Programme Management: Rapid Response to Change

Mark Boorman
Faithful+Gould frequently works in uncertain environments, managing unexpected strategic change to projects and programmes.

This particular case study involved introducing an additional project into the portfolio requiring rapid deployment. This project was carried out within a tense industrial relations climate and our client’s ability to realise operational benefits of several million pounds per annum from the final tranche of the programme hinged on cooperation from their operations team and workforce. This project became the political catalyst for that change in the operational infrastructure and the main board decided they needed acceleration and change in order to secure the opportunity. Faithful+Gould was tasked with finding a solution.

At the outset we had no brief or approved budget and were given a target programme of 18 weeks for all design, procurement and construction.

This was an unprecedented deadline. At the outset we had no brief or approved budget and were given a target programme of 18 weeks for all design, procurement and construction. This included landlord consent, planning and building regulations approvals, prior to training and handover to the operator. Time was key and, while cost was a factor, real value lay in the programme. We knew it would be a challenge.

In addition to the programme management role, Faithful+Gould was appointed as project and cost managers and construction design and management coordinator (CDMC). We appointed an experienced team which meshed incredibly well from the start, with the demarcation between traditional roles becoming blurred. The technical issues of project and cost management were handled by the Faithful+Gould team while at a programme level we worked hard to create the right environment for the team to succeed. We put a significant effort into managing internal client stakeholders who held key approval roles. By securing early support from the top, all client decisions were swiftly made and any calculated risks were wholly explained to the board.

We were exposed to a higher level of risk than we would normally expect and managing risk was therefore key.

We were exposed to a higher level of risk than we would normally expect and managing risk was therefore key. We had to adopt a proactive approach, handling the most severe risks, or those that became an obstacle placed in our way every day. Ironically, one of the biggest risks was not making or being reluctant to make timely decisions.

For procurement and construction, we used an existing client framework for contractors and the partner chosen certainly rose to the challenge. We developed an effective bespoke tender process to procure groups of work packages which were overlaid with technical, commercial and functional testing protocols to manage client risk. Teamwork was essential and the contractor’s personnel quickly became part of the team, adding value in the selection of components for procurement or installation speed. We also faced a sub-contractor’s insolvency over the jubilee weekend, which was bad timing, but the team coped well.

We developed an effective bespoke tender process to procure groups of work packages...

We completed the project and got the operation in and working two days ahead of the deadline, which was a great achievement. Having agreed a revision to the business case, we were under budget by more than £100,000.

Four key elements enabled us to respond to this challenge:

  • As a team we developed and deployed a detailed, planned process to make it happen. Everything was undertaken at great speed and while no one was ever comfortable with the pace, everyone understood their role in achieving the end objective, and the team worked very well together.

  • As the programme manager, creating the environment for this team to excel was my priority. We had to manage and engage the support of the stakeholders to ensure no delays were experienced in decision making, approvals, release of funding and change control requests and that the mandate from senior management was properly communicated to all.

  • The pace of the project meant we had to accept that mistakes can occur, and we made one or two. The true measure of the team was that they immediately looked for solutions rather than assigning blame.

  • We had to accept that risk was inevitable and had to be managed. We explained the risk position in detail to the client’s senior directors, so that informed decisions could be made, empowering us to deliver.