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KIWI STORY: The right way to project management

Sathya Mithra Ashok | Feb. 11, 2014
Eight-year old Lexel Project Services (LPS) is a 120-strong project management (PM) firm that is proudly Kiwi-owned, with operations and clients across Auckland, Wellington and other parts of New Zealand.

Alexander and Jones, along with Doug Clarke, head of operations at LPS, make up the "top table" and look across the firm in everything from long-term strategy to day-to-day operations.

Tools of success
Most of the challenges that the firm faced involved enabling growth or managing it astutely. While it was initially about having sufficient bandwidth in efficiencies, later it was about having the right backend systems to support growth spurts.

According to Alexander, during the global financial crisis, the firm actually grew.

"We actually grew through the period. The reason we did that was because we changed our approach. We used that opportunity. Lot of organisations were turning staff out. We found that we were being engaged at the vacuum of not having the right headcount in an organisation.

"Post-recession we have changed again. We are looking at where we can grow through partnerships with customers. At the NZDF, for example, we are looking at the ten year vision. We are looking at how we can align with them for the next decade, as opposed to next six months, where we are just helping out an organisation as they go through some bumps. That has been a challenge and an opportunity — how do you adapt your business model to the different challenges that your economy is going through," he adds.

Central to the growth that the firm has enjoyed is the staunch effort that it has put into its biggest asset — people.

"People for us is crucial. Without them we aren't anything. We have put so much effort into our sourcing and selection process and most importantly, our attraction and retention policies. Once we find a rock star we will try to never let them go. It is a lot less effort to retain the right people, than it is to have a 25 per cent attrition rate and constantly recruiting new people.

"Eight years ago when we started, the key to this success was understanding the right people and roles, and joining them up. Eight years on, there are a whole bunch of other pretty things - add-ons and tools and whizz-bang-pop stuff - but the core hasn't changed. It is about getting the right people and making sure roles fit for the right opportunity," says Alexander.

Understanding well how people are the 'default foot in the door', and the expectations that come with working on client premises most days of the week, the firm has invested in its people, not only training them on the latest PM tools and techniques, but also trying to foster a connected workplace that is supportive of employee needs and wants.


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