Annika Bergholtz’s trademark is to create a common mindset and goals for a project team. After many years of leading projects, she has learned that a successful result depends on the ability to bring people together in the project startup phase.

It might not be a standard method of project management, but it works for Annika Bergholtz. Early investment in building teams to excel is very much in line with her personal belief of using your professionalism in the most valuable manner. 

To Annika, that means looking beyond borders, disciplines and cultures while paving the way for efficient and rewarding teamwork.

Common mindset is key 

In the world of construction and engineering projects, the personal element in offers is usually limited to describing competences and profiles of the team. But no matter how technically excellent a team is, it does not necessarily make them excellent performers, Annika points out.

“Different personalities, different ways of working and communicating and a base of diverse experiences must be transformed into a common mindset from the beginning. If not, there will be a rougher path to tread later on,” she says.

Annika's approach is based on experience from project management, planning and designing many large and multidisciplinary projects, mainly in Sweden, where Annika comes from. And the success factor of ‘her’ projects has been smooth teamwork and a common mindset of the project goals.

A project team consists of individuals with different personalities, different ways of working and communicating and a base of diverse experiences. All that must be transformed into a common mindset from the beginning.
Annika Bergholtz

How to avoid a battle of the experts

In 2012, Annika embarked on her most challenging job so far as a project manager: The underground Central Station in Gothenburg. The project itself was of huge dimensions, and it was technically challenging because of difficult soil conditions and closeness to existing buildings. 

It was a joint venture with another consultant company and more than 100 people were involved. 

“They were all highly skilled experts, and as engineers, we usually focus on the technical aspects, not the softer values. But here, it was important for me to give everybody a holistic view of the project – both to avoid a battle of the experts, to achieve an efficient design process and to form a pleasant working environment,” says Annika. 

One of her goals was to shape a team, where nobody could tell if a person was from one company or another. Many teambuilding activities were necessary - such as workshops to define common goals and deliveries, and a large kick-off with a Regatta on the sea just outside Gothenburg.


Bringing out the best in people

Annika is a firm believer in empowering people through trust and respect. When starting up a new project, she always seeks to allocate time and resources to the interaction among people and to the development of an engaging culture. 

“Money and quality will follow when you take people’s well-being seriously. This makes it a lot easier to overcome the obstacles, which are present in all projects,” Annika emphasizes.

It’s always critical when setbacks start kicking in. The strength of the team is put to the test. 

“In the Central Station project, we had agreed on a method to deal with upcoming setbacks by reminding each other of the team agreements that we made at the beginning of the project. It’s similar to sports: We set the rules and join forces to reach our common goal!”

If the team gets the time to build relationships, it’s a lot easier to be forthcoming and communicate respectfully.
Annika Bergholtz

A great day at work

In Annika's book, trust and respect also includes an invitation for everybody to have their say – and take on responsibility:

“I encourage people to take action, not to sit down and wait for somebody to tell them what to do. If you need information, you should ask for it, set up a meeting or propose something. I know it’s easy for me to say, because in Sweden you are expected to speak your mind. But in my experience, that leads to an open and supportive atmosphere. And that’s good for the project and the customer.”

Annika especially enjoys the days when her team’s performance is prominent. It’s the days when she succeeds in facilitating a good spirit, progress and accomplishment. It can be the celebration of larger milestones or it can be smaller things like two team members solving an issue together without escalating it, but by taking responsibility. 

“That’s very fulfilling. That’s a great day at work.”