A study of program alliances within a strategic program of rail, road and water service OPEX and CAPEX projects.
2012 – April 2014
ARC grant LP110200110
Alliancing is a broad term that has been applied to a variety of contexts including front end design alliances, complex and large scale CAPEX project alliances with a strategic program of projects, and service OPEX and small scale CAPEX projects with in a program alliance.
The purpose of this project is to gain an understanding of program alliancing practices in Australia. It draws upon three important sources of data and information. Primary data was gathered through semi structured interviews with 21 program alliance subject matter experts during 2013/14. Secondary data was gathered from a survey undertaken in 2010 (Mills and Harley, 2010) and 2012 (Walker and Harley, 2013) on project alliances in which we had direct access to raw data from the telephone interviews. Secondary data was also accessed from documentary sources, mainly case studies published by the Alliancing Association of Australasia (AAA) together with various web based information and company reports.
Several key findings emerged from this study:
1. The choice of using an alliance form of project delivery is motivated by a context in which collaboration and shared responsibility and accountability between the project owner and the key design and contractor organisations is necessary to achieve an optimum outcome. All parties, therefore, need to be prepared for not only technical demands of the work to be undertaken but also for the behavioural and intellectual demands of working as a single united team. This has implications for training, development and recruitment of all those involved in alliances.
2. Co-location, shared communication platforms and recognition of team and individual mutual dependence features most strongly in both project and program alliances. The implication of this is that sufficient resourcing is needed to house and support teams to be able to collaborate. Power and information/knowledge asymmetries need to be reduced.
3. Excellent relationship and behaviours are a defining feature of successful projects and are reflected in those alliances where these ‘people oriented’ values prevail. The alliance methodology is particularly strong in supporting this through the alliance agreement requirements for a no blame culture and a consensus decision making approach that results in a sink or swim together mindset. For program alliances this can be even stronger than in many project alliances because of the extended time span across a program where relationship, trust and confidence build. This has implications for establishing a culture of support and authentic leadership.
4. A focus on continuous improvement, pragmatic learning in action and a focus on learning is both necessary in alliances and should be documented and celebrated. The documentation and diffusion of innovation and learning is often adequately performed at the project level but frequently valuable knowledge and intellectual capital is dissipated in stand-alone project alliances. Diffusion of innovation and learning is better for program alliances than many project alliances but there remains room for improvement. The implication for this is that greater effort could be placed on knowledge management and organisational learning to be a common and routine process present to allow this valuable benefit to be dissipated.
5. A best for project/program/network mindset that was evidently high across all three sectors studies. This is often supported by a coherent well-structured incentivisation arrangement that reinforces the aims and strategic intent of the program or project. High levels of effective collaboration and strong project /program cohesion was evident across all sectors and this was supported by high levels of authentic leadership by the ALT and AMT and a strong project/program one team culture. The implication of this finding is that the incentive arrangements should be well understood by all parties with clear KRAs and well formulated KPIs so that all involved in the project/program understands what best for project looks like.
Professor Derek Walker and Dr James Harley
Host institution: RMIT University