Delivery partner principles - establishing a one-team culture

Complex programmes can mean complex teams.
Emerging as the global preference for major programmes, the delivery partner model brings together talented people from different organisations under one banner. This approach comes with countless advantages – but only if these people are aligned to a single mission, vision and set of values; a one-team culture.
So, how do you establish a one-team mentality and what are the benefits? Here, Priya Jain, Mace’s President for the Americas, explores the route to success.

First base is to clarify what the team is there to do – it’s mission. It’s surprising how often this is assumed or gets missed. This sets the brief for the team. A vision adds further clarity about why you are doing this – the ultimate difference you want to make. Once you have this, you can consider the culture you need to achieve the mission.

Culture is the how that sits beside the what. It’s the values and behaviours that set the tone for how a team works together effectively.

This can be challenging, even for a team already bound by a common corporate identity. It requires even more thought in a delivery partner scenario, which sees the creation of an integrated delivery team consisting of experts from a number of different organisations.

While it can present challenges, getting it right early on provides an invaluable opportunity to establish a high-performing team, which not only means better results for the client, but a better working environment for everyone involved. Indeed, Richard Hackman, Professor of Social and Organisational Psychology at Harvard University, found that launching a team the right way boosts the odds of success by 30%. Not doing this or getting it wrong can be hard to recover from, making for a tough time in the long term.

So, on a practical level, what’s needed to make it happen?    

A concept everyone can get behind

For any cultural change programme to work, you need buy-in at every level of the team. The leaders must be the biggest advocates and role models, however, it mustn’t feel like a corporate initiative forced down from the top, but rather something that colleagues feel connected to and invested in.

To do this, you need early input from a truly representative cross-section of the team to gauge what is important to everyone when it comes to working together. This means colleagues from different functions, different parent companies and different grades, and includes the client, who must be at the centre of this process for it to work.

Bringing this richness of thought to the concept stage via focussed working groups, opened up to any and all willing volunteers, will ensure that the resulting mission, vision, values and behaviours reflect the needs and aspirations of everyone in the integrated delivery team. We recommend having ‘ambassadors’ who champion the values and behaviours beyond concept. They must operate as change agents, embedding the culture at every level of the team and, crucially, being points of contact for feedback – good or bad – to help drive continuous improvement and foster a culture of team ownership.

Setting the right tone

Having willing and able leaders and ambassadors is all well and good, but the message they spread needs to have clarity and purpose. To achieve this, your mission, vision, values and behaviours need to be tangible, understandable, and relatable to the every-day work of the team.

You need to cut through the jargon, writing plainly and with outcomes in mind; that is what you want people to do and how you want them to do it.

This is an approach we’ve used to good effect on a recent major railway project, where the integrated delivery team culture centres on seven observable behaviours (or values), known as ‘our way’. The ‘observable’ aspect has been essential to the successful implementation – they are behaviours that everyone recognises, irrespective of parent company culture and, therefore, can act on, spot good practice and call out in examples of non-compliance – providing help and coaching where needed. By making behaviours tangible and providing people with the tools they need to live these, you create a sense of self-governance, where individual functions and teams are driving a culture that benefits the project and its people.

Sustain a drumbeat

Having a culture that’s driven by the people it supports is a powerful thing. Even so, ongoing guidance and support needs to be coordinated so that the necessary commonality is not lost.

This type of communication is key to the delivery partner model in general – large, multidisciplinary teams working across multiple work packages and sites need clear and regular flows of information – and it makes sense to have the one-team culture woven into regular centralised communications about things like project progress and upcoming milestones. This creates a drumbeat and maintains relevance.

Creating a single source of the truth – a handbook or ‘bible’ of sorts – is a valuable tool when communicating a common culture. It provides a reference point for everyone; something that can be used to onboard new colleagues, facilitate conversations and support an ongoing narrative about the culture being built.

Recognition and reward

Recognising and rewarding people proves (and reminds) everyone that culture matters. It encourages engagement across the team, providing positive reinforcement for supportive and collaborative behaviours. It boosts morale, offering a truly inclusive initiative that everyone can get involved with and benefit from.    

Implementing a reward and recognition initiative, aligned with efforts to build a one-team culture, serves as a rubber stamp. And we’re not necessarily talking about money or vouchers here. Small gestures such as a thank you email, shout-outs or pin badges are powerful too. It’s a choice, but a meaningful one that underscores the importance of what the integrated delivery team wants to achieve.

Invest the time to get it right

High-performing integrated delivery teams pull in one direction, guided by a shared vision, mission values and behaviours, to deliver alongside and for a client. Creating a ‘one team’ environment doesn’t cast aside parent company cultures, it finds common and complementary threads to create a fair environment that allows everyone to thrive.

This takes time to get right and mustn’t be rushed. Close collaboration with the client is crucial to setting the right tone, and bringing in the right people, skilled in implementing change, will enhance the approach. Major programmes can last for more than a decade, so invest the effort early on and you’ll be certain to reap the benefits in the long run.