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What Is An AWP Champion?

Leading a Team

If you’re implementing Advanced Work Packaging (AWP), you need an AWP Champion. Here’s a guide.

The process of adopting Advanced Work Packaging (AWP) requires a comprehensive, systemic change that will affect every person on your capital project team. The presence of an empowered, respected change agent is critical to your success. Here at Concord, we call this person the AWP Champion.

The AWP Champion is a leader dedicated entirely to supporting the transition to Advanced Work Packaging. His primary focus is people, because people are your most valuable asset, and all but a few will need help in adapting to new roles and new requirements. More broadly speaking, the champion functions as a resource for information, a source of practical assistance, and a skilled motivator. The AWP Champion is responsible for fostering a spirit of collaboration and getting the entire team on board with AWP.

It’s important to note that AWP Champion has real, positional authority in the organization, across the entire project team, and through the project lifecycle. He’s not a consultant or advisor who makes recommendations. That said, he also derives his authority from his expertise and the respect and admiration of his colleagues. He is a servant leader.

What does the AWP champion do?

The AWP Champion is the go-to person for Advanced Work Packaging questions. He has a deep, technical understanding of AWP systems and processes, and is intimately familiar with AWP roles and responsibilities.

On a day-to-day basis, he works directly with teams, organizes group training, and provides one-on-one coaching. On pilot projects, he customizes templates and revises workflows. Throughout the project, he proactively identifies internal roadblocks and works to address them by creating custom-fit AWP solutions for the project or the organization. He answers questions and ensures that team feedback is incorporated as the project moves forward.

Who is the AWP Champion?

The role of the AWP champion is not connected with a specific function, but it’s safe to say that it’s not your planner, your scheduler, or your project manager. These people have plenty of work to do, and giving them the additional role of AWP Champion sets them up for failure.

If your project is small, with a total price tag of under $20 million, the AWP Champion role can be a part-time job, but be certain that the person filling it can dedicate at least half of her time to the position. If you select someone who is already overwhelmed with other work and you’re setting her up for failure, too.

Complex projects, and any project that is considered large in terms of Total Installed Cost, will require a full-time AWP champion. Consider this an investment in your successful transition to a construction-driven project.

When we work with clients, we partner with someone in-house to take on the AWP Champion role together. We typically manage the technical heavy lifting — the creation of templates, workflows — freeing the in-house AWP champion’s time to focus on people. We provide this champion with one-on-one training and coaching on areas including change management and Path of Construction facilitation so that, when our mandate is complete, the AWP champion is empowered to continue in the role without outside support.

Common Pitfalls in Hiring the AWP Champion

Having worked with dozens of companies at various stages in the AWP implementation process, we have identified four common mistakes that undermine the transition to AWP.

Don’t assume that the AWP champion role automatically falls to your Project Manager.

This is by far the most common mistake we see in organizations that are making the transition to Advanced Work Packaging. Your Project Manager should certainly “champion” the change to AWP in a general sense, but the role of AWP Champion is a dedicated role and is often a full-time job. Your PM can be accountable for the transition to AWP, but should not be in charge of it.

Don’t underestimate the amount of work the AWP Champion will do.

Preparing systems and people for a transition to Advanced Work Packaging is no easy task. Depending on the size of your organization, the scope of your project, and the readiness of your team, the work can fill a full-time job for a year or more. Ensure that both leaders and team members are clear on the full scope of the AWP Champion’s work.

Don’t ignore the impact on the AWP Champion’s career path.

Have a meaningful conversation about what taking on this role means for the AWP Champion’s career path. Here at Concord, we encourage organizations to think of the AWP Champion role as a step along the career path to Project Manager, leadership, and even enterprise roles. Regardless of what your organization decides, it’s important to remember that your AWP Champion may invest two to three years in this role, and the best candidates will want to know in advance how this will impact their career prospects down the line.

Don’t leave your AWP Champion all alone.

Typically, we encourage organizations to consider their AWP Champions as members of the Integrated Project Management Office (IPMO). This is because, if there is a PMO, it will no doubt be taking a leadership role in change management, and this is a crucial area of influence for the AWP Champion. If you do not have a PMO, then the next best home for the AWP Champion is as a vital member of the project leadership team.

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