The infrastructure industry across Australasia is in busy and challenging times. A significant pipeline of projects currently being delivered, with many more opportunities in the pipeline for the future. The challenges presented to leaders who manage infrastructure organisations and projects are not only in delivering immediate projects but also how to plan for sustainable success in Horizon 1 (1 to 3 years) and Horizon 2 (3 plus years) which was also part of a blog I wrote recently which can be found here.
This blog is not so much about how to plan for the long game but how do leaders and their organisations develop the capability and capacity of their leaders to execute on the long game. That is, equip them with the necessary skills and expertise to confidently lead their organisations and projects, whilst taking in to account what has occurred in the past and how to navigate the future challenges with confidence and certainty. Particularly given the pace of change occurring that will disrupt and change our industry and how it delivers projects.
To work this through, it is worth examining the current capability and capacity of infrastructure leaders. From my perspective working with leaders on large projects and with infrastructure organisations every day, I see the following characteristics in many of them:
- Leaders are time poor addressing immediate “urgent” matters and responding to delivery pressures;
- Leaders are busy being busy managing not making time to lead;
- Leaders don’t spend time thinking about the long term. We need to be identifying the activities we need to be doing now that will set us up for success in the medium and long term;
- Leaders have not made the shift to their primary role which is about creating the environment for success. Developing others, building capability and capacity in the organisation to be sustainable long term;
- Leaders are task focussed rather than people centric. They manage and control rather than make the shift to influencing people to deliver better outcomes;
- Leaders are distracted. Social media, “urgent” matters and challenges all take away from making time to lead and undertake activities that drive long term outcomes;
- Leaders neglect the small habits that make them successful which make the large gaps around long term thinking eventuate. The right habits undertaken over time lead to success but the opposite is also true when we neglect them;
- Leaders don’t make time to scan their industry, competitors and the globe for disruption and change occurring. They are inward looking which presents a balanced approach to decision making; and
- Leaders don’t always focus on the customer. The customer is not the government agency that procures the projects. It is their customers and stakeholders who utilise the transport networks, utilities and other assets that the government organisation operates and maintains.
We need to develop leaders across infrastructure in helping them build their capability and capacity to lead, respond and capitalise on the opportunities that disruption to our industry, society and our organisations will present over the next three to five years. This needs to include some of the following:
- Leaders need the right role models. Leaders who are disciplined, focus on the long term and drive the organisation in a sustainable manner;
- Access to game changers who are able to present and communicate the key changes and disruption that is occurring that will be directly relevant to our infrastructure industry in Australasia;
- Be disciplined and take time to lead, think and respond to these challenges but also position their organisation to take advantage of opportunities;
- Connect and collaborate with other like-minded game changers to stimulate thinking, learn from each other and drive collective change;
- Understand that collaboration is never about the how but the who. Who can I collaborate with to solve challenges we are facing and capitalise on opportunities for growth?;
- Understand technology, its application to organisations and projects in infrastructure and how it benefits all involved;
- Unlock the potential of their people through constructive and inspirational leadership techniques that create the environment for successful outcomes; and
- Learn how to be truly customer centric in all that your organisation does, benefitting everyone involved.
We have the potential to lose the opportunity to position ourselves for long term sustainable success without this focus on building leadership capability and capacity in the infrastructure industry. Short term thinking delivers short term results. Long term results require discipline to activities, thinking and habits that leaders must commit to. It requires courage to do things differently, expose yourself to different perspectives and approaches and challenge your current approach to leadership. It is an opportunity to reflect upon what you are going to do to become a game changer in infrastructure that drives great outcomes in the long term.