London Bridge Area Partnership

Focusing on the delivery of benefits, rather than outputs

London Bridge Area Partnership has been found to be an example of a client acting maturely and approaching a very challenging project in a way that was both innovative and based on experience. This was the first time Network Rail (NR) had adopted a programme management approach (as opposed to managing a suite of projects) and was thus able to focus on the delivery of benefits, as opposed to outputs. NR provided strong leadership where appropriate, acknowledged the strengths and weaknesses of the supply chain and put in place a collaborative environment that allowed all partners to work together in a mutually beneficial way.

The working culture and the processes that were put in place on the London Bridge project were key to its success and there would have been significant risk of failure, particularly around programme, if a more traditional approach had been adopted. This case study explains what the industry can learn from this approach, and how it could be just as powerful on future projects.

Key success factors for collaborative delivery

The delivery of the London Bridge Station project is widely acknowledged to have been extremely challenging because of its scale, complexity and the requirement to deliver the works whilst the station remained fully operational. The collaborative working model implemented through LBAP was a powerful enabler for delivery within the original programme and the management of 4,500 possessions with only one significant overrun.

LBAP promoted a team spirit and a working culture that put safety and the overall health of the project as the absolute priority with any commercial tensions dealt with openly so that they did not get in the way of delivery. Collaboration was so well embedded that the staff working on the project did not primarily identify with their parent organisations but saw themselves as part of a joined-up London Bridge delivery team; a true example of partnership working.

There were a large number of individual measures that contributed to the success of collaborative delivery (details are available on request). The following were some of the key enablers:

Commercial model

NR carried out detailed analysis in the selection of the commercial model and procurement strategy. Lessons were learnt from KO1 as regards agile decision-making, the allocation of risk and the potential for alliancing. There was early and in-depth engagement with other infrastructure clients and major contractors to gather intelligence on incentivisation and ECI.

The decision to go down the partnering route and the use of ECC Option X12 gave the required functionality around risk and reward and put in place the foundations for collaboration around shared objectives.

ECI

The early involvement of the supply chain is becoming more widespread across NR and LBAP shows how powerful the approach can be. The team learnt lessons from KO1 where there had been a lack of continuity between the ECI providers and the delivery phase. There was a commitment that if contractors delivered ECI well they would stay on to build the project and this paid dividends.

ECI was carried out earlier than ‘usual’ and this allowed for a wide scope of activities which helped to build confidence around constructability, the master schedule and pricing. The work done at ECI was a key building block of the collaborative culture that developed later. The vast majority of the master schedule planned during the ECI phase has stood the test of time.

The right people for the job – Change them if they’re not

The London Bridge redevelopment was a very complex and also a very high profile project and NR assembled a team of professionals with the right skills and experience to deliver it. The prestige of the project and the collaborative culture was a key element in staff retention with many people staying on the project from inception to completion.

There was an acceptance that some people find collaborative working more difficult than others. Some people who were more comfortable working in a more ‘traditional’ way were able to adapt and change. In some instances, though this wasn’t the case and personnel had to be changed for the benefit of the project.

The skills and aptitudes needed to develop the contractual and governance arrangements for a collaborative arrangement are not necessarily the same as those needed to lead it. Changes in LBAP leadership saw a significant improvement in the operation of the Partnership.

Culture driven from the top – Team building

The collaborative culture was driven very clearly from the top of the organisation. Senior leaders were passionate about the value of collaboration and were consistent in communicating this passion throughout the LBAP team.

There was significant investment in team building from the very beginning of the project and this was very successful in breaking down barriers between organisations. The co-location of teams was both very efficient and contributed to a joint approach to solving problems.

Clear shared objectives – schedule is king

A key enabler for any successful Partnership is agreement around shared objectives and on the London Bridge project the overriding priority for the team was to deliver the finished product safely and in line with the agreed programme. This recognised the high profile of the project, the level of stakeholder interest in it and the fact that access restrictions meant that missing a single milestone could lead to one year’s delay and significant additional costs. The phrase ‘schedule is king’ was very effective in giving the team a single-minded focus.

Every project has a different sets of constraints but LBAP showed that clearly understood and shared objectives lie at the heart of collaborative working.

Culture of constructive challenge

Although collaborative working should result in a more positive working environment it is important not to lose sight of the need for challenge where appropriate. On LBAP the working culture was built around open and honest debate about what was best for the project. Individuals were consistently challenged to demonstrate that their ‘asks’ would deliver a benefit to the overall project. Inevitably some individuals found this difficult and in isolated cases it may have contributed to their leaving the project. On the whole though it was a positive aspect of the working culture that meant that new joiners were quickly brought up to speed on the collaborative approach and what it required.

Good governance

Three levels of governance were put in place by LBAP. A Management Board, a Delivery Partners Forum and an Integrated Schedule Board. This tiered approach worked very well with issues resolved at the appropriate level. A positive indication of this was that the Management Board was never truly tested as problems were resolved at the Delivery Partners Forum. Although the Integrated Schedule Board (as originally conceived) was found to be overly complex, the flexibility within the partnership allowed for changes to be made ensuring that it focused on the practicalities of delivery.

Change management and collaborative planning

The range and scope of change management and collaborative planning activity on the project was comprehensive and effective. A two-layered approach of strategic and local change panels meant that project directors were never unsighted on risks to delivery. The use of risk pots incentivised the contractors to de-risk the programme and this reduced the number of small changes being submitted to the change panels.

The Delivering Works Within Possessions process (DWWP) as used on London Bridge was a key collaborative forum that was applied rigorously with the level of detail increasing as the possession approached. Attendance at these meetings was properly managed to ensure that the team could drill down into the level of detail that allowed all the parties to jointly develop a plan to deliver. Detailed planning meetings added to this rigour and overall the approach was extremely successful with an almost perfect record of delivering on time.

War room

The War Room was a facility for reporting and monitoring progress of site delivery and had a singular focus to protect the operation of the railway. It was set up on high profile / high risk (aka ‘Red Ranked’) weekends to ensure contractors adhered to the plan/schedule. It is resource intensive as it brings together all the Partners to micro-manage delivery but it proved to be a very effective collaborative environment for agreeing change and reporting it outwards. The War Room is thought to have prevented more than 20 over-runs and was important in developing trust amongst the Partners and establishing the LBAP team’s reputation for reliability.

Further information

For more information on this Learning Legacy case study please email contact@thameslinkprogramme.co.uk

Documents

London Bridge Area Partnership Principal Contractor Agreement

The scope of this agreement related to the work undertaken by the London Bridge Area Partnership on Thameslink Programme Key Output 2. The agreement ratified the arrangements between Network Rail and the respective Principal Contractors in relation to how all parties would coordinate, cooperate and interface to safely and effectively deliver the respective construction projects in line with the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015.

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