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The London Underground ‘Metronet’ contract was an example of how not to manage a construction project. Balfour Beatty was one of the five delivery partners of this £500m wasted opportunity, originally planned to last for 30 years.
Because none of the partners could agree who was in charge, the project was primarily managed by committee, with no clear leadership from the top and most of the energy and direction coming from internal arguments.
This lack of control meant that the wrangling and disputes continued all the way down the chain of command, across the many and variously involved parties. Even minor design details couldn’t be agreed upon over many months and it was obvious that, without a properly empowered captain, the ship would end up ‘on the rocks’, and indeed it did.
I was hired one year into the contract because, out of a planned 34 stations, only 11 had been started. I was chosen because of a combination of my business background, my construction knowledge, and because I had successfully delivered similar works for Network Rail. If I could improve the delivery of the 49 stations in the east, many of which were overground, then others would be appointed for the central and western sections.
However, the task I was hired to do was never properly consummated and, with the partners arguing amongst themselves about the need for my role, I was left to do the best I could.
After an initial review, I submitted a plan for approval to carry out the works in a more logical and methodical manner. This would have greatly accelerated the delivery of completed stations, but it didn’t suit the individual needs of the various partners and wasn’t so much rejected as ignored.
I spent the twelve months of my contract therefore, starting and delivering one station in the east on time and at a good profit, recovering a stalled station in the west and completing it on time at a good profit, and reviewing and re-planning a further 9 stations in the east to do the same.
I achieved this limited but significant success where all others failed, in spite of a morass of negativity, confusion and constantly changing instructions. This was because of my ability to work in complex and contentious circumstances, with a mixture of both willing and unwilling stakeholders, combined with my ability to assess, select, and then manage and motivate a competent, capable and winning team.
I led my troops in an inclusive, positive and persistent manner and this was appreciated, not just by the members of my team, but also by those stakeholders who were keen to get the job done.
DAGENHAM HEATHWAY STATION:- £1.2m, 12 month contract, delivered within the allotted timescale at a £250k profit.
TURNHAM GREEN STATION:- £2.5m, 24 month contract, running for 12 months and failing, delivered within the allotted timescale at a £400k profit.
HAINAULT STATION:- Planned to take 30 months to complete and cost £6.5m.
Re-programmed by my team to complete in 21 months and cost £4.9m.