Back to school
An academy can be a great way to develop the capabilities
of project professionals. DONNIE MACNICOL explains why
TIPS FOR SETTING UP AND SUSTAINING AN ACADEMY
n Success- ensure you know what you are trying to achieve and for which stakeholder.
n Expectations - don’t over-promise, most importantly to the community.
n Engagement- brand, marketing and communications are critical since people will only engage if the academy is perceived as professional.
n Prioritisation– consideration should be given to which element is invested in and when to add maximum value to the community.
n Justification– produce a robust business case, laying out the benefits and deliver these to ensure sustained support.
n Sponsorship- until embedded into the fabric of the organisation, strong leadership is required from the person leading its implementation and
providing backing to the senior management team.
n Vision– identify the capabilities needed in the future to meet the organisation’s needs and focus on these as they take time to develop.
n Road map– develop blueprints of what the capabilities of the community will be in the future and what is required to achieve these.
PROJECT >> AUTUMN 2015
CAREER >> ACADEMIES
As a reader of this journal, you will know the importance of capable and
energetic project and programme leaders and team members in
delivering success. Yet, are organisations doing everything they
can to develop this capability?
We believe it is critical to centralise support and to invest in
multiple mechanisms to develop capability, not rely on a single,
silver-bullet solution. A positive change in behaviour only
comes about when individuals have the opportunity to apply
newly acquired skills in a timely fashion and to gain feedback
and support while doing that. They also need to have access to
knowledge when they need it and to understand how delivering
success will benefit their career.
This is supported by research, the study cited most often
being the 70:20:10 model developed by Morgan McCall, Michael
Lombardo and Robert Eichinger (see also page 51), which states
that development comes primarily from on-the-job experiences,
followed by feedback and, finally, courses. Academies, acting
as a hub that drives individual and collective development, are
increasingly popular and aim to capture these principles.
Academies should work closely with two other functions:
n PMO (in all of its many incarnations including executive project
management office) – owns the single source of the truth and the control
of the portfolio with the opportunity to influence who works on what.
n Centre of Excellence – font of all knowledge and support in pursuit of a
consistent means of delivery across the organisation.
An academy may be centrally staffed or coordinate resources
under a central brand, the key being that the community
perceives it as a coherent entity that is there to support them.
The reasons for creating an academy vary but typically include:
n Capture and provide a brand for organisational development efforts,
hoping for synergies from disparate functions and development
initiatives – for example, the academies at oil giant Shell, engineering
company Amec Foster Wheeler and NASA.
n Drive the development of a particular capability – for example,
‘programmification’ – where the academy acts as a mechanism to
introduce the new ways of working.
n Provide a ‘value-add’ service to clients or the supply chain – for
example, we are supporting a global consultancy to test how an academy
will offer value to its clients.
n Industry collaboration to pool resources – for example, the National
Skills Academy for Nuclear or the Major Projects Leadership Academy.
In partnership with Aspire Europe, we have created an Academy
based on client assignments, 10 years of research
and insights from more than 150 maturity assessments. The
diagram, right, shows the three primary elements and five
support elements, as well as the key relationships between them
and the primary organisational functions that deliver success.
Each organisation has different needs but the elements that
need to be considered when developing capability are broadly
the same. The career, competence and development elements are
the building blocks of any academy and are typically developed
first. We have found that organisations can gain real value from
training, a key part of development, if they support professionals
through investing in the other elements in parallel.
The career and performance elements provide professionals
with the necessary clarity as to where they are going and
how well they are meeting the organisation’s expectations.
The community element provides the opportunity to share
AUTUMN 2015 << PROJECT
is a director of Team
of Aspire Europe
ACADEMIES CAN PROVIDE CONSIDERABLE VALUE,
BUT THIS CAN ONLY BE ACHIEVED BY THOUGHTFUL
DESIGN, SMART INVESTMENT AND LEADERSHIP
Areas of personal
Structure and path
Opportunity to apply
and gain knowledge. Meanwhile, the delivery element enables
project professionals to apply newly gained skills on the right
project, at the right time, for personal development. This is
only possible where there is a strong link between the academy
and PMO. When all other elements are in place, then a highly
effective talent programme can be implemented. Without such
a programme, there is the danger that these talented individuals
are left as an island, with both knowledge and motivation but
no support mechanisms to apply these. Alternatively, some
organisations start with talent since this is the driving force for
developing other elements, primarily knowledge and community.
The underpinning resources of any academy are typically split
across multiple functions as shown, with overlapping interest,
expectations and responsibility between human resources (HR),
learning and development (L&D) and project and portfolio
management (PPM) functions. Leadership is critical to ensure
that resources and energy are directed either through a central
function or through careful coordination between each.
Academies can provide organisations with considerable value,
but this can only be achieved by thoughtful design, smart
investment and leadership. An academy should act as a
demonstration of the commitment of the organisation to the
development of people. So you should only start on the journey
if you have the energy to see it through.
ARCADIS is a leading global
natural and built asset design
and consultancy company.
The ARCADIS Academy was set up in 2013
to empower our people and to deliver
on our strategy of sustainable growth,
performance and collaboration. We have
the ambition to be recognised as being the
best in everything we do and that means
training and developing our people to be
the very best, by realising their potential.
The ARCADIS Academy brings talent from
across the globe together to develop key
competence areas, increase collaboration
and contribute to the development of best
practice, which, in turn, can be drawn on for
the benefit of our clients.
Each academy pillar focuses on a
particular strategic growth area for the
business, for example, our Programme
and Project Management Academy.
The academy offering ranges from
best-practice information and learning
that is readily available online to everyone,
through to targeted, top-talent,
multi-module flagship programmes that
operate on a nomination basis.
The result is that our clients have access
to best-in-class programme and project
managers, who are qualified in industry-
recognised best-practice tools such as
Managing Successful Programmes (MSP),
combined with leadership qualifications
developed in partnership with leading
The academy works because the
business lines are engaged and involved
in the development of each module.
Real-life case studies of, for example,
major infrastructure or building
programmes play a key part in the training,
with the business owner for the client
relationship present to make the learning
both powerful and impactful.
The case studies mean that the
participants have the opportunity to apply
their newly acquired skills immediately,
producing ‘value-add’ output and
stimulating challenging discussions; for
example, producing programme blueprints,
project plans and client recommendation
presentations. In addition, the business
case owner gains new and insightful ideas
to bring straight back to the client.
Marie Oliver, director, ARCADIS Academy