A public sector team was preparing a master plan to guide development in an inner city area of a major Australian city.
The team established to develop the master plan struggled with conflicting views of the priorities that should guide its work, which resulted in slow progress. Attempts to clear the air by exposing the risks the team faced had failed to produce a clear outcome or even engage some parts of the team.
Broadleaf prepared and ran a context setting workshop followed by a separate qualitative risk assessment of the team’s mission. The carefully designed structure of the risk assessment engaged all the team members and raised the discussion above the detail that had been the source of differences of opinion that stood in the way of progress. Agreement on the most significant risks was achieved within the team and priorities for risk treatment action and control assurance were established.
The risks were further analysed to examine cause-effect relationships between them. These relationships were analysed as an influence diagram to expose natural clusters among the risks and feedback loops between groups of risks. This exposed several structural features including:
- The critical role of senior management commitment to the project that was seen to require additional effort, the resolution of key policy questions and closer involvement of the governance team; and,
- A damaging feedback loop at the operational level where implementation of early stages of the plan was generating negative feedback from some external stakeholders that drew project management personnel away from day to day management to handle complaints lodged with the minister, leaving the day to day activities without the close control they required to manage relations with the same stakeholders and so precipitating even more negative feedback and demands on the project management group.
The project team was left with an objective assessment of where the challenges lay, the need to escalate concerns about governance and senior management commitment, and an understanding of the damaging feedback loop that had become established at the operational level of the work. This crystallised concerns that had been generally understood but could not be explained clearly before the analysis and enabled the project manager to convey these structural issues to the project’s steering committee and enlist their support to resolve them.