Our experience of delivering 66 action learning programmes led to a recognition that to make a major contribution to national socio-economic development programmes in the Developing World initiatives ought to start in the political arena ideally with the Cabinet defining and owning the National Development Plan and accepting their responsibility to cascade it into all parts of the civil service and the wider economy. If this is not possible then the initiative should begin with the Head of the Civil Service and their management team of Chief Directors/Permanent Secretaries focusing on the implementation of the National Development Plan and creating an effective admin/political interface (see page on Programmes for Management Teams of Head of Civil Service).
Priority projects have to emerge from the cascade of the National Infrastructure Strategy
Most countries in the developing world have comprehensive national development plans. These plans define WHAT needs doing. HOW these targets are to be achieved is often not defined precisely partly because this is a much more difficult area to address given the limited success achieved in implementing change, the lack of leadership in creating a performance culture and the fact that immediate problems can overwhelm and demotivate officers. This creates a STRATEGY GAP between what is required and what is achieved. Closing this strategic gap is one of the major challenges of the whole development process. Our task is to address the issue of why there is a lack of IMPLEMENTATION CAPABILITY and to deliver initiatives which close this strategy gap.
This involves initiatives to improve political commitment to change, the organisational capability of ministries and municipalities and the skill level of politicians, managers and administrators and, in particular, in the infrastructure area, to enhance engineering capability, both technical and managerial. The problem in the past has been the ineffectiveness of many capacity building initiatives in closing the strategy gap and creating the necessary implementation capability to improve service/project delivery through improved ministerial and project effectiveness and the competence of individual managers.
That is, the traditional approach to capacity building has disconnected learning from the reality of the workplace. Replace with programmes which feature simultaneous learning and doing.
The traditional approach to capacity building has disconnected learning from the reality of the workplace, from the day-to-day activities of managing organisations. This approach needs replacing by programmes which feature 'learning and doing' simultaneously. That is, on-the-job, action learning programmes which create a culture of operational and individual excellence where leadership of high performing teams, at all levels, is encouraged, where learning from experience and continuous improvement becomes an integral part of day-to-day management and where individuals take personal responsibility for improving their own performance and that of their departments and their projects.
Focus on infrastructure ministries and their projects set within action learning envelopes featuring excellent cost, quality and delivery characteristics
Achieving these aims across a civil service has proved difficult. Our answer is to focus on ministries and their infrastructure projects. That is, to help governments and ministries deliver their strategic and infrastructure plans, to identify projects and develop a locally appropriate model of PROJECT DELIVERY. This to be set within action learning envelopes aimed at ensuring cost, quality and project delivery excellence, learning how this is done, then doing it and passing this knowledge onto others in the project, to those working on other projects and into the parent ministries. The steps in this process are;
We propose Cabinets are split into clusters dealing with infrastructure, welfare, wealth creation etc. Each cluster should work on how to cascade the National Plan into their ministries
Chief Directors will be held personally responsible for ensuring their Ministry strategies and their infrastructure projects are delivered on time, to budget and of high quality. Translating these strategies into day-to-day priorities at each level in a Ministry will be facilitated by the action learning 'envelope' put around this activity. The effective operation of this envelope is a key to the project's success as is the direct involvement of the President in monitoring its delivery.
Integrate continuous improvement with continuous learning at every stage in the project
The pinnacle of infrastructure capacity building is to integrate performance improvement and learning activities throughout the life cycle of individual projects. This 'in-project' approach will involve project teams defining a project's strategy/business plan, its feasibility, identifying the best procurement methodology; preparing first-class tender documents; running a transparent and fair procurement process; negotiating the final contractual documents and then exercising appropriate oversight and contract management throughout the life of the contract, dependent on the procurement methodology used.
These 3 project management steps will be conducted within an action learning envelope through workshops and individual and group projects dealing with the activities of each step of the development and procurement phases of the projects and into the monitoring by the ministry project team of the design and build stage and subsequent stages of the project.
A key to delivering the infrastructure project with the right cost, quality and delivery characteristics is to ensure the design and build contractor(s) avoids the conflict-ridden, adversarial culture common on many construction projects. Developing a collaborative, no blame, win-win, partnering/alliance culture among the teams involved in designing and building the asset should be the aim of the ministry team monitoring this step.
Continue the action learning process into the design and build process
Putting an action learning envelope around each stage of the project life cycle including the actual design and build process is an effective way of developing a project with these collaborative characteristics. This also gives participants on each programme the appropriate knowledge and learning opportunities to apply immediate (just in time) learning to their day-to-day activities of continuously improving project processes.
CBS has worked with major UK construction and water companies to develop their approach to alliancing and faculty have been to Australia to research their approach. We are convinced that continuous learning linked to continuous improvements emanating from a comprehensive project strategy is the vehicle for achieving long-term performance improvement in terms of what is delivered to the client and the profitability of the main contractor and its supply chain.