Financial Services | Project Performance

Driving rapid uplift in project risk management capability

Our client faced significant change and challenges in the technology and regulatory environments. They were addressing these through a growing project pipeline using a range of delivery models, and wanted to ensure project-centered risk was effectively managed.

The Opportunity

As a successful superannuation fund, our client was well-practised in managing corporate and financial risk. But with many of its new projects expected to have deep-reaching impacts on the operation, the ability to identify, assess, mitigate and respond to project risk was flagged early as a critical success factor for the future of the entire organisation.

In anticipation of the growing pipeline, the fund had invested in growing its internal risk team with the aim of leveraging diverse experience and skillsets. Despite the investment, the volume of projects required to address technological and regulatory changes meant the team’s project risk management capability needed a boost.

With such a large portfolio, it was critical they had the right risk management capability and frameworks in the business to successfully deliver projects without impacting operations.

The Solution

Together, we developed a tailored capability program to support the client’s growing risk team, and launched a fit-for-purpose project risk framework to underpin the success of current and future projects.

We worked alongside our client to design and launch a practical eight-week capability development program and tailored risk framework that:

  • Combined the client’s risk frameworks with best practices from Helmsman’s own Project Performance toolkit
  • Built on existing capability of the growing risk team, leveraging the breadth and depth of individual experiences
  • Focused on uplifting capability while minimising impact to BAU workflow and ‘in-flight’ projects
  • Created a consistent risk approach across the project risk domain
  • Linked to existing risk approaches used in non-project domains
  • Aligned to an evolving, long-term general risk capability development program
  • Introduced a mindset shift from ‘check the box’ compliance to true risk management
  • Provided practical project toolkits to support and streamline project risk activity

Applying our right-to-left philosophy, we applied a two-phase approach.

Phase 1: Understand capability needs

First, we ran a capability needs assessment deep dive workshop with the risk team, to identify and assess:

  • Working style preferences within the risk team and the wider organisation
  • Recent project performance and the risk influences and implications
  • Current perceived capabilities and gaps
  • ‘Customer’ expectations more broadly

Our deep dive identified two clear success criteria…

…to overcome five root cause challenges:

  1. ‘Process compliance’ risk mindset, rather than outcome-oriented
  2. Sub-standard execution of project steering committee roles
  3. Overcomplication of scope
  4. Inaccuracies in project reporting
  5. Ill-defined execution pathways

Phase 2: Design and deliver the capability uplift program and risk framework

Based on the outcomes from the deep dive:

  • A project risk management framework was developed. The framework was integrated with existing Corporate Risk approaches, and leveraged Helmsman’s Project Performance diagnostics to meet the complexity profile of their project pipeline.
  • A tailored risk capability uplift program was designed and launched. The program provided coaching on: the application of the risk management framework throughout the project lifecycle; behavioural techniques to effectively counsel on risk in the project environment; and easy to use tools and reference guides.
  • Continuous capability development was enabled. Ongoing capability uplift, both individually and as a team, was supported by integrating a regular cadence and engaging leaders in the coaching delivery process. This established in-house capability to adapt the framework and program to address emerging issues, and new project risks or regulatory changes.

The Results

Four key outcomes were achieved:

  1. Aligned the project risk framework with the approaches used by project teams & the PMO, so now all are ‘speaking the same language’ across the organisations.
  2. A tailored, repeatable risk capability uplift curriculum covering all aspects of the project lifecycle, was delivered to the entire risk team, and remains as development asset for new team members and other project participants.
  3. Rapid project risk capability uplift from accelerated curriculum delivery to the team, through an eight session, workshop based, program.
  4. Initiated team development cadence enabling peer contribution to risk curriculum and practises, through shared learning and collective enhancement of tools and techniques, and ongoing team development.

Client Profile

One of Australia’s largest superannuation funds, this not-for-profit manages retirement investments for more than 400,000 members



funds under management