Delivering London 2012
Ky Nichol, MI-GSO | PCUBED Major Sporting Event practice lead, completed a series of speaking events across Asia sharing insight from our experience delivering the London 2012 Olympics as well as previous Olympic, World Cup and other world class sporting events, applicable to any critical project or program.
MI-GSO | PCUBED has gained significant expertise in our years of service in organizing world class sporting events. With high profile events such as these nothing can be left to chance – the eyes of the world comment on every aspect. A country’s reputation rests on its successful execution with deadlines that cannot move and very diverse stakeholders who need to be engaged and supportive over the many years it takes to deliver these awe inspiring events.
London 2012 was particularly challenging as it garnered significant international attention and a visible lack of support from the press/public opinion at the onset. However as preparation for the games evolved support increased, resulting in one of the most financially successful games delivered, as well as a well-planned legacy of long term benefits.
Here we share 7 of the key lessons learnt in Delivering London 2012:
Immovable Deadlines – Make them an asset
Delivering a major sporting competition is about far more than the act of organizing the event itself; it puts the reputation of a whole country on the line. First perceived as an issue, the deadline of July 2012 became an asset to design a comprehensible 7 years program. It was also a very useful argument when it came to make stakeholders move onward and get on with the project.
“(PCUBED was the) supplier of programme management consultancy services (ODA) to the London 2012 Games.”
– British Olympic Association
Seven years of preparation is a long time to be getting ready for an event. As a matter of fact success needed to be identified at key stages. Each year 10 milestones were chosen in order to maintain momentum, clarity and confidence. Another tool was making good use of pamphlets and professional looking communications to publicize the achievement of key milestones, rather than emails.
Building an Enduring Legacy
The vision of building an enduring, regenerative legacy for the people of East London was a central part of the promise made to the IOC (International Olympics Committee) during the winning bid for the 2012 Games. In the past, local authorities had had a hard time making the Olympic venues (e.g., Barcelona, Beijing) profitable after the event. On the contrary, the Olympic stadium at the Queens Elizabeth Olympic Park has been renovated with minimal transformational costs in order to host the West Ham United Football Club going forward. With the same objective, the Basketball Arena was designed to be easily dismantled and post games. Additionally, the Olympic athlete housing has been converted to desperately needed additional apartments in a city where rental rates are quite high.
Engaging Diverse Stakeholders
The governance of the event counted approximately 30 stakeholders and each could legitimately slow down the execution. Therefore, it was essential to build a close and strong relationship with each of them thanks to which decisions would be taken and efficiently executed in the shortest possible time. Preparation for meetings were critical where attendees reviewed and discussed materials ahead of the meetings so that actionable decision could be made with quickly with the broader group.
Another important aspect was the diversity of requirements, initially some members were concerned decisions were being overly influenced by the strongest personalities of the group. The solution was to draw up seven clear and objective criteria to take into account all the factors involved with each project business case. Therefore, requirements such as treasury and sustainability requirements could coexist with equal importance.
A study carried out by our organization a few years ago into why Telecommunications projects were suffering from delays and overruns showed that if people were not taking ownership of the overall project it would get stuck at gateways. Indeed, people were only looking at their own silo. Shifting everyone to think like they owned the business and final outcome was another essential. It was important to give people cross functional objectives as part of a team, and across different teams to achieve this.
A good example is the Acerlor Mittal Orbit which was a venue itself. There was no meaningful budget allocated for Arts, however, two project team members did not take no for an answer and developed an entrepreneurial workaround to obtain sponsorship.
Making people think like an owner guaranteed that nothing was left to chance.
Building the Machine
To ensure the successful delivery of a major sporting event you need to build a robust system of pre-agreed processes and responsibilities. It was important to be very clear on the baseline in order to avoid costly mistakes during the process. Even if it took time, it was preferable to scrutinize the different delivery options at the early stage in order to avoid changes once the project took off.
Roles of the delivery organization and the interaction within the organization (ODA, Delivery Partners and Supply Chain) were clearly defined thanks to tools like cross project assurance and cross project governance. This organizational definition allowed everyone to give the best of themselves.
Effective Risk Management
Finally, for London 2012, quantifiable risk assessments were carried out to allocate how much contingency funding projects should be allocated as a percentage of their overall cost. Risk was at the heart of the decision making not unlike many large IT projects. This greatly helped project managers accomplish their tasks. Teams could deal with the unexpected and be flexible. If risk did not materialize then money was recaptured into program contingency fund.
This article was written by Ky Nichol.
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