping everyone informed about a digital transformation program. A dashboard can provide an overall portfolio-wide view of risk and uncertainty across a transformation in real time. It also ensures that important information actually reaches the people who need to see it.

We’ve also found that regular independent assurance using risk-centric predictive analytics like AI Assurance is an effective way of ensuring that risks in a transformation program are progressively managed, and that uncertainty is reduced and understood by the executive committee.

Successful transformation is about getting programs on track and keeping them there. The elevation of transformation from an executive concern to an ex

Why organisation-wide Agile is still a work-in-progress

As Australian companies start to report the outcomes of organisation-wide Agile transformation journeys, their key learnings are now being debated.

Article by Certus3 managing partner Michael Devlin and Certus3 managing partner Simo Popovac.

Clearly, there are tales of caution and mistakes to avoid, but the question is how many of these are cross-applicable to others on similar journeys, versus how many apply only to the company involved and their specific set of circumstances?

Over the coming weeks, I plan to present an Australian state of organisation-wide Agile: what’s worked, what hasn’t and what we can take from user experiences so far.

To begin, it’s important to baseline the discussion.

The Agile approach owes its origins to software development. It was conceived by 17 developers at a US ski resort in February 2001, with the results of that meeting embodied in a manifesto.

One of the 17, Martin Fowler, wrote in 2006 that the manifesto “really captured the core of the ideas” from the initial meeting, though even at that stage he worried about the intent being misconstrued. “I’ve seen the terms incremental and iterative abused into all sorts of strange project shapes. I hope the manifesto will make clear what is and isn’t Agile.”

While what is and isn’t Agile is clear from a software development perspective, Agile has since transcended the world of software and is now considered an organisational change methodology.

The four core values and 12 supporting principles defined in the Agile manifesto have proven to be highly effective in the delivery of any business solution, not just for software development, and therefore have lent themselves to be used in organisation-wide transformations.

One of the leading adaptions of the agile manifesto now being used organisation-wide is the Scaled Agile Framework of SAFe.

Australian adopters of SAFe include Australia Post, Westpac and Telstra. Others, such as ANZ Banking Group, are deploying their own customised version of ‘scaled agile’ (which they are calling ‘New Ways of Working’).

Therein lies the complexity of organisation-wide Agile. There is no prescriptive way to approach it. Much depends on the company, its culture and its receptiveness to change – and this impacts the cross-applicability of lessons learned.

Further, Pure Agile may no longer be the specific end goal. Some argue that Agility is a spectrum and that few if any, organisations achieve full Agility. Most are instead destined to sit somewhere along that spectrum, perhaps combining Agile and non-Agile elements in the way they organisationally structure and function.

So, organisation-wide Agile is still very much a work-in-progress, complete with ambiguities and misconceptions of what it might involve, and no real way of knowing whether you’ve got things right (except in cases where it is clear that things have gone wrong). We’re changing this through the introduction of predictive measures of Agile success.

What is Agile?

In order to set a baseline for this discussion, it’s worth examining briefly the four core values of the Agile manifesto.

Agile is intentionally the opposite of the traditional waterfall approach to the development of business solutions where much time is spent upfront scoping requirements before work can begin on actually designing, building and maintaining a business solution (or in the case of software development, a piece of code).

One of the shortfalls of the waterfall approach is that by the time a working product is delivered produced, requirements have changed and therefore the outcome may be of limited utility. Agile changes this by reducing – but not limiting – the number of upfront requirements and design work, allowing a business solution to emerge over time to meet changing business requirements.

The core values of Agile are as follows:

Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools. This is easy to understand because the individuals that make up diverse teams understand business needs and are best positioned to drive delivery of a business solution.

Working Software (Solution) over Comprehensive Documentation.

This does not mean that documentation is abandoned altogether; rather it is limited to the minimum that is required to produce a business solution that delivers value to the customer in an incremental manner.

Customer Collaboration over Contract (Requirements) Negotiation.

The collaboration with the customer starts from the beginning and continues to the very end. The customer remains an integral part of the team throughout business solution delivery.

Responding to Change over Following a Plan.

The Agile approach recognises and embraces change, rather than fighting it. The focus is always on improvements that changes bring to the project and on added value to the business solution.

Over the past five years, a number of large Australian organisations have embarked on Scaled Agile journeys, with mixed results.

Hills Deploys Machine Learning to Support On Time Delivery of Digital Transformation

Hills Limited (ASX:HIL) is a value added distributor of technologies that ‘connect, entertain and secure people’s lives’ with turnover approaching $280Mill. It has built up a strong presence in the security, audio-visual, communications and health markets.

The Challenge

Like many large companies, Hills saw an opportunity to digitally transform its operations and become more customer-centric in order to drive new growth opportunities.

In September 2017, Hills announced plans to “develop an e-commerce platform that will provide the customers of Hills with 24×7 real-time inventory and self-service capabilities, including customer statements, invoices, pricing, online payments, and delivery information.”

“Hills believes the e-commerce platform will allow staff to be more engaged with customers and vendors, and create a stronger platform to promote vendor products”.

However, as with other organisations that choose to tackle digital transformation, Hills knew it would encounter challenges along its journey that would threaten the success of the project and had not attempted a project of this complexity for many years.

The Solution

As a result and following a board-lead initiative, Hills decided to deploy an innovative assurance approach using an artificial intelligence (AI) service by Certus3.  It selected TeamAmp, an innovative, lean ICT project assurance system developed by Certus3, to keep the project on track right through to its successful delivery and provide predictive measures of success which could be reviewed at any moment in time thereby avoiding potential pitfalls such as late delivery or budget blowouts.

Certus3 is Australia’s leading provider of independent specialist ICT assurance services. Its AI enabled tools and services have become critical to running healthy, complex IT transformation projects, providing quick, accurate, bias-free, systematic measurements and actionable diagnosis of challenges before they can adversely impact the delivery schedule or outcomes.

TeamAmp is the first use of machine learning to enable executives to continuously monitor and improve the people (behavioural) characteristics of a project that are predictive of success or failure. Certus3 have also created an expert system that supports TeamAmp by enabling clients to precisely measure the risk profile of their project and define a specific improvement or reform plan.

The Benefits

Hills used the TeamAmp system at key milestones during the e-commerce implementation program to drive improvements in team performance and ensure people remained aligned to the common goal.   It was also able to provide executives with unique insights into any areas of concern that enabled them to proactively guide and lead the project team to success. This also gave comfort to the Board given that this was a multi-million dollar project.

On a practical level, rather than using external consultants to run health check services, the project team was periodically sent a carefully designed, multiple choice digital survey that took less than 10 minutes to complete, ensuring it did not disrupt the team delivering the new platform.  All through the transformation program, the internal team at Hills were in control and were able to gather data and produce results through the online platform with no human intervention.

As a result, the new e-commerce platform went live on schedule in February 2018.

Chief Financial Officer, Chris Jacka, who sponsored the e-commerce program, says TeamAmp helped guide the program to success.

“It is a key pulse point in our project, delivering to Hills valuable insights to discuss with the project teams and refine project plans accordingly, which was more than just anecdotal feedback”

“There is no other way you can get this kind of analysis from the 40+ people involved in a program regularly and provided a clear value for money solution for our project team ” Jacka says.

The TeamAmp system also gave confidence to the Board and executives that the project would deliver the stated outcomes.

Non-Executive Director, Philip Bullock AO, strongly supported the use of TeamAmp for this project, based upon his industry experience built up over 20 years at IBM and the benefits he had witnessed elsewhere.

“Almost 40-50% of all technology based projects are late or over budget1. As a Board, we needed to ensure that the governance processes gave us the best chance of success. Certus3, via their TeamAmp, which has been developed over 8 years, gave us a level of comfort that we could deliver a critical project for the future success of Hills” Bullock commented.

Hills CEO and Managing Director, David Lenz, says TeamAmp “gave us a very clear insight into areas of concern” during the e-commerce platform delivery, “which resulted in us addressing those areas immediately. This was very beneficial for Hills and allowed us to move forward with the project.

“Through the use of a specialist assurance company we have been able to get a deeper understanding of the issues affecting people in a transparent way,” Lenz says.

An Eye on the Future

Hills is now embarking on yet another transformational initiative to upgrade its enterprise resource planning (ERP) to better position the company to support growth. Based on the success of stage one of the digital transformation, it is planned that TeamAmp will be used to provide assurance around the delivery of the ERP work.

For more information, visit or

  1. PMI’s Global Pulse of the Profession, 2017, “Success Rates Rise”, p5

Certus3 Launches New Australian-Developed AI-Enabled Assurance Solutions To Support Digital Business Transformation Success

Certus3’s new AI Assurance Suite supports traditional, agile and hybrid project management governance approaches and is an alternative to expensive consultant-lead health checks or assurance.

Certus3, an Australian services company which partners with organisations to assure large-scale and complex transformation programs, has launched its next generation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) enabled solutions. TeamAmp and SolutionAmp give companies the data they need to confidently manage digital transformations to success.

Traditionally, most organisations have used standard project management and governance processes to assess the ongoing status of their projects with some supporting this with internal or external reviews or assurance of the projects. In both scenarios, the organisations use measures and approaches that have not materially evolved in the last 20 years and are unreliable and highly variable in terms of quality and outcome.

At the same time, organisations are heavily dependent on the people involved in the reviews or assurance and are very prone to being influenced by organisational culture, politics and biases. They also look at lagging indicators, including schedule and budget as measures of progress and success and usually fail to look at leading predictive indicators of project success. By the time project issues surface in schedule and budget overruns, the leading indicators would have identified problems affecting performance for many months if not years.

“Our new AI-enabled solutions address all the shortcomings of traditional approaches and support the increased the use of assurance by significantly lowering the cost of assurance and its intrusion into project execution, says Michael Devlin, Managing Partner, Certus3. “By being able to run assurance reviews more frequently and focusing on leading indicators of projects success through machine learning automation, the success rate of projects will increase.”

Certus3’s new AI Assurance Suite supports traditional, agile and hybrid project management governance approaches and is an alternative to expensive consultant-lead health checks or assurance. It changes how project assurance is delivered and does this at a lower cost while placing control in the client’s hands. At the same time, it improves the effectiveness of assurance by measuring the predictive characteristics of success enabling organisations to take improvement action early.

Certus3’s new artificial intelligence based suite includes TeamAmp, a world first cognitive platform that enables companies to measure, monitor and manage people and how they are performing together. Its machine learning technology benchmarks a team’s behaviour to optimise their performance and then supports sustaining that high performance for the life of the transformation.

TeamAmp uses the data gathered from a company’s project ecosystem and calculates a project’s success according to six key attributes of high performance and then provides an overall Team performance Score. These attributes include Clarity of Purpose, Balance, Alliance, Drive, Certainty and Effectiveness. These attribute scores determine the heath of a project, the probability of success and what actions need to be taken to improve performance and chance of success.

In addition, SolutionAmp, part of Certus3’s new AI Assurance Suite, is a diagnostic expert system that delivers a rapid project risk profile and powerful action plans.

For example, a construction company implementing a compliance platform as part of a health and safety program must have a program with a clearly defined set of functions. At the same time, it needs to ensure safety compliance, monitoring and adherence to safety protocols that prevent injuries and save lives. At each stage of the project lifecycle the business leaders must assess that the solution being built will meet the stated objectives and provide the return on investment that is required.

SolutionAmp can guide the assessment of project milestones and control points to determine if the right level of certainty has been achieved and, if not, what needs to be done. It provides business leaders with a precise measure of actual versus target certainty progress, what the gaps are and how best to close them.

Devlin says “Our aim is to enable Australian business to start with the end game in mind, ask the right questions and confront the uncertainties of the future so that transformation success can be achieved. Our AI solutions now provide organisations with the predictive measures of root cause success factors so they can be actioned and improved before they impact project schedule, cost or solution quality.”

For further information, please visit:

About Certus3

Certus3 is an Australian assurance services company which works with clients undergoing IT transformation programs to diagnose issues quickly and accurately and subsequently provide clear insight into recommended approaches for improvement.

Certus3 believes that every business today is a digital business. As a result, its assurance solutions combine people, insight, and technology, enabling Certus3 customers to realise the full potential of their ongoing transformation programs.

Certus3 achieves client success through its locally developed machine learning and expert system software solutions. Current clients include Asciano, Hills Industries, Myer, News Corp, Masters, NAB, Perpetual, Telstra, Toll Holdings and Woolworths.


Celebrating Mid Year at Certus3

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Certus3 hosted its inaugural Mid Year Event on Thursday, 8 August at Crown Street’s Winery.

The event was celebrated by the current Certus3 team all of whom enjoyed a fabulous feast and some lively conversation.

Enjoy the Mid Year Event slideshow

Introducing the latest addition to the Team, Amanda Crawford.


Amanda Crawford is a Change Manager, and she has just joined the Certus3 Business Transition team. We had a chat to Amanda to find out how she’s finding life at Certus3 so far.

What attracted you to working at Certus3?

As a Change Manager, I’m particularly interested in the people aspects of business change. What I love about the Certus3 approach is that they look at the whole business: the systems and processes, the technology, and the people and culture, all at once. All the streams are interwoven in a Certus3 project, so the people aspects are taken into consideration at every stage of the process changes, the process changes at every stage of the technology changes, etc. This kind of cross-stream integration means there is a high level of communication, so the whole project moves along efficiently.

How are you finding it so far?

I’ve stepped straight into an IT project in financial services and am loving it. The stream leads have built a solid framework and all the pieces are falling into place as we approach our go-live date. My colleagues and I in the Business Transition team are currently working with the technical and infrastructure teams to translate the system changes into reference material and training programs for end users so they will be ready to launch into the new app from day one. With eight weeks until go-live, there’s a great momentum building.

What do you enjoy most about this kind of work?

The people. There are so many different people and skill sets involved in a project, from the systems architects who nut out the technical solutions, to the Business Transition team who focus on the people aspects. Project work is very satisfying; I love watching a business idea turn into a fully implemented system, and seeing the improvements for end users.

What are you looking forward to in the next 12 months at Certus3?

There are some great projects in the pipeline at Certus3 and I’m looking forward to being involved with the next one from the beginning. Every project is like a giant puzzle, and it’s very satisfying to work with a great team to put all the pieces together. I’m also looking forward to the Christmas party; there’s nothing like celebrating with your team!

Certus3 partners with businesses in the management of large-scale and complex programs of work. Their holistic approach means every potential impact of a business change is taken into consideration, maximising the likelihood of success. To find out how Certus3 can improve your business outcomes, contact the team today on +61 (2) 9238 2131.


The Importance of ITIL Frameworks for Major IT Infrastructure Changes


From March each year through to the end of the financial year, we typically see an increase in the number of calls from CEOs and Executive teams as they move through their annual strategic planning processes. We love these conversations: it’s great to hear how so many different organisations have been progressing over the year, and to learn about their plans for the next one.

With information technology underpinning so many of our business processes these days, it’s not surprising that many of these plans involve major IT infrastructure changes. But establishing highly trained IT teams is only half the equation: we have seen time and time again how important it is to closely integrate IT infrastructure changes with business strategy changes so that your organisation’s overall performance improves.

If IT system changes aren’t closely integrated with a business’s strategic and operational plans, quality will slip and costs will go up, neither of which any business wants.

Over the years, we’ve partnered with all kinds of organisations that are accredited with best practice IT support frameworks such as ITIL, the Information Technology Infrastructure Library framework created by the British government in the late-1980s to increase the quality of government IT services while managing the overall costs of delivering those services.

If your organisation is a practitioner of ITIL, you’ll know just how much impact introducing best practice IT approaches such as accountability, consistency and clear boundaries can have on the bottom line. When processes are standardised and staff know what they are accountable for, the quality of service improves, customer satisfaction increases, and repeat business and referrals go up.

All of which is great for business! But as we also know, introducing any kind of change, even if it is a best practice approach, requires careful planning and transitioning so it is accepted across the organisation.

Which is where we come in: we help integrate the work of organisations’ IT experts on the information architecture into the Executive team’s vision for the enterprise architecture. We make sure organisations are structured so that their best practices approaches are dynamic, and can change when the business environment changes; because as Michael Scarborough says in his White Paper on ITIL, even if you’re not thinking this way, you can be sure some of your competitors are.[i]

Of course the creation of the right structure is only one half of the ITIL equation – as with every major transformative change the ability of the organisation to adapt to the new structure is the defining factor of implementation success. In order to gain the maximum acceptance of the benefits a fair bit of effort needs to be focused on preparing the organisation’s people.

Certus3’s Business Transition Team has worked with many clients to make the transition from current to future state as smooth as possible – Mel Young, our Business Transition Practice Lead, never ceases to emphasise the importance of defining and articulating the changes to the individuals impacted by the introduction of an ITIL framework. Not only does ITIL introduce new IT support processes but it brings with it newly defined roles and responsibilities for individuals – which require a fair bit of getting used to.

So if your organisation is accredited with ITIL or a similar IT best practice framework, contact us at Certus3 today and find out how we can help you successfully prepare your people and integrate your IT infrastructure changes into your business so you can stay ahead of the pack: +61 2 9238 2131,


[i] Scarborough, Michael, ‘Why ITIL is important’,, accessed 14 June 2016.



Executive Sponsor engagement – the key to program success


An actively engaged Executive Sponsor is the key to program success, so why are more and more programs going without this essential senior-level advocate? Recent research by the Boston Consulting Group and the Project Management Institute indicates that fewer than two thirds of programs have assigned Executive Sponsors, resulting in significant losses for organisations globally.

It’s not all bad news however. There are simple solutions to arrest this trend and to boost the effectiveness of this central role.

Limiting factors for Executive Sponsors include:

  • an organisational culture that leads to the overextension of Executive Sponsors;
  • ineffective and inaccurate communication; and
  • lack of professional development of Executive Sponsors (1)

FACTOR 1 – Overextension

We all struggle with multi-tasking and have experienced the pain associated with missing appointments or losing sleep when attempting to spread oneself too thin. The same can be said for Executive Sponsors who, in attempting to be across it all, end up missing important details impacting the very initiative they are responsible for delivering.

According to the research Executive Sponsors report that on average they work on three programs at a time, spending an average of 13 hours per week on each program they sponsor in addition to their regular jobs. (2)

Solution: Eliminate the over-assignment of sponsorship responsibility.

FACTOR 2 – Ineffective and inaccurate communication

Ineffective and inaccurate communication is the second most impactful factor limiting the ability of Executive Sponsors to carry out their roles effectively. From US$1 billion approximately US$75 million is wasted due to ineffective and inaccurate communications. (3)

Effective and correct communication above and below the Executive Sponsor is vital. Information when conducted via the Executive Sponsor is used as means of influence in the alignment of stakeholders, as a means to confirm leadership (knowledge is power) and is used as a platform for organisational decision-making.

Conversely, communication that is provided to the Executive Sponsor from the program via the program manager is also crucially important. This information usually takes the form of regular progress status reports calibrated to the appropriate level of detail for the Executive Sponsor.

Practices like regular updates against clear forward-looking milestones tied either to KPIs (describing lead indicators of known risks) or to operational or economic impacts provide genuinely useful insight and help Executive Sponsors to be actively engaged but not overburdened. (4)

This logical approach to the design and delivery of program status reporting is more often than not lacking, with already overstretched Executive Sponsors commonly overburdened with unstructured, detail-heavy content.

Inaccurate status reporting provides yet another more overt cause for Executive Sponsor concern. This is particularly apparent when faced with a program whose status has suddenly shifted from green to red with little or no warning.

Such a predicament can and should be avoided. Certus3’s Insights360 tool provides Executive Sponsors, and other senior leaders, with a low impact, cost-effective means through which the ‘true’ status of a project can be quickly understood. The tool not only provides a platform for reporting but more importantly is able to identify key problem or success areas – just in case an adjustment is required.

Solution: support should be provided to the Executive Sponsor through the provision of clear, accurate and brief program status reporting; and

the Executive Sponsor should have access to an independent reporting tool which can be used periodically to check the ‘true’ program status against the reported status.

FACTOR 3 – Development of Executive Sponsor skills

Most Executive Sponsors are not program professionals and therefore need specialist support and guidance when charged with the responsibility of large-scale transformation programs.

Although on-the-job training is the most common way for Executive Sponsors to acquire knowledge and skills, better project outcomes are achieved when organisations invest in the professional development of their Executive Sponsors.

Solution: Create and offer formal Executive Sponsor development programs, which include access to mentoring from experienced Executive Sponsors.

According to the research as much as US$109 million is wasted for every US$1 billion spent on programs due to ineffective Executive Sponsorship. By eliminating or reducing the factors that limit Executive Sponsor performance this waste can be prevented.

(1-4)  PMI Pulse of the Profession In-Depth Report – Executive Sponsor Engagement, accessed via on 24.05.16



Designing the Organisation


Remember that old maxim, the only constant is change?

With the speed of global business increasing, leaders are constantly faced with change. Some of this change is driven by external factors – like competitors’ activities or new technologies – while other changes are internally driven, like when a new leader is tasked with turning around an underperforming company. Change comes at us from all sides, and requires come clever organisational design to be successfully managed.

But what is organisational design? And why is it so important?

Organisational design involves breaking an organisation down into its operational parts, then connecting those parts together to achieve the goals set out in the business strategy. It is important because it ensures that an organisation works well and is profitable.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Yet over the years we have seen so many leaders struggle with redesigning their organisations to successfully navigate the changing business environment. Their businesses lose ground to whatever forces are working upon them and they are unable to achieve the results they expect. Leaders today cannot afford to do this.

In our experience studying and working with businesses of all sizes, there is a handful of organisational design principles that mean the difference between success and failure when navigating change. We have found the work of Gary Neilson, Jaime Estupiñán and Bhushan Sethi particularly useful in this area, and have distilled some of their key principles for you here.[i]

  1. “Declare amnesty for the past”: While it is crucial to start any process of organisational design with corporate self-reflection, getting stuck going over and over the old system does nothing to progress the situation. Instead, as Neilson and his colleagues suggest, declare an amnesty for the past and explicitly agree that you won’t try to defend or blame the design currently in place, but simply move on.
  2. “Fix the structure last, not first”: It’s tempting to short cut the organisational redesign process by simply rewriting your org chart, but this kind of ‘change’ is not really change at all. We know that if companies start by looking at the areas they need to improve and figuring out how to make them better, then the right organisational design often emerges during the process. So work out what you need to improve to reach your business goals and how you will go about it, then draw your org chart around that.
  3. Think about the people you need and want: Just like an org chart might work in theory but not in practice, an organisational design created for theoretical people won’t work either. As Neilson and his colleagues suggest, leverage the talent you have and want to retain and define the types and personalities of the people you’re seeking to recruit and design positions around them.
  4. Promote accountability: Research has shown that the strongest factors for improving the execution of an organisation’s business strategy are information flow and decision rights; in fact, Neilson and his colleagues found that these factors were twice as powerful as, for example, an organisation’s structure or motivators. We know that if information flows freely through an organisation and people are empowered to make decisions, their accountability increases and their performance improves. Make sure you consider these in your new organisational design.

The key to great organisational design is making sure your organisation fits your strategy, so your business is the right shape to achieve your goals. Certus3 is currently working with businesses of all sizes to create exceptional organisational designs that get results. To discuss the opportunity of utilising our experience to create the best design for your business, contact Certus3.

[i] Gary Neilson, Jaime Estupiñán and Bhushan Sethi, ‘10 Principles of Organization Design’, Business+Strategy,, accessed 29 April 2016.