Use of Collaborative Forums at London Bridge Station
Collaborative planning, management and delivery of the Thameslink London Bridge Area Partnership works
In December 2017 Jacobs were commissioned to undertake a review of the collaborative aspects of the planning, management and delivery of the Thameslink London Bridge Area Partnership works in Key Output 2 in order to produce a legacy document that will inform and inspire subsequent programmes of work.
To gather the required information, a series of seven workshops were held during January 2018 with a cross-section of key staff, both past and present, from all partner organisations. Workshop discussions were captured and reviewed and a number of recurring themes identified. This case study considers collaborative forums.
The full report can be read here
3 Layers of governance: Management Board, ISB and DPF
Management Board – NR wanted senior executives to be supportive and accountable for driving collaboration. This group gave collaborative senior executive oversight and was new in KO2. The Board met quarterly. Workshop attendees accepted that the group was never truly tested as collaboration worked well with problems being resolved in the Delivery Partners Forum.
Delivery Partners Forum (DPF) – This group met on a four weekly basis and was attended by project delivery directors from all Partners. This was a ‘nitty gritty’ interface meeting between rail systems and civils and worked very well as a forum where problems could be resolved. Issues for consideration by the DPF were supplied from the Integrated Working Group who met fortnightly. Presentations were provided to DPF meetings from collaborative teams and the Chair rotated (NR never chaired). It was a true meeting of Partners and was both open and honest. The single concern of the group was delivery and joint ownership. Nothing commercial was discussed.
Integrated Schedule Board (ISB) – Each employer representative owned his/her organisation’s own programme. The ISB looked at the combined schedule and then provided challenge to employer representatives. When disagreements arose these were escalated up to the DPF. A combined RAG programme was maintained for threat monitoring. The ISB’s role was to review the integrated schedule and report to the DPF. See Potential Learning section.
Mature approach to change management
The commercial arrangements put in place via the form of contract meant the usual approaches to change were applied but it also made them generally easier and quicker. It was recognised that there would inevitably be change on the project and facilitated it in order not to hinder the programme.
The approach involved:
NR Strategic Change Panel (SCP) – An executive group. For changing a milestone etc. The Panel reviews, challenges and ratifies Local Change Panel recommendations.
Local Change Panels (LCP) – Meet fortnightly to discuss Early Warnings, threats and opportunities and reports to the SCP.
It is understood that standard NR projects do not have arrangements of this type or a detailed documented process. The approach taken on LBAP has ensured that project directors from all parties could never be unsighted of emerging changes. Contractors were provided with their own risk pots and encouraged and empowered to handle risk and de-risk programmes as they are rewarded based on outcomes. This approach meant that contractors only go to change panels when it is appropriate (with significant items such as not being able to hit a milestone). This avoids excessive change reporting to SCP with most issues resolved in LCPs instead. LCPs met fortnightly and took a mature approach to the likely need for change in order to manage risk. Change management was removed from the ‘coal face’ entirely. The process was effective here and decision-making was good. The LCP spent the majority of its time considering and resolving Early Warnings as most smaller change was addressed via the risk pots.
This was the right vehicle to manage change on this project. Early Warnings were raised and identified problems in advance and the commercial position was not allowed to get in the way of what was the right thing to do. Fundamentally the project was always about maintaining the programme and delivering the schedule.
Partners Balfour Beatty and Siemens felt this was a mature approach. All Partners understood the required behaviours such as openness and honesty and worked together. This approach was facilitated by the contract mechanism selected and was different to other projects in that there was very senior NR representation on the SCP (Mark Somers and Lawrence Whitbourn) which facilitated speedy decision making and stopped any poor behaviours developing.
LBAP was the first project to have a fully signed off “Station Change Process Agreement” in place
Multi-Disciplinary Design Meetings
The Multi-Disciplinary Design Meetings (MDDM) were a success story and a clear source of successful integration in practice. MDDMs were sessions where designers from all parties got together on a weekly/fortnightly basis to resolve design issues. This was a contractor-led initiative. Approximately 150 meetings have been held to date with 15-20 people attending at each one. This forum enabled the enforcement of a single source of truth across the programme. (For the Station there was a slightly more ad hoc approach with items/issues addressed as they occurred).
Station Project Working Group in place
NR set up this DfT level 4 (i.e. tactical) forum to set out how the various parties would interact (TOCs, Costain, NR and Station Team). It has proven to be an extremely successful collaborative forum, providing a single forum for the discussion of problems and to agree the best way forward. Dedicated resources to support it were provided by the project delivery team, the station team and by the TOCs. It has been funded by the Thameslink Programme on a full time basis. This is the first time it has been provided.
On other large projects the contractor is often left to manage this area and often struggles to do so effectively. NR project delivery teams’ resources are vastly experienced and this was of real support and assistance to the prime contractor who lacked real experience in this particular project type.
War Room approach highly successful
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.
NR runs and leads the Room with partner organisations represented at all times and supervisors present out on site. The Room enables open communication and joint decision-making to take place in a timely manner with all Partners working together for success. LBAP was too big and too complex to not follow this approach.
An Engineering Supervisor (ES) manages operational risks and work tasks within a schedule on site. The ES is freed up by the presence of the War Room as are others on site. The highest number of calls received in the War Room in a single hour was recorded as 83.
Although it was expensive and involved micro-management of the schedule for a possession to take decisions on the work being done, the War Room has proven to be extremely successful. On KO2 there have been very few significant overruns (3 or 4 baseline plan changes only). This approach has put an end to reactive planning “in the hole” which can have dire consequences and provides a single source of truth to stakeholders through regular reporting. Progress reports are submitted into the War Room every six hours where they are signed off. This significantly helps Infrastructure Managers (IMs).
Whilst the War Room approach did exist in KO1 it was relatively insubstantial and not truly effective. It was subsequently strengthened for KO2 with investment in and introduction of new equipment (such as Sight-Eye, a site monitoring system).
The War Room is not a standard NR approach. Whilst the Delivering Works Within Possessions process (DWWP) does contain a requirement for a project manager to manage and own a possession and the associated reporting, interpretation of this varies widely. Outside Thameslink nobody has interpreted it in the same way and applied the WAR Room approach. On LBAP it was adopted due to the sheer complexity and high profile of project. It has proven to be very successful and workshop attendees felt it has probably saved in excess of 20 over-runs. The Room provides a crucial collaborative environment for agreeing change and reporting it outwards.
Delivering Works Within Possessions and detailed planning meetings
Delivering Work Within Possessions (DWWP) meetings are an essential, mandated process and are whole day sessions. It is a process that is not always as rigorously applied elsewhere but it has been on Thameslink.
It involves a series of detailed planning workshops with all key stakeholders starting from two years out and then meeting more regularly from 52 weeks out (at T -52, -40, -26, -12, -8, -4, -2 and -1) to map stage delivery in as much detail as possible. This process requires regular reference to the integrated programme to ensure alignment. Relevant teams were brought in as required to contribute and interface meetings held with NR haulage teams (for material build), and Balfour Beatty teams (looking at and confirming access requirements and availability of access). These plans were constantly refined and updated as possession approached from over a year out.
The DWWP sessions ensured that all parties understood the objectives and were absolutely committed to not failing.
It is understood that DWWP has been applied far more fully on LBAP than is usual on other NR projects where it has been perhaps more of a tick box exercise. On LBAP the process has been applied fully with focus placed on the right areas, drilling down to get the answers required from all individuals. In this way all parties were able to manage their own destiny together. Partners presented plans and if they didn’t work they were discussed in detail and issues resolved. Far more rigour and challenge was applied compared to other NR DWWPs (in part because the team possessed the detailed railway knowledge and expertise to be able to do so) and the sessions ensured that everyone fully appreciated how their works impacted upon the programme as a whole. DWWP provided a forum where all parties could come together to develop a plan to deliver.
Detailed planning meetings – Held at T-40. An integrated planning session to identify issues for that particular weekend possession. Very useful for team as all Partners appreciate scope and other Partners’ issues. This approach was used on other projects too. An issues list was developed from the meeting with individuals identified as responsible for chasing each one up and closing it out.
Town Hall Briefings held ahead of every major stage or blockade
All Partners attended these briefings to discuss in detail all arrangements ahead of every major stage or blockade. It was a single, top down communication exercise to all Partners with their workforces also encouraged to attend. Often there could be a few hundred attendees at each session and the session would be re-run several times in a day.
Construction Logistics and Integrated Possession Planning (CLIP)
A high level CLIP document was prepared at the outset and signed by all Partners. This group held weekly logistics planning meetings to plan possessions, and sat directly below the DPF. CLIP was a critical collaborative forum and pulled together all Partners, 3rd parties and Maintenance. Use of constructability slides with DWWP supporting to discuss, review and agree instantly. As new people came in over time, each was tested out and expected to prove themselves by delivery. If you didn’t, your plans were challenged, reviewed and improved. The CLIP sessions were seen as very effective at driving high performance and attendance was accordingly excellent with the right people consistently engaged.
Opportunities to further improve delivery identified through a series of ‘lessons learned’ workshops which were held following every major possession / delivery stage completion.
Arrangements for the Integrated Schedule Board require review
The initial contract model put in place required a high degree of interaction between schedules to create a single integrated schedule. Workshop attendees felt that initially NR was somewhat over-optimistic about delivery capability and that this led to a lack of transparency and that poor personal behaviors and dynamics developed in meetings of the Integrated Schedule Board (ISB) as a result. In addition, it is understood that Project Directors did not feel that Management Board oversight of the DPF/ISB was appropriate as the Management Board were not sufficiently well informed around the programme to provide effective challenge. The initial collaborative arrangements were reviewed with Partners after 18 months and this led to changes in the contract model and in the ISB structure in order to improve collaboration and performance. Partners acknowledged that “programme was king” and the integrated schedule was crucial, but that initial execution had been poor. Following this, the ISB scope was much more limited to give/gets only with two separate programmes run and the Delivery Partners Forum was created.
War Room resource requires consistent and appropriate level of experience
The NR Project Manager leading the War Room should always possess the appropriate level of experience and knowledge. Some concerns were expressed that, on occasion, this has not been the case with his/her level of experience varying from very experienced to relatively inexperienced. The pool of suitably experienced individuals should be extended by developing people. Shadowing should last several shifts, not just one.
Effective detailed planning meetings require full engagement of all Partners
Detailed planning exercises enabled the initial development of a basic programme for a possession. To do so it requires that all Partners think in detail about their REAL programme requirements. Workshops attendees felt that some Partners were more collaborative in this area than others and that some did not develop and share sufficiently detailed plans for genuine challenge by others at the sessions. The failure to draw up sufficiently detailed plans for challenge leads to requirements for follow up works, re-planning etc on other weekends.
The DWWP procedure mandates that all works must be complete 4 hours before end of possession. This led to some parties not being entirely open about their needs and timings.