Opinion: London 2012 proves civil servants can do big projects, says Andrew Hubbard

Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration. This is the key to ensuring that government and industry deliver megaprojects as planned.

By Civil Service World

05 Sep 2012

For a shining example, look no further than the Olympic Park. With a culture of collaboration at its core, the project demonstrates that partnerships between the private and public sectors can deliver on every front. Throughout, a plethora of government departments, ministers, local authorities and other stakeholders ensured that any issues were swiftly resolved and that progress was made safely, to schedule and within budget.

In the private sector, rival construction firms Mace, Laing O’Rourke and CH2M Hill forged the CLM consortium, which acted as the Olympic Delivery Authority’s (ODA’s) delivery partner. ODA chairman Sir John Armitt told me in June that political will at the highest level safeguarded delivery. “Everybody has wanted to make this successful,” he said. “We’ve had the transfer between mayors, governments and have always had ongoing, total support. Even when the coalition came into power, Tessa Jowell was invited by Jeremy Hunt to remain on the Olympic board.”

Having got the right team was in place, ministers put in safeguards to shield delivery staff from too much external interference – building confidence among stakeholders and frontline workers. After the planning phase, the strategy was fully communicated to stakeholders, allowing them to ensure buy-in from the very beginning. And once everybody had agreed each stage of the plans, the government did something very simple: it stuck to its guns. “We explained to people that once we went through each gate, we wouldn’t be going back,” said Armitt, making it clear that he’d fight tooth and nail to avoid unnecessary change.

The set-up wasn’t a complete lock-down – data still flowed from executive board to ministers – but by deploying professional project and programme management techniques with unrelenting rigour, the key players delivered ahead of schedule, £476m under budget, and with no construction-related deaths on site during the build (a first for the Games).

The London 2012 construction project demonstrates that cross-party collaboration at the highest level is essential to the success of long-term megaprojects, and that extensive planning and rigorous project management can help even the most complex projects succeed. Its leaders got results by doing the basics well. More of the same please. ?

For more about Project magazine see www.apm.org.uk/project

See also Editorial: On medals and gongs

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