Curzon Consulting with Highways England

People

Project Performance Accelerator (PPA) was designed to develop and implement a delivery mechanism for Highways England’s (HE) overarching Business Transformation Programme, addressing inconsistent levels of capability throughout HE’s Project Management community and developing highly skilled project delivery teams. Overall, HE’s three main Major Project programmes account for 80 projects worth more than £23bn, each being delivered by a supply chain or contractor led by a Project Management team.

PPA’s leader Steph Illingworth engaged Curzon to interpret and structure her Vision of the PPA Programme into clear deliverables, shaping the fundamentals. There was consensus on cultural flaws and ineffective ways of working. Revealing a deeply siloed organisation with multiple departments or technical areas that lacked collaboration or a holistic view of the primary objectives and deliverables: projects were not executed on time and within budget, nor maximising benefits and social value. Also, capability development and training programmes were too theoretical and onerous, focusing on processes and systems rather than people, impacting the overall project success.

Focusing on performance management, capability development, project control capability and enhancing commercial acumen, the PPA Programme included two outputs as the medium for change: An Immersive Learning Experience and Digital Project Management Guidebook.

The Immersive Learning experience was designed to disrupt the way programmes are delivered. The Digital Project Management Guidebook contained PM content selected through independent reviews and capability assessments. Both outputs were crafted around the project lifecycle of typical HE infrastructure projects, set to be delivered in-person over a period of 18 months. Cohorts were selected to receive a tailored experience, improve project team maturity, and provide a solid foundation for capability uplift to achieve clear learning outcomes and benefits.

At the heart of the PPA philosophy was to enable project teams to grow, enhancing ‘ways of working’ whilst bolstering project performance. These included a “working better together model”; a fundamental shift in the way individuals interact and take ownership of overlapping project aspects and problem-solving techniques. This, along with the Immersive Learning, reinforced the Programme’s success, shifting the focus from systems and processes to people.

The pandemic introduced significant challenges, necessitating the immediate conversion of the Programme from in-person workshops to a virtual setting. The team adapted structures and materials, incorporating a variety of software suites to enhance the learner experience. Frequent interaction and close collaboration with the internal and senior stakeholders were critical to maintaining speed and delivery, adopting a fail-fast, fix fast approach to syllabus creation

The consulting team could interpret the client’s vision into a clear pathway, support and enhance the design to become one of the most successful transformation project delivered in HE.

The Digital Project Management Guidebook launched in August 2020 via four interactive webinars to c.300 employees have now received over 1,000 unique viewers. A modified deployment strategy was adopted in light of the pandemic, redesigned as a remote Immersive Learning Experience. However, over 5,049 hours of remote learning have been received by 100 staff through 9 project teams, enhancing teams’ capability with a combined portfolio value greater than £3.3bn.

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