Creating and Embedding Collaborative Culture for the Lifetime of a Framework Agreement: 12 months in
LLW Repository Ltd (LLWR) operates the LLWR sites on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). They deal with the UK's low level radioactive waste safely, securely and permanently.
LLWR were being called upon to deliver projects of a greater number and magnitude than they had previously delivered. Additionally they are working under a changing background situation where tighter budgets and the requirement to make savings are adding increasing pressure to deliver consistently within agreed parameters of time and budget. LLWR brought in Graham Construction, a construction, asset management and project investment business with experience in the nuclear sector, as a Framework Provider to work with them to deliver their projects in a cost-efficient, timely manner.
LLWR identified a desire to accelerate performance within their own company, but also in their interface with their framework provider Graham, if they were to deliver projects within agreed parameters. They identified the ability to collaborate as the fundamental key to this success.
LLWR have an existing relationship with Acorn Coaching and Development from our involvement on previous projects. They called upon Acorn Coaching to assist them in creating and embedding a collaborative culture that would be in place for the four-year lifetime of the framework agreement.
At the time of writing the Acorn intervention was twelve months into the framework agreement: this case study identifies early outputs and future interventions.
LLWR asked Acorn Coaching to provide a suite of developmental inputs designed to accelerate LLWR and Graham’s collective ability to meet the increased demands of their newer contracts. The intervention was to run over the four-year lifetime of the framework agreement, leading to more efficient working practices, and ultimately to projects being delivered consistently within agreed parameters of time, specification and budget.
Acorn Coaching has designed a multi-staged programme of complementing interventions that work with key groups within the LLWR/Graham Framework Agreement at different times, to create and cascade the necessary culture to raise performance to meet the additional demands. Key people who have the greatest impact upon framework/project performance were involved from the beginning as protagonists of change.
Stage 1: Core Team Focus Group
To initiate the process of Culture Change the Framework’s Core Team needed to identify the vision for the framework and establish clear behavioural expectations that would introduce the required culture.
Acorn Coaching worked with the Core Team for two days to create the vision. The team were also taken through Acorn’s Team Coaching Process to systematically analyse their current performance in key areas of effective team functioning.
The Team Coaching process established the starting point from which the changes and improvements could be made that would accelerate the team towards the required collaborative culture.
Stage 2: Framework Board
The Framework Board - the board of Directors from both LLWR and Graham who at the highest level would be reviewing framework success on a regular basis - needed to be aligned with the proposed intent created by the Core Team.
Members of the Core Team presented to the Framework Board after coaching from Acorn.
The Framework Board is aligned with the vision and its requirements. Board members are well placed to ensure their implementation from the highest levels down.
Stage 3: Process Alignment
There was a need to ensure engagement with the vision at point of delivery, and that the processes used throughout the Framework would be efficient processes that would deliver the level of performance required to meet the new, more challenging parameters.
Acorn Coaching worked with Process Owners, and from within them identified ‘Champions’ to develop enhanced, aligned processes between the two companies that would be used pragmatically on site.
Champions and Process Owners at all points throughout the organisation were brought on board to influence and challenge, to ensure the adoption of the Framework Execution Plan.
Using the parameters set by the Core Team the Champions from both companies collaborated to create a Framework Execution Plan identifying faster, more pragmatic processes.
In addition Graham Construction was enabled to appreciate the rationale and business case for some established practices, resulting in better acceptance of process even where there had been no change.
Stage 4: Delivery Team
To continue the performance improvement process the key members of the delivery team were promoted to collaborate to identify areas where further improvement could occur.
Acorn Coaching brought the Delivery Team together to engage with the vision and behavioural expectations. This was supported by senior people from both sides who re-enforced the rationale and importance of creating practical and efficient processes.
- The group identified key areas where performance improvement would greatly enhance delivery.
- Decisions were made that would make an immediate difference, and will have a knock-on effect to long-term gains. These included: Better planning of activities; Better scheduling; Better appreciation of resource requirements
- LLWR and Graham gained a greater appreciation of ‘each others’ operating style.
As an output from this session the Core Team will be meeting again to jointly develop, through a collaborative approach, the necessary actions to ‘real’ issues.
Stage 5: Senior Team Coaching
In recognising the complexities of the Framework deliverables a small number of the senior team members received specific focused coaching to assist them in ‘elevating’ themselves above the detail.
On a bi-monthly basis key individuals receive coaching support aimed at promoting a more horizon focused/strategic approach to their role. These discussions create a more reflective and mindful approach to their leadership role and the impact they can have across the Framework.
The individuals are more aware of how to positively impact the plethora of key stakeholders who they interface with on a regular basis, and the best way to continually promote a performance-focused Framework.
The measurement of the Framework performance, like most projects, is measured by the achievement of key milestone. The Framework wanted a means of identifying the level of collaboration occurring across the Framework.
The project was taken through Acorn’s Collaborative questionnaire, which measures nine key elements that contribute to collaboration. The output identified the level of collaboration and the actions needed to enhance collaboration.
The Questionnaire has provided a clear appreciation of where collaborative behaviour is occurring, and where improvement is required. Clear actions are being developed by the Extended Leadership Team to enhance collaboration in the key areas identified as being critical to Framework performance.
Extended Leadership Team
There was a need to ensure consistent leadership from enthusiastic and proactive individuals at all levels within the organisation, to secure engagement of all parties in realising the vision and expectations set during the early stages of the project.
A number of key people from across the organisation were identified to lead and influence the performance of the Framework by embedding the culture and expectations. The group initially reviewed ‘real data’ from across the Framework, including the Collaborative Questionnaire, to identify where and how performance will be improved.
15 people from across all areas of the Framework now have a ‘shared responsibility’ for leading and influencing the creation of a performance culture. This high performing team will in addition support and develop each other’s leadership and influencing potential.
Summary of business benefits
Senior management in LLWR report that they are seeing much more acceptance of Graham by LLWR than with previous contractors, where there has traditionally been a hierarchical and ‘contractual’ relationship.
They are also gaining a sense of a genuinely collaborative approach to identify and resolve potential issues early.
This is already resulting in key areas of the project working in a highly effective manner in jointly problem-solving, resulting in performance improvement.
Early progress review demonstrates that business benefits so far include:
- A clear Vision, purpose, focus and expected behaviours for the project
- A Framework Board that is aligned with the strategic intent and expectations and is well placed to ensure their implementation from the highest levels down
- A Framework Execution Plan Bridging Document which has drawn on the best processes from both businesses to create leaner, more efficient processes
- More acceptance of Graham by LLWR than with previous contractors, where there has traditionally been a hierarchical and highly contractual relationship
- Increased understanding of the ‘other side’, and the rationale and business case for certain established processes
- Better planning of activities
- Better scheduling
- Better appreciation of resource requirements
- A sense of a genuinely collaborative approach to identify and resolve potential issues early
- A clearer and more strategic view of key areas that impact performance
Acorn Coaching will continue to contribute planned and in-the-moment interventions in order to support emergent issues, to ensure that high performance continues and that the collaborative approach is maintained.
Tony Buchanan, LLWR EDCF Programme Manager
"We have managed to break down many historic barriers to true team work and this has already led to substantial commercial gains"