By Paul Slater
Whatever the size of a project it has to be regularly monitored to ensure it will ultimately meet its requirements.
The fiasco that is surrounding the London 2012 Olympics security arrangements with G4S failing to get anywhere near providing the number of security personnel that they were contracted for raises a number of questions (to say the least). The games themselves are a programme of monumental proportions in anyone’s book and up till now has been considered a success in terms of the way it has been delivered. Of course, the same was said about the construction of Heathrow Terminal 5 but it’s only once such programmes come into fruition can overall success be judged. Terminal 5 showed that any sub-project or simply the putting into real use can cause problems, even if only temporarily.
So, from a project management perspective what appears to have happened with the security personnel provision for the games is that the UK government has, not unreasonably, gone out to competition to choose a suitable company to provide the (human) resources required. This is a project in its own right. The difficulty that often arises with public sector projects that involve the placing of contracts (known as procurement) is that there is a great deal of effort and discussion leading up to negotiations and eventually a contract but that effort dissipates on contract signature.
Scant regard is paid to project monitoring
Why is this? Well, it is often assumed that all the hard work has been done and that all will be delivered as expected by ‘someone else’. The government project team (if they even recognize themselves as one) will move on to other more interesting things, quite often new pieces of policy. Scant regard is paid to project monitoring. This is a real shame as it is only post contract signature that misunderstandings on requirements come to light. Assuming that a company will have the same understanding as you, the author of the requirements, is naive at best and incompetent at worst.
At the end of the day it is the organization procuring the services, in this case security personnel for the games, that is left in the lurch and has to deal with the consequences and hit to its reputation. The requirement never goes away. While it may be possible to claw back money from the company in the long run the requirement itself must be met.
The requirement never goes away
As the organization paying for the requirement to be delivered, the government in this case, has every right to ‘go in’ and assure itself that sufficient progress is being made on route to meet deadlines. This is no different to the games themselves having to deliver a successful test event at each of the event locations.
So, some timely reminders for project monitoring, whether it’s on a national scale or not:
- Contract signature is just the start – regular assurance visits and questioning by the project team up to and including final delivery.
- If assurance process shows concerns then escalate within the organization and company providing the outsourced services (there is no excuse for non-communication).
- Ensure a project team is in place for the duration – this includes post contract signature, projects only succeed if they are implemented satisfactorily.
- There is a contractual obligation for the procuring organization to provide information and maybe other resources in a timely manner to enable project success – often forgotten.
There are risks involved in any project and many can be mitigated against but not putting in place even rudimentary project monitoring that reports accordingly is a fundamental failure.
About the Author
Paul Slater is the owner of Mushcado Consulting Ltd, he guides organizations on the best way to deliver successful projects. He provides expert advice to businesses undergoing significant change. An executive and leadership coach he works with individuals and organizations to bring out the potential inherent in people.
You can reach him via email.