Project Leadership Summit

In spite of having all the best frameworks, tools and methodologies, it is commonly estimated that over 50% of projects don’t succeed. Mckinsey identifies some key disciplines required to improve project performance which are stakeholder engagement, securing the right talent and building effective teams. Yet most organisations continue to focus on the processes and technologies rather than focusing on the people skills which are essential for successful business outcomes.

In almost every organisations similar challenges still persist – fear of failure; poor collaboration amongst teams due to lack of trust; inability of team members to speak up due to fear of retribution; focus on speed of delivery vs. quality of outcome; high stress environment impacting wellbeing and most importantly, command/control leadership which is stifling creativity and innovation.

We believe the key to delivery of successful programs is great leadership that fosters a great culture. The key is creating a team that accepts failure, is emotionally self-aware and understands each other well enough to enable real trust and collaboration. We hope our stories inspire you to lead successful programs and create better business outcomes for your organisation.

After each presentation below you will have the opportunity to discuss the content at your table to make it relevant to your organisational challenges. We therefore encourage project teams to attend the program together to discuss the content in the context of their organisation challenges.

The event will be co-hosted by Tim Ebbeck, ex CEO of Oracle Australia in a panel discussion format.


Project Leadership Summit


Muneesh Wadhwa, Founder, Humanity in Business

Yvonne Butler, CEO, AIPM

9.10- 9.30

Opening Address:

Transformational Leadership:  Transforming Oracle’s Delivery Capability for Sustainable Outcomes

Tim Ebbeck (ex) CEO, Oracle

9.30- 10.00

Culture – what is it, what can be done about it and why should I care?

Led by David Hodes, Founder and CEO of Ensemble Consulting Group

In an interactive session, David will provide some brief insights into culture

– The three levels of culture
-Espoused beliefs and value
-Basic underlying assumptions
-The problems of internal integration and external adaptation
– How leaders embed and transmit culture

This will be followed by a round table conversation, inviting you to think about organisations and projects with which you have been involved and share those thoughts with the group.

10- 10.45

Adopting the Behaviours for Project Success -The Toyota Financial Services Journey

Scott Nicholas, Manager of Planning and Analysis, Toyota Financial Services

The experience at TFS echoes the responses in the Chaos Manifesto by The Standish Group: that the ability for teams to work together well is a determinant for project success. Of the 10 recommendations identified in the Chaos Manifesto, 8 are behavioural. To that end, TFS embarked on a journey to embed mindful practices in its project delivery teams.

This was done in two primary ways:

  1. Educate all project delivery teams about mindfulness and why it is important
  2. Induct every project team member into projects using mindful principles

Some of the outcomes expected are:

* Reduced re-work as a measured, collaborative approach is adopted. We won’t just strike out and start the project without truly understanding the outcomes to be achieved. This translates to increased schedule adherence, predictability and reduction in unforeseen costs.

* Less “painful” delivery, with participants able to work better together (I.e. Reduced stress, increased collaboration, less emotional outbursts, arguments or hurt feelings)

* Increased employee engagement

* Reduced risk as participants feel more willing to speak out about issues and risks and call out problems as they arise. Problems can only be addressed if we know what they are.

* Less attrition and loss of IP. People have an intrinsic desire to be part of a successful, fun project.



11.05 – 11.50

Authentic Influence in Leadership – Building a Culture of Collaboration

Melinda Penna, (ex)GM Project Delivery Capability, Telstra with Tim Ebbeck

In 2015, Melinda took on the role of GM Project Delivery Capability and Community. New to the organisation, with no network or experience with the people, culture or processes, there were some substantial challenges. People were not connected to each other, to the processes, to any cohesive sense of ‘what good looks like’. Collaboration was problematic and it felt like ‘hope’ was now the 11th knowledge area of the PMBoK guide!

This presentation shares an insight into the journey that built a culture of collaboration and kick-started the remarkable Telstra project delivery professional capability uplift.

Described by many as a truly remarkable achievement in bringing together a disconnected, uninspired, and struggling group. Melinda will cover the real-world examples, strategy, and outcomes she used and invite the audience to share a discussion on how bringing the People to the head of the table shared by Processes and Governance is relevant to all organisations and teams seeking to leverage the humanity factor in our increasingly complex project environments

11.50- 12.35pm

The Project Leader as Storyteller: Building Teams through the Power of Narrative

Dr Bradley Rolfe, Program Manager, (ex) Macquarie Bank and MGSM Lecturer

A project is, first and foremost, a story. It is a story narrated by the project manager, where the drama is played out, not in the pages of a book, or on the floorboards of the theatre, but in the cubicles and meeting rooms of the organisation. The characters of the story are not actors dutifully following their lines, or fictional constructs, alive only through the words of the novel, but real people with dreams and ambitions, and writing their own stories as they go. The project is an intersecting story, one coming in sideways against the multitude of extant stories already in play within a place of work. How it is received by the would-be actors in its arc is of prime importance to the project manager, the would-be narrator, for whether or not the actors participate in this interloper to the daily serial of their life depends on how well the story is written.

Using his research and over 20 years of project management experience in banking, telecommunications and government, Bradley will develop the idea of project leadership as storytelling. Like any story that serves to engage us, it needs to have fully developed characters, ones that we can, in some way, identify with. There must be a quest of some definite kind that the characters can attribute their purpose to, and there must be the inevitable villain, whose counter purpose is, paradoxically, that which makes the quest worthwhile. Bradley will demonstrate how a deeper understanding of the archetypal stories that inform all our lives can help build better teams, make us better leaders, and achieve greater project success.

Some expected outcomes are:
How we use stories to build better teams by identifying the universal storytelling ‘tropes’ in every project that bind people together with common purpose.
How leaders use different narrative techniques to direct, inspire and challenge their teams to improve project outcomes.
Finally, we identify the dangers leaders must avoid to ensure stories remain positive and geared towards project success.

12.35 – 1.20  LUNCH

1.20 – 2.05

Does the End Delivery Justify the Means?

Is the way one delivers a program just as important as getting the outcome?   

Ilyas Bardak, (ex)Program Director Next Generation Infrastructure Services, Transport for NSW

In this topic I discuss my experience delivering large scale programs /portfolios ($100mil+) and look at this balance of outcomes and people.

I use a specific case study for a major financial institution where a series of major technology investments were kicked off in parallel. The board approval of this portfolio was, at the time, one of the largest in Australia’s corporate history, had high visibility and commensurately aggressive deadlines to meet business need.

On top of this, several of the deliveries were foundational and so had to achieve their outcomes to enable the others. I had accountability for one of these foundational deliveries and led a team to achieve and enable the institutions outcomes.  

In this context, I will look to discuss and cover:
The prevailing culture; getting the outcome at any cost and the pitfalls of the “delivery at any cost”  
DIY Oasis: How a level of  self-awareness, trust and compassion lead to sustainable outcomes.
Leaders as creators; building and developing a successful (happy, engaged, focused) team is akin to art.

Some outcomes from the initiative were:
1. New platform and capabilities delivered in line with Scope, Budget, and Time frame and business benefits.
2. Delivery enabled dependant strategic deliveries at requested times and also all additional new capabilities in the institution would use this foundation platform. This was  delivery of key a foundation enabler for the business.
3. Morale and Engagement were consistently high (top quartile) throughout the 2 year delivery. Monthly pulse checks showed a consistently good outcome even under the most intense period of pressure and stress
Embedding DevOps at ASX –  Creating a Culture of Transformation
Katherine Squire, General Manager, Application Development and DevOps, ASX Ltd

DevOps is better defined as an ideology, a culture of collaboration and sharing aimed at bringing the software development and operations teams together to help eliminate constraints and decrease time-to-market. DevOps shifts the tradition of how IT is organized, how engineers interact. It brings a set of best practices that guides how engineers and IT works that is markedly different than a traditional set of principles. It’s a culture of automating, measuring, and sharing in the name of increased efficiencies throughout the software development life cycle.

Katherine will share her lessons learnt on this journey.

Tackling learnt helplessness and disengagement by taking small, authentic, achievable actions.
Building momentum through strategy convergence
Expanding your circle of influence with stakeholders through “micromoves”

2.50- 3.10pm  AFTERNOON TEA


Overcoming Challenges of Stakeholder Engagement

Declan Brady, Principal Consultant, Elabor8 & (ex)Agile Coach Westpac & IAG

Gillian Coutts, Director, Potential Projects

Gillian and Declan will explore through a dialogue some of the challenges facing Program and Project management team members in organisations, particularly when it comes to engaging stakeholders. We will cover how these typically play out for both individuals and collectively as teams and organisations and how mindfulness practices and related mental practices can assist in providing some fundamental tools for better navigating these issues, and the positive outcomes these tools can have for the individual and the teams and organisations they belong to.

Some outcomes to be shared are:
– develop greater clarity and focus within the complexity of project work. Leads to better decision making and prioritisation of doing the right things.
– more clearly see organisational distractions and develop capacity to better manage these. Leads to increased effectiveness as a PM.
– gain deeper insight into why an aggressive stakeholder might be reacting in a particular way, and better maintain a calm and balanced mind in the face of this pressure. This results in better communication and trust between you and your stakeholders.
– create an environment of safety and trust for your team. This leads to increased engagement and responsibility taking by team members.
– Leadership behaviour has a greater impact than any other variable on engagement. Better understand your behaviours and what’s driving them so you can ensure your behaviours are the right ones for maximising engagement


Development of Project Leaders for Human Centred Complexity in Major Projects

Errol Benvie, CEO Wisdom Labs & Program Director Senior Leader’s Program, Australian Catholic University Executive Education

Dr Maurizio Floris, Program Director Executive Leadership in Major Projects
The John Grill Centre for Project Leadership at the University of Sydney

Human Centred Complexity, playfully translated as “the trouble people cause”, describes the strange and paradoxical behaviours and phenomena that a project leader must learn to recognise, work with and influence.  It requires an understanding of how people create meaning, exercise power, and are driven by – for example – the possibility of shame.

In this session Maurizio and Errol will share their development of “Person and Meaning Centred” learning methodologies to transform project leaders to work inside Human Centred Complexity.  These methodologies are grounded in adult cognitive research over the past 60 years and focus on changing ways of thinking to change outcomes.

The discussion will include:
Stories about the development of the teaching methodologies over the past 5 years in executive education at AGSM and ACU.
Stories about the development of a catalogue of knowledge, models and concepts accumulated from the humanities, sociology and philosophy that replace old broken models.
Stories about the application of these ideas to project leadership development in the Grill Centre, Telstra and other situations.

4.40 – 5.25

Leadership Panel Discussion:

The Link Between Employee Engagement & Project Success

Panellists will explore the link between project success and employee engagement with their specific perspectives and workplace experiences, sharing what they are experimenting with that brings their teams wholeheartedly along the change journey, all the way through to sustainable business outcomes.

Catherine Mccormick,  Change Director, icare NSW

Michelle Bevan, HR Director, TOGA Far East Hotels Ltd.
Michael Devlin, Managing Partner, Certus 3


Chantal Patruno, Change Director, Blue Seed Consulting

Closing Remarks – Muneesh Wadhwa, Founder Humanity in Business

Thought Leaders

We asked our leaders what project leadership means to them and here is what they said. You can click on each name to go to their LinkedIn profile.


Dr Bradley Rolfe, Program Manager, (ex) Macquarie Bank and MGSM Lecturer

Project leadership is, in many ways, about an attunement to stories and the way those stories interact within the context of the project. These are the stories of the stakeholders, the customers and the team members, and the project manager that understands and respects those stories and the universal structures that underpin them, finds themselves in a powerful position to lead their project to success

Catherine Mccormick,  Change Director, icare NSW

Project Leadership for me is about building trust with your team and stakeholders to deliver toward a common goal.  Building trust with your team and stakeholders will get you through the inevitable problems that arise, retain talented people and be the determining factor in gaining stakeholder buy in.

Chantal Patruno, MD, Blueseed Consulting

We all know that human-centred approaches are best – people are the driving force that determines project failure or success.

So Project Leadership needs more than IQ and EQ. It must also have ‘CQ’ (change intelligence) which bring a blend of wisdom, curiosity, courage, creativity, tenacity and a lovely balance of push-pull and art-science.  Without these, achieving sustainable business outcomes through people is far more challenging.

Declan Brady, Client Services Manager, Elabor8 & (ex)Agile Coach Westpac & IAG

To me project leadership is about creating safety for others to excel. You achieve this through consistent behaviours and actions that support safety by living from sound principles and values.

Errol Benvie, CEO Wisdom Labs & Program Director Senior Leader’s Program, Australian Catholic University Executive Education

Project Leadership is a sophisticated integration of the technologies of project management with the authentic humans who perform these technologies.  It is the recognition that this complex interface requires artistry, skill, experience, insight and intuition.  Project leadership is the effective harnessing of the people to the technologies channelling the rational and mitigating the vagaries of behaviour and emotion in the authentic worker.

Gillian Coutts, Director, Potential Projects

Great project results come from the right actions, taken through conscious choices, arising from calm, clear attention to what matters.  Great project leaders intentionally shape how and where people place their attention.


Ilyas Bardak (ex)Program Director Next Generation Infrastructure Services, Transport for NSW

Transformational project leadership is about creating. Using all your skill both logically, emotionally and artistically.  It means creating a journey with clear outcomes.   Creating a team that is greater that the sum of each individual. Creating an atmosphere where there is inspiration, trust and empowerment to achieve  sustainable and successful outcomes.

Katherine Squire,  General Manager, Application Development and DevOps, ASX Ltd

Project leadership is the ability to motivate, mentor, engage and understand people.  On top of that, to be able to effectively understand business value and how best to achieve outcomes within a sustainable, healthy rhythm

Dr Maurizio FlorisProgram Director Executive Leadership in Major Projects
The John Grill Centre for Project Leadership at the University of Sydney

I see project leadership is the mobilisation of a temporary organisation to do something new or different in order to create organisational or societal value. In the case of major projects (the domain in which the John Grill Centre operates), that temporary organisation is constituted by many different individual and organisational actors who try to effect significant value through transformational change.

Melinda Penna, (ex)GM Project Delivery Capability, Telstra

Project leadership means walking the floor – it’s about connections to the people at all levels of the many processes, having an understanding of the Emotional Barometer readings such that you can anticipate, guide, support, and influence the achievement of business benefits.
Project complexity is rooted in the human factor, not just the artefacts. An experienced project leader is able to leverage an evolved sense of self and others to get things done. It’s no small or simple matter and it is quite amazing to experience the difference that the serious professionals make to delivering outcomes.

Michelle Bevan, HR Director, TOGA Far East Hotels Ltd.

Project Leadership is challenging, dynamic and can range from incredibly simple to extraordinarily complex.  Our project leaders, lead using the same values, principles and behaviours as other leaders, they all are a reflection of our culture.

Scott Nicholas, Manager of Planning and Analysis, Toyota Financial Services

Project Leadership is about enveloping the science of project delivery in the art of people leadership. People deliver projects and leaders can creatively harness the collective power of those people through wisdom, compassion, generosity and trust


Michael Devlin, Managing Partner, Certus 3

Project Leadership’ represents a group of leaders who collaborate to achieve a single objective within a defined timeframe. Today projects are large, complex, span multiple years and effect significant business outcomes and, as such depend on carefully coordinated and aligned leadership teams for success. Any project that stands to bring about material change cannot be stewarded by the Project Manager, or project leadership team alone instead, they must be strongly supported by other senior project stakeholders. Project Directors, Project Sponsors and Business Unit Executives have integral support functions to perform – all must align to ensure the continued clarity of project objectives and their eventual achievement.

Venue: Level 17th University of Sydney City Campus, 133 Castlereagh St Sydney 2000




$600 +GST
Team Table $3200+GST for table of 8
(includes, branding on our website, event flyer, table with signage)

Contact Details

Muneesh Wadhwa