How do you drive behaviours on major programmes for successful delivery?

Mace senior planning manager Tom Brookes explains how the firm did just that at Birmingham New Street station.

Tom Brookes, Mace

The £750M Birmingham New Street station had very complex project interfaces so conventional approaches to contractual arrangements with the supply chain was ineffective. A more dynamic approach was developed using partnership and alliance deals. This then required a step change in standard behaviours within the construction team to ensure the successful completion of the programme.

Building teams for success

Establishing a team that is prepared to communicate and actively participate in project interface meetings was fundamental to the success of the project. The complexity of the project required significant stakeholder management.

"The master construction programme linked into a 4D BIM model that allowed us to manage our multiple interfaces in the theoretical world, which raised issues that weren’t always immediately apparent on site."

Phase 2 of the station redevelopment was very technically challenging with the demolition of the old station, creation of the new steel roof onto an existing concreate structure and the removal of 6,000 tonnes of concrete to form the new atrium. Therefore, the number of areas we were working in and interfaces between these increased substantially. We changed our structure and increased the size of our project team to deal with these interfaces more effectively. 

We introduced area managers, who took greater responsibility in the co-ordination within areas using construction managers, package managers, area planners and area surveyors. The master construction programme linked into a 4D BIM model that allowed us to manage our multiple interfaces in the theoretical world, which raised issues that weren’t always immediately apparent on site.

To drive the impact of the model’s outputs we set up programme delivery meetings, using lean construction techniques as a way to establish contractor buy-in and ownership of our programmes. It became the norm for us to engage with our contractors in a workshop environment with key issues being worked through together. Establishing an open and transparent working environment helped us to identify issues early, forecast impacts and use these to inform senior management decision making forums.

Contractors generally operated under standard NR4 variant contracts, but the changing nature of our work led us to adopt a partnership approach, which included the sharing of resource from the project to the sub-contractor.

Simplifying communications

Simplification of programmes and the use of the 4D models became an effective way of communicating to all levels of the project team. We encouraged regular attendance by our supply chain at meeting reviews at director level staff, but soon recognised that it was essential that we held follow-up workshops with the key subcontract staff too to ensure that our key priorities reached them. These sessions proved to be invaluable as a number of key issues were raised and then escalated to senior management.

Co-location of the project team was also essential to the successful management of the project with Mace, Network Rail, our design teams, subcontractors and consultants all on hand to resolve any issues as they arose.   

Driving continuous improvements

Key project advances were made on the project by making reporting systems transparent. Providing the client team with access to our common reporting systems enabled us to create one project report. During the first few months of Phase 2, the governance reporting measures were replaced by one project report, with a summary prepared from the programme directly by the client. This initially was audited regularly but as a high level of trust developed this was scaled back.

We also implemented a continuous improvement programme with sub-contractors, developing plant tracking models, reviewing material and personal resource, impact analysis and risk reviews for each element of the project. By developing comprehensive working plans, we were able to drive significant savings through the project, both in programme and cost.       

Managing multiple stakeholders       

Stakeholders played a key role in the progress of the project, but essentially the successful management of these lay in good communication processes.  We designated people responsible for key stakeholder groups and increased our level of communications with them.

For station operations, we developed excellent working relationships with the station management team, involving them in weekly meetings and implemented a model which enabled us to run more trials / scenarios on impacted areas so that we could adapt much quicker to a changing live station environment. 

Project sponsor teams were established to manage Train Operating Companies (TOCs) and in turn we paid for the TOCs to employ a General Liaison Manager, who was responsible for reporting back and co-ordinating with unions.

We encouraged the project team to consider the impacts of their activities on all the New Street station user groups. Changes such as closing a lift or escalator, or changing an access route through the station would have a massive knock-on effect on all users. We set up a communications team to develop notices and letter drops, web information and station announcements to relay future changes.

Area managers meetings had to demonstrate impacts of planned changes, which following very rigorous controls through the course of the project, became almost second nature to the team leading up to project completion.

To deliver a large complex programme such as Birmingham New Street Station successfully, you must establish an environment that allows everyone in the team to ‘own’ and buy-in to the programme and how it’s delivered. By making all the team aware of the main deliverables and how that breaks down into day-to-day activities, people must then be empowered to do their job and be accountable for their work.  If problems occur that may hamper progress there must be a clear way to escalate it to the senior management team for resolution.  

And when your programme is successful make sure everyone makes times to celebrate their success.

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