There are two schools of thought on the best way to be recognised for your efforts in the workplace. Some are brought up to believe that hard work is all that’s needed – nose to the grindstone 12 to 16 hours a day, being the first in and the last out of the office, doing your job better than anyone else. This will surely win you the recognition you deserve. Then there is the other school which teaches us that no matter how hard you work if you don’t shout loudly enough about it, tell those around you and report up the line of command, nobody will recognise a thing.
My heart wishes the former were true, but my head knows that more often than not, it is those who shout the loudest that are heard. The ones who make the most noise about their successes are the ones that progress and make their way up the corporate ladder, leaving the quiet achievers behind. So, when you come to your next evaluation, or need to report on what your team contributed to the success of a project, remember hard work is not always enough. And make sure you have gathered all the data you need along the way to prove to all those who matter exactly how and why what you’ve been doing has been so vitally important to their project.
An ICF (Intelligent Client Function) team is the mortar that holds a project’s structure together against all that nature and circumstance can throw at it. It validates the business case for a project at its outset, gathers information from stakeholders and analyses its worth in developing a strategy for achieving stated outcomes, assists in the procurement process and manages the relationships that drive a project forward. It is the inbuilt alert system that recognises when a project is deviating from its expected course, or if any of its constituent parts are in trouble, so that issues can be dealt with before they escalate beyond that possibility. And it is the opportunity maker for innovation and outcome enhancement.
The ICF team – so vital to the success of any project, and a team that we regularly talk about with clients and discuss here in our articles – is, in our experience, still not formed and utilised as often as would be prudent. But why? The answer is simple. Awareness does not come from a job well done or quiet accomplishment – from saving a project from disaster or from developing the sort of cross-organisational relationships that affords a client the luxury of foresight when it comes to potential catastrophes on the horizon. No, awareness comes from raising a voice, from a weight of people not only knowing but appreciating the need for such a team and the quantitative benefits it offers, a team that is prepared to shout about its victories and learn from its mistakes. Volume: that’s what’s needed, so organisations, both private and public, can recognise the immense value potential in investing in a properly resourced and respected ICF team.
Why effective ICF team value communication is so important
1. Own your successes or others will.
The ICF team is a relatively recent introduction. Their creation and involvement on a project can save clients literally millions of pounds, and win similar sums through the creation of innovation opportunities and adapt outcomes to meet achievable – more adventurous – returns, based on an evolved understanding of a supplier/provider’s capacity and your own needs as a project moves forward. But without ownership of the value that your team has added, you run the risk of not being recognised for it. Without recognition there is far less likelihood of gaining the respect required for your team to get the resources and autonomy that you need next time. And without respect there is far more likelihood of ICF teams disappearing as fast as they appeared on the business scene. Own your successes or others will.
2. Don’t be just another costly overhead.
The ‘powers that be’ can often be cushioned from the day-to-day of a project by numerous layers of ‘doers’ and ‘managers’. It can, therefore, be quite difficult for them sometimes to determine who did what. And, if the value your ICF team brings to a project is diluted or goes unrecognised, then those in charge of the purse strings may well question the money, time and trust they invest in it. Every department must continuously justify the expense in them. Make sure that your ICF team gathers quantitative evidence of their impact on a project so you can present a clear report on the contribution your ICF team has made. Justify, qualify and quantify the benefits your ICF team have brought with them to encourage greater investment on the next project.
3. Are you prepared to sacrifice innovation?
One of the fundamental benefits of an ICF team is its finger on the pulse of a project, its understanding of all its working parts. With this knowledge you can not only recognise weaknesses that require attention, but opportunities for greater returns. Without effective project management the prospects for such innovation are greatly reduced. But, with a skilled team of negotiators, that have already built strong inter-departmental and cross-organisational relationships, knowledgeable about each element within the project, it is possible to redirect resources and subtly guide parties in new and more beneficial directions. Without a strong voice announcing that this is an important fundamental benefit of having an ICF team in the first place, such opportunities may well be missed.
4. Loss of ‘what good looks like’
Many projects either start out or along the way become too reliant on the knowledge and skills of their supplier/provider. Often outsourced relationships are based on an external organisation taking over responsibility for something a client was initially doing themselves. The risk, however, is that too much can be handed over and internal skills and knowledge can be lost over time as organisations gain confidence in their outsourced partner and feel comfortable in redirecting resources away from their own internal teams. An ICF team is your sense check against this going too far and your in-house expertise with detailed knowledge of every aspect of a project and all its constituent parts. If you lose your ability to understand the intricacies of a project or service how can you identify when it is going astray; how can you maintain the option of bringing it back in-house if your outsourced relationship hits a wall?
5. Poor communication of ‘worth’ results in less investment in the future
More often than not, the level of investment an organisation makes in a team is directly related to the perceived value it places on that team’s potential contribution to a project. If an ICF team does not clearly and regularly speak up about the impact it makes, funds and other resources could start to dry up for them. An under-resourced ICF team will then struggle to achieve the reduced expectations that are then placed on them. They are gradually likely to lose even more credibility and eventually the powers that be will consider them superfluous to requirements.
Intelligent Client Function teams have so much to offer on almost any project or outsourced relationship, but sector awareness and appreciation for this relatively recently introduced best practice team concept is fragile at present, so much still needs to be done. This fragility can and should be strengthened, but the only way this is possible is with ICF teams and their advocates speaking up about the benefits they have brought to the table each and every time they help a project to a successful conclusion.
After working with clients on thousands of major projects over two decades across the public and private sectors I am certainly one of those advocates. And here at Best Practice Group we do our utmost to push for better awareness and support for the valuable potential tied up in a well-resourced Intelligent Client Function team that is given the freedom to drive risks down and bring opportunities to fruition.