Why it’s Important to Plan Outcomes Rather than Activities

How should you start planning a major infrastructure project? Work programmes are often complex. Logistics, materials, equipment and personnel take a lot of coordination. Perhaps it’s no surprise that what needs to be done sometimes overshadows the why and the how.

But the way that projects are designed and executed always has consequences. Decisions can affect the level of disruption caused in the short term for travellers and nearby communities. They can also affect future maintenance needs and the environmental impact.

To have a transport network that truly works for everyone, these are considerations that not only cannot be ignored, but should also be the starting point for project planning.

Early Engagement Delivers Better Outcomes

Infrastructure projects frequently have to be completed within a tight time window. Appointing the contractor late-on in the planning process allows little opportunity to influence how the project is delivered. But when engaged early, we can explore some of the wider issues and design a project plan that delivers better overall outcomes.

For example, we can:

  • Look at the potential impact of vehicle movements and onsite construction work, we can explore whether offsite methods could limit the impact on local communities.
  • Analyse the maintenance needs of the finished assets and investigate design changes that could reduce maintenance or make access easier.
  • Set ourselves challenges to reduce the overall environmental impact and seek opportunities to enhance biodiversity.
  • Investigate alternative approaches that reduce the scale or duration of any closures.

Sometimes, overnight and weekend working are the only realistic way to minimise disruption. This will be more expensive for the contractor but may be justified when you consider a broader set of outcomes.

Often, the answer is to be more innovative and open to different ways of working. Focusing on outcomes rather than activities can provide the impetus needed to drive innovative behaviour. Otherwise, it becomes the usual question of how you can manage resources in the most efficient way to deliver the specified work.

Is there a Trade-Off Between Outcomes, Costs and Timing?

Better outcomes don’t have to come at the expense of cost or timing. The flood alleviation scheme Osborne carried out for Network Rail near Axminster is a good illustration of an outcomes based approach. By working differently we were able to:

  • Re-route 50% of loads away from the local village and restrict HGV movements to four per day outside of school drop off and pick up times.
  • Use offsite methods to eliminate pre-assembly in the SSI.
  • Arrange for 9000 tonnes of embankment spoil to be used to improve local agriculture.
  • Installed a temporary reusable bridge to divert traffic from the local village.

The precast concrete embankment was manufactured in sections offsite and installed to a controlled schedule, which allowed handover to happen nine hours ahead of the scheduled nine-day closure. The guaranteed quality of the sections should also reduce future maintenance needs.

Once you start looking at projects in a different way, with an innovative mindset, you tend to see benefits right across the board: timing, cost, quality and convenience.