This assignment came soon after the Indian workshops. It was an opportunity to focus on an IN-COUNTRY action learning programme over an extended 15-month period which also gave participants the incentive to achieve a Diploma in the Management of PPP which earned credits towards a masters degree.
The programme consisted of six one-week modules and was delivered to 25 senior civil servants potentially involved in preparing PPP projects in the ministries of roads, water, health and transport (ports and airports) and 6 other ministries. The design was based on the basic CBS approach, that is; workshops conducted by specialists in PPP who had been responsible for designing and delivering PPP projects in the UK Civil Service and internationally, group projects, individual projects and personal development plans (PDPs).
PPP is NOT just a source of investment. It should be a vehicle to transfer private sector skills in project management to the public sector. As such PPP and infrastructure development could become a catalyst for civil service reform.
In our bid for this programme we suggested that the 'Government' should not see PPP purely as a source of investment capital. This limited approach misses a critical aspect of PPPs, that is, the public sector should learn from the private sector's approach to achieving excellence in all stages of project delivery. That is, successful projects will lead to improved services (provision of clean water, better transport etc) AND the transfer to local officers of the skills in project management and introducing a 'climate' of continuous process improvement (C.I.), innovation and learning from day-to-day experiences of project delivery. We argued this approach could play a key role in civil service reform, ie infrastructure development could be a catalyst for civil service reform.
Programmes must integrate the technical aspects of PPP (the WHAT) with the management issues involved in the delivery of PPP (the HOW)
This transfer of knowledge, skills and experience should be a priority for international consultants and contractors on all projects in the developing world. This involves a FORMAL process for sharing and recording learning which is often missing on projects. Without a formal process the transfer of technical and managerial knowledge, experience and skill will not take place to locals directly involved in the project delivery let alone to a wider audience within parent ministries. This formal process was provided by the action learning 'envelope' which we put round the whole programme. That is, the participants learnt about the technical content of PPP through workshops which dealt with what needed doing in each stage of the introduction of a PPP project. These inputs were informed by 'best practice' from the introduction of PPP worldwide delivered by faculty who had designed and delivered some of these projects. The application of this knowledge was dealt with in the individual and group projects.
The transfer of knowledge, skills and experience to the public sector should be a priority for international consultants and contractors. This requires a FORMAL process of recording and sharing learning from project experiences.
This view of PPP was introduced as a theme for the programme in the first workshop The programme focused on providing the latest knowledge and best international practice in the design and implementation of PPP projects AND building the capacity of local managers to take initiatives to improve working practices and their own management performance while they were learning how to implement PPP projects in the Country context. This approach was emphasised in the choice of subjects for the group project teams. The subject of each group project team (the 25 participants were divided up into 4 groups focusing on water, roads, health and transport) was;
'How to deliver PPP projects in water/roads/health/transport with special reference to the changes required in working practices and individual managerial behaviour within the ministries introducing PPP'
The task of each individual project also featured the need to treat PPP as more than an investment vehicle. The title of each individual project done by each participant was;
'What have I got to LEARN and DO to improve the overall performance of my department and, in particular, those aspects of departmental performance which will affect the introduction of PPP projects'?
The title of each participant's personal development plan (PDP) was;
'What have I got to LEARN and DO to improve my personal leadership competence and, in particular, my ability to transfer this learning to my management team and into the wider ministry'
Throughout the programme we encouraged participants to develop action plans to identify how to modify existing working practices and individual behaviour in their own departments in order to prepare the ground to ensure the successful introduction of PPP projects and how individual participants can contribute, via implementing their own business improvement plans, to improve service delivery in their own ministries. To help participants do this we gave inputs in the workshops on key general management concepts customised to the participants' organisations and culture. Inputs such as how strategy can be cascaded via assertive leadership of performance improvement systems (PMS), how to achieve operational excellence via the total quality management (TQM) and total factor productivity (TFP) approaches and how to optimise individual performance.
WHAT had to be done at each stage of a PPP project was covered and the issues discussed in the workshops. Also featured was HOW changes should be made in the Ministry working practices to ensure project success.
At the time the programme started no PPP projects had been initiated but the Ministry of Finance had created an embryonic PPP Unit which had produced a comprehensive National Policy on PPP and done some thinking about the enabling environment for PPP. The programme had been initiated by this Unit to begin a process of raising awareness of PPP and how it could be applied in the Country.
This meant that the participants on the programme could not reflect on their performance in introducing an actual PPP project. What they could reflect on was their performance in managing their departments to prepare them for the introducing PPP projects.
Giving participants the 'technical' knowledge of WHAT needs to be done to introduce PPP was straightforward. Getting them to address the management obstacles was also not difficult. Getting them to remove the obstacles and implement CHANGE was a challenge.
Our aims for the programme were,
Implementing PPP projects which transfer private sector skills to ministries requires the willingness of civil servants to learn these skills, the willingness of consultants to transfer them and the commitment of top ministry managers to drive the changes needed to deliver excellent projects.
We achieved the first of the above aims through the quality of the workshop presentations on the technical content of PPP projects and the presentations on the management processes involved. For example, the first workshop covered the following;
It's straightforward to transfer the 'technical' knowledge of a typical PPP project. Achieving effective delivery is much more difficult
Subsequent workshops covered the detail of each step of the process, inputs on how to do the action learning projects in the PDP and inputs on how to manage projects and lead a change process. For example;
Successful implementation of PPP projects is about adopting efficient working practices and managerial behaviour; it's about effective management of projects from start to finish. The action learning envelope can deliver this result
If we refer to the aims of the programme defined in the CBS proposal this distinction between the WHAT and the HOW becomes clear. These aims defined in the CBS proposal were;
There was a lack of implementation capability; a significant gap between what participants said they should do and what they actually delivered; between the plan and the action
Participants explained this lack of implementation capability by referring to the reluctance of senior managers to implement the national planning process. Ghana had a comprehensive National Development Plan and every Ministry had their own strategic and operational plans containing hundreds of initiatives. These plans were supposed to cascade down to individuals with identified performance objectives assessed by individual appraisals. None of the participants said this elaborate planning process impacted on their work activities. In particular, they argued that the personal appraisal system was not successful That is, there appeared to be a STRATEGIC GAP between the sophisticated planning process and what was happening ‘at the coal face’ within the ministries.
In summary, the participants argued there was a lack of interest by senior managers in creating what the programme advocated, that is, a performance management system and culture based on the cascade of the National and ministry plans. The programme also aimed to create high performing individuals and management teams led assertively but consultatively where personal motivation and responsibility for the quality and delivery of one’s own work were featured. The participants argued that these aims would be supported verbally by managers and politicians but little action would be taken to ensure implementation. This would mean that when PPP projects were introduced their ability to contribute to civil service reform would be limited.
Understand the 'technical' knowledge of WHAT needs doing to introduce PPP was adopted enthusiastically. Removing the managerial obstacles to implementation was avoided. Adopting a continuous improvement approach to working practices was a longer term challenge
Implementing PPP projects which transfer private sector skills to ministries requires the willingness of civil servants to learn these skills to take initiatives to improve working practices, the willingness of consultants to transfer private sector skills and the commitment of top ministry managers to drive the changes needed to deliver excellent projects
It was the experience of delivering this programme that led CBS to focus on programmes which featured delivering action learning activities around every stage of single PPP projects. During this programme the Chairman of CBS created a relationship with the Secretary to the Cabinet who requested an action learning programme for his management team to focus on the delivery of the National Development Plan building on the experiences of the above programme. This programme was designed but not delivered because the Cabinet Secretary was transferred following an election. The proposed programme is being offered to other countries and is summarised in the next section.