Characteristics of a Best-in-Class Delivery Leader

In this blog series about professional services talent, we have introduced two integral roles – the Account Lead role and the Delivery Leader role. Both roles are central to successfully delivering an engagement, therefore, identifying the right resources to play these roles can greatly impact client and project outcomes. Understanding the distinct characteristics and capabilities required of each PS role can help leaders allocate resources, identify hiring gaps, and build focused talent development plans. In this blog, we focus on the characteristics of a best-in-class Delivery Leader – the role responsible for understanding the client situation and objectives, building an integrated project plan, and managing the project to success.

Delivery Leaders are common to every engagement and are responsible for the effective planning and execution of current and future engagements of a client journey. This role blends the “art” and “science” of motivating a team to achieve the engagement’s target outcomes. The role must effectively manage the people and the plan; therefore, a diverse set of attributes can increase the Delivery Leader’s overall success:

  1. Organizational Skills – A project must be organized into milestones, phases, activities, and tasks. Therefore, possessing the skills to sift through an abundance of information and shape it into a manageable, realistic plan is a core competency of an effective Delivery Leader.
  2. Delegation Skills – Once the project is organized, a Delivery Leader must be able to assign clear tasks and activities, set expectations, and embed accountability into their team. A Delivery Leader entrusts activities to their team and supports them in achieving outcomes while avoiding micromanagement.
  3. Communication Skills –Delivery Leaders are charged with gathering and disseminating information to drive understanding and buy-in. Therefore, proactive, transparent, and effective (i.e., clear, concise) communication is key to meeting the needs of their team, the individual client(s), and the client organization.
  4. Problem Solving Skills – Challenges and roadblocks arise over the course of nearly every project. The Delivery Leader must be able to anticipate and solve a variety of problems – related to the client, team, and plan – quickly and efficiently.
  5. Time Management – Delivery Leaders can be bombarded with requests from all parties and must be able to prioritize and effectively allocate their time to the most pressing, strategically important matters.
  6. Financial Management – An important and often overlooked aspect of this role is the need to have financial management proficiency at both the project level and client level. This allows for more informed decision making during both selling/scoping new projects as well as delivery. It is also an important aspect when providing feedback to sales, account leaders and others when determining professional fees.
  7. Domain Knowledge – The best Delivery Leaders are great player coaches that bring an element of “been there, done that” experience. Domain knowledge can be technical, solution specific, or business process expertise. Regardless of what form it is in, subject matter expertise adds credibility and trust to someone in this role.

Possessing this unique set of skills can effectively position someone to play the role of the Delivery Leader. In coming blogs, we will discuss other critical PS team roles and how they interact to deliver a streamlined, outcomes-oriented journey with and for their clients.

Written by: Mark Slotnik and Sarah Cushman

About the Authors:

Mark Slotnik has spent nearly 20+ years advising clients in the areas of designing and taking to market high-value business solutions, solution portfolio management, talent development, resource management, business process re-engineering and commercial software.  

Sarah Cushman is a Manager with McMann & Ransford and has experience working with Fortune 500 companies to solve complex challenges, drive differentiation, and create long-term value.

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