There is loads of literature of what can be learned from past projects, so to build better projects in the future. There is one project, Crossrail (the biggest infrastructure project in Europe and the largest infrastructure investment in the UK in a generation), which, back in 2015, decided that everyone would benefit if the lessons from this mega megaproject would be made available to the rest of the world. 🌍 Public money had made this information possible and so it should be shared in public. And so the website Crossrail Learning Legacy came into existence. According to the site: 'The Crossrail Learning Legacy is the collation and dissemination of good practice, lessons learned and innovation from the Crossrail construction programme aimed at raising the bar in industry and showcasing UK PLC.
The Crossrail Learning Legacy aims to share knowledge and insight, through means such as case studies and technical papers providing lessons and recommendations to help others. Documents and templates that were used successfully on the Crossrail programme are provided to be ‘pinched with pride’ by other projects. The Learning Legacy also showcases the experts behind the delivery of the Crossrail programme.'
This invaluable website centers around 12 themes, ranging from Project and Programme Management to Information Management & Technology and includes 840 items, some of which still published in 2023. These items include Case studies, Technical papers, research papers, good practice documents, datasets, and video- and audiofiles.
To give an example, from the micro report on Crossrail's Key Performance Indicators it appears that an impressive feature of Crossrail's drive at successful completion of the project was the establishment of four key objectives on the project:
1. Are we safe?
2. Are we on time?
3. Are we within funding?
4. Are we world class?
Subsequently, these four objectives were used as a driving force in the complete supply chain of the project. Starting from the annual reporting, down to the establishment of KPIs for Crossrail's Key Partners and Contractors, it all contributed to the demonstration of the fact that the alignment of objectives between the client and its key partners is an effective driver of behaviours and outcomes. A key lesson in effective project management. The below table is taken from that article.
This method of effectively and dynamically forecasting the impact of measures taken on the performance of the project's KPIs in the next periods is a perfect example of how dynamic scheduling, risk management and performance management processes should go hand in hand.
Another interesting example of lessons to be found on this website is about the use of the NEC3 contract documentation.
An innovative future of the NEC3 (and NEC4) suite is the Early Warning Notice Contract Procedure ('EWN'), a procedure which incentivises the contract participants to keep track of all events which may be looming at the horizon and which may give rise to issues as extra time and costs if not properly mitigated. According to a very interesting research paper 'Early Warning Notice Contract Procedure: Improving its use on large infrastructure projects' by Terry Smith, '... whilst the EWN procedure has been welcomed by the construction sector and is a positive step forward, its use on large, complex infrastructure programmes can lead to problems of creating an administrative burden due to notices being required for a broad range of ‘matters’. This is compounded by contractual sanctions for failure to use the EWN procedure which can result in the intent of the procedure being transformed from risk management to commercial protection. These issues can lead to negative behaviours which tarnish the collaborative ethos of the contract and the EWN procedure.'
Yet another great article on the Learning Legacy Website is the Case Study by Rob Jones and Ally Salisbury on Collaboration at Crossrail. Collaboration is a topic which attracts a lot of attention from a wide variety of academic disciplines, ranging from cultural anthropology, organisational development and project management to the legal sector. It touches upon such themes as Trust (divided into operational trust and moral trust), leadership, aligned goals, organisational effectiveness, the contract, and such further themes as complexity, pride, conflict ('Some participants specifically referred to the need to engage in constructive conflict. The failure of a previous attempt at collaboration ‘partnering’ was attributed to the creation of a false environment where conflict was seen as inappropriate and discouraged. Rather than avoiding conflict, it should be possible to discuss points of difference without being disrespectful or inappropriate'), resilience, antecedents.
And this is only the tip of the iceberg. There are further lessons to be found on procurement, permitting, land and property, health and safety, environment, engineering, operations, human resources, external; affairs and innovation, apart from project and programme management and information management and technology, earlier mentioned.
For all those, involved in the preparation of any sizeable project, digging into the Crossrail Learning Legacy trove of important studies and lessons is a must!