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Does a Project 13 Enterprise model help with the current complex environment?

Melissa Zanocco

There are twelve Project 13 Adopters putting the Project 13 Principles into practice and sharing their learning between them. The Project 13 Adopter Community meets regularly to discuss their emerging best practice and barriers as they progress on their journeys. At a workshop earlier this year, they discussed how they have been using their Enterprise and supplier ecosystem relationships to mitigate and manage the risks during the uncertain times over the past three years including dealing with Covid-19, Brexit, shipping issues, inflation and the conflict in Ukraine. The meetings are Chatham House but this article gives some highlights from the discussion.

Accelerating the journey to high performing Enterprises

Project 13 recognises that an organisation will not become a high performing Enterprise immediately, and so the Maturity Matrix identifies three steps from simple collaboration, through integrated functions and relationships to a high performing Enterprise. The Adopter Community has seen an acceleration of that journey recently as the current conditions make it even harder for organisations to continue operating as they have done in the past when they need to deliver the same output for less. It is now clearer to senior leadership that an Enterprise model is a necessity rather than a nice to have.

The benefits of the model include doing things in bulk and in a common fashion across the partners including: shared and optimised capability (drawn from across the enterprise partners), commonly adopted processes and systems, a common data platform and a common behavioural and incentivisation model. Some examples mentioned were:

  • Having one planning resource across the Enterprise rather than one in each organisation
  • Sharing mechanical plant across all partners - this reduced fuel needs and the need for transportation from place to place
  • Reducing the amount of moves from one site to another – more sequential
  • Having central compounds – not spread across multiple locations
  • Pooling buying resources to get better deals and reduce wastage which also aids with Net Zero targets.

In general, it becomes easier to make decisions early on that benefit everyone and the results are obvious to all involved.

Good relationships with the supplier ecosystem

The Enterprise model does not make any of the issues go away but helps with mitigating them. A large part of that is because strong long-term relationships have been built with partners (within the Integrator) and the wider supplier ecosystem. It is therefore easier to have the right ‘mature’ conversations to find solutions that work for everyone.  The Adopters have not seen many examples of suppliers reverting to previous behaviours. Importantly, the current conditions have also increased understanding of suppliers’ suppliers and their issues. Many were not aware of the reach of their global supplier ecosystem. There are trade-offs to be made between finding new providers and increasing the carbon footprint of how far the materials travel. This also led to a discussion about ethics. It was felt that the full pain is not yet being felt as many had enough materials to last them for the next few months but the full implications will hit a bit further down the line. Decisions are being taken earlier and for large orders, even if design is not finalised, in order to give longer lead times to receive materials. Any excess material ordered can then be used across the programme / organisation.

Retaining employees

There is currently huge wage inflation and many people left the industry all together during and after Covid-19. Feedback from the workshop suggested that the positive atmosphere created in an Enterprise helps to retain staff. There was even an example of a higher salary tempting someone away who then came back as realised that culture is more important and better for mental health.

What is the future of the office and co-locating?

Covid-19 has led to a shift in working from home. The Project 13 Enterprise model is based on collaboration and integration so there was an interesting discussion about the impact of homeworking on building the organisation. It was definitely felt that those who had already built relationships in person before Covid-19 found it easier to transition to working on-line, although there were still issues as new people come on board. However, those who started something new during Covid-19 said that they struggled to build integration and high performing teams as quickly.

However, there were also many benefits of homeworking including the fact that there is more access to diverse talent. It was not suggested that things should return to how they were before but that conscious thought should go into the in-person element of building relationships. Office spaces now need to be collaboration spaces and people should be brought together specifically for collaboration purposes, not just for a run-of-the-mill meeting that could be done on-line. This means the nature of office space needs to change – not rows of seats but an environment that people want to travel to. This also means that it could be at a partner's location, not necessarily at the Capable Owner’s offices. There was a fascinating discussion about whether virtual reality will be a solution to team building in the future. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

There are always some great quotes that come out of these workshops so I will leave you with three:

  • “Gang up on the problem, not the people” – people are quick to criticise – it is easier to do that then help.
  • Not offices but “heartbeat places” – need to entice people.
  • “Triviality becomes criticality” – little things seem to escalate online.
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We were just getting to grips with the disruption to supply chains that resulted from the pandemic when along came a 50% increase in the price of diesel and a four-fold increase in gas prices.  Businesses that use large amounts of energy are talking of suspending their operations and we haven’t begun to understand the impacts this could have on the supplies of the materials and components we need to build our infrastructure projects.  There is no way that the market will sort these problems out for us.  We have to pool our knowledge and our relationships and use them to understand where there are most likely to be disruptions to our supply chains and what we can do to fix them.  And an enterprise structure is a helpful place to start from.

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