A 12-month Project is a ‘Roaring’ Success

What a weekend of sporting success for two tribes – Richmond Tigers and Melbourne Storm – congratulations to the organisations, staff, players, and supporters. As a sports fanatic, I have for a long time modelled my beliefs, disciplines and approaches to project team culture to that of a professional sporting group.

You may or may not agree with me yet I hope you take a few minutes to compare what you believe and identify any similarities. Let’s take a look back at the past 12 months; what project leadership actions and values did the Richmond AFL Club demonstrate that we as project leaders could learn from.

Chief Executive Officer Brendan Gale & President Peggy O’Neal – Project Sponsors

Would you expect an organisation’s leadership group to set direction, invest in strategies, put in place the right resources and systems to give itself the best possible chance to celebrate success? If yes, we agree.

In 2010, Richmond president Gary March and then new chief executive Brendon Gale drew up a plan called Winning Together. The shorthand for its objectives was 3-0-75: three finals series, zero debt and 75,000 members within five years. (source The Sydney Morning Herald).

Although the club achieved what it set out to do, the ultimate goal of a premiership had not been experienced since 1980.

When premiership success was not evident at the end of 2016 – finishing 13th on the ladder after previous failed finals series campaigns in 2013, 2014, 2015 – the media, the supporters, the AFL community challenged the Richmond AFL Club about its executive, the coach, the players, the plan – did they have it right, who needed to go, what needed to change?

The Richmond AFL Club stood tall and proud in support of their structure and plan, they just had to make a few adjustments. From failure of 2016 bought a deeper connection of the players and the coach approached mentors for guidance, together they set a path of change. Performance was monitored, feedback was given and fine tuning of the game plan provided the solid foundation and belief for great success in September.

As Project Sponsors, you sign up to a plan (business case) that will deliver benefits and you expect the project team to do whatever it needs to get the job done – deliver the project successfully. So, when the siren went on Saturday afternoon, Brendon and Peggy – knew it was worth the challenges as this one moment will not only provide a huge boost to the club’s finances it has delivered on the club’s 12-month project plan.

A few words from those within the club (project team)

Brendan Gale said “I see unity. I see a unified club from the top down, the playing group and the coaches. Unity and strength”. (source Herald Sun)

Dustin Martin said “Our desire to succeed has outweighed our fear of failure” (source 3AW)

Dan Richardson said, “You can set all goals or the KPIs, but in the end, it’s about people being the best they can be”. (source Herald Sun)

My Takeaways:

  • Both Project Sponsors ignored the external noise. They believed in the team (coach and players) and continued to support them.
  • There was a game plan.
  • The coach (Project Manager) invested in his own self-development to be a better version of himself.
  • A performance review triggered a change in team personnel.
  • Everyone had a role to play.
  • Trust and accountability was a non-negotiable behaviour.

My Key Actions for a Project Sponsor:

  • Align your project investment to your organisation’s success story
  • Be a champion of the project, believe in it, cheer about it
  • Unite the team, be clear on expectations and talk about them
  • Ask questions to learn more
  • Seek support from a coach or mentor for greater self-awareness

If you are a Project Sponsor reading this, what can you do to create a sense of belief and support for your project team?

If you are a Project Manager reading this, what relationship do you have with your Project Sponsor to have the team trusting each other to play their role and know they’re heading for success?

Written by Jeanette Cremor
Independent Project Consultant

Photo of Tiger by Frida Bredesen on Unsplash