Leading industry project experts define key leadership qualities at cross-sector event

A cross-sector group of industry project experts has met to debate and define the skills and competences required by leaders in achieving successful project outcomes in increasingly complex contracting environments.

More than 20 delegates, including members of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority estate companies, oil and gas operators and Tier 1 contractors, as well as academics took part in the recent Leadership on Complex Projects event, which was organised by Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB), the UK’s statutory skills body for the engineering construction industry.

The idea for the one-day workshop came from ECITB’s Oil and Gas Project Management Steering Group (OPMSG), which leads and supports the project management activities of ECITB in the offshore region.

The aim was to gather insight on the capabilities required for leadership on complex projects, gain understanding of where industry perceived gaps, and provide opportunity for ECITB to better understand where to best focus its efforts to support industry.

Andy Brown, director of operations for ECITB, said that although the initial motivation came from OPMSG, the interest and attendance from the nuclear decommissioning community indicated that this is an issue that affects other domains within engineering construction facing similar challenges.

“Many engineering construction projects are technically complicated but this does not necessarily make them complex,” he said. “Complexity is often driven by factors such as the commercial environment and the number and range of stakeholders involved in modern contracts, and the differing priorities that they may have, overlaid on the large-scale and technical difficulty of the engineering itself.

“It was an excellent day, full of rich discussion and debate over the capabilities and current gaps in effective project leadership. I was particularly pleased with having such a diverse and experienced group who have certainly helped shape what the ECITB needs to focus on to support developments in this area.”

One of the key findings of the workshop was that leadership in this environment requires more emphasis on maturity of soft skills, such as building empathy and trust, and dealing with uncertainty.

ECITB will collate all the findings, outcomes and recommendations from the event into a report, which will be used to build a response for industry to help develop the leadership skills, knowledge and behaviour required for the future in complex project environments.

Andrew Buchan, senior projects advisor for the OGA, said: “One of the key findings of the OGA’s ‘Projects Lessons learned Report 2017’ showed the importance of project leadership in delivering the successful outcome of a project and we continue to see this in our engagement with industry. Following on from this initial cross-industry session, I’m looking forward to the ECITB together with industry, developing guidance and training for project managers to ensure that best practice is promoted throughout the sector.”

Matt Staines, Nexen project manager for the Buzzard Phase 2 development, attended the event. He said: “With the industry looking at how best we can deliver projects, this was a relevant and very valuable workshop. It highlighted the importance of competent and experienced project managers to cross industry projects and the vital role that project leadership brings to robust project delivery.”

Andy Brown, director of operations of ECITB

Andy Brown, director of operations of ECITB

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