No, not the latest obscure comic book hero to hit the big screen.
The ‘Black Hat’ plays devils advocate, critically examining a technical approach, challenging operational plans and assumptions, and scrutinising financial forecasts.
OK, I know that’s not maybe as glamorous as a comic book hero, but the ‘Black Hat’ is an unsung hero that can save a project, or at least ensure that it delivers what it set out to. The role challenges a project at key stages in the lifecycle which can highlight areas that may be heading off course, or it can identify unintended outcomes that the organisation may not be comfortable with.
How often do we hear the mantras: “Focus on the big picture”; “Focus on delivery”; “Don’t worry about the detail, ‘they’ will look after it”.
You may well be feeling that the volume and complexity of projects currently being delivered within your sector is challenging the ability to be critical of what is being done and reducing the opportunity to test project and team outcomes.
A perfect storm
A number of recently emerging factors are converging to make project and programme scrutiny more important than ever.
• An unprecedented flow of major projects is being rolled out across the country. The Government is demonstrating its commitment to deliver the promised infrastructure improvements and major agencies are under pressure to perform.
• Specialist resources are in short supply. Large project teams have been established quickly, utilising overseas resources to meet with ambitious timelines.
• Government Agencies are being restructured and the number of projects moving from planning to delivery is gathering momentum. It sometimes feels as though the focus has been shifted to meet objectives, rather than to deliver a good quality, fit for purpose solution that represents good value for money.
Most of us are time poor, we have competing objectives and have to involve numerous ‘stakeholders’ to ensure that we progress effectively, often affecting how our projects are being managed.
Good project management promotes a continual review of performance against standard KPIs covering the basics of time, cost, quality etc. Great project management challenges a project’s inputs and outputs in terms of meeting the desired outcomes and objectives.
• Are we spending enough time, or any time for that matter, objectively criticising our approach and our project’s true health?
• Do we test our assumptions, revisit our risks or test that we are still meeting our objectives and potential benefits?
• Is it acceptable to pull someone up in a meeting to challenge their ideas or statements; and if we do, are we seen as being disruptive or awkward?
• Have we lost the confidence to interject?
If you have answered yes to any of these questions, then maybe the alarm needs to be raised to call the ‘Black Hat’…they really can save the day.