Optimising Performance Management in Highways Infrastructure

Local highway authorities are progressively turning to single sourced framework agreements to balance increasing highway capacity demands with ever reducing capital and operational budgets.

In taking this step the need for surety in performance management to deliver value for money becomes one of the key concerns for local authorities and public bodies. The surety sought can be in relation to the overall partnership agreement and in the individual call-off contracts proposed to be issued under the overarching framework.

These performance management challenges can typically include the processes and procedures your framework supplier has in place to ensure proper performance. How they maximise the skills and knowledge of the supply chain and manage supplier performance. The steps that get taken in the event of a performance issue coming to light and how they go about preventing reoccurrence. How simple and effective communication protocols support effective performance management and trigger early intervention.

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The best foundation for performance management success is creating a strong learning culture combined with a collaborative working ethos between the customer’s team, main contractor, their designer and supply chain.

A Framework Performance Plan (FPP) will describe the overall approach and measures of success that will articulate and demonstrate the effectiveness of the framework approach.

Individual Project Performance Plans (PPPs) are then developed that align to the overall aims of the framework and ensure each scheme and the team delivering it have clarity on how they support the framework vision and deliverables.

A Collaborative Performance Workshop will build on the initial understanding of your key expectations for, and your primary concerns about, the framework. It will enable the collaborative team to align their priorities, and set in place the performance measures the framework team will be held to account for and delivery accordingly.

Following the workshop a Framework Specific Performance Plan should be developed and provide:

  • Clear direction for the leadership team to align communications
  • Auditable checklists for all aspects of the framework
  • Development of a Balanced Scorecard that measures all key performance areas (deployed both at framework and project level)

It is also essential to ensure that continuous improvement is not be seen as a bolt-on activity, but a learning culture that it is integrated and embedded into all those people and aspects of the framework activities.

An effective framework implementation requires the setting of annual performance objectives, improvement targets and KPIs. Identifying the Framework Manager accountable to continuously monitor and address performance at progress meetings is crucial. This reinforces the importance of performance management from the outset, allows benchmarking of the individual framework projects in management reviews and drives improvement and innovation. This ownership of performance can also instil some friendly competition between each of the projects undertaken.

Employees from all participating organisations will typically have annual performance development plans. Vital to maximising overall framework performance management is for individual team member’s objectives and training needs to be fully aligned to the specific framework objectives, not simply those of their respective employer’s business.

Processes and procedures need to ensure they capture Framework Quality Plans for both the Design/Early development phase and the Construction phase. These need to be supported with proven “plan-do-check-act” processes and robust and effective self-certifying accountabilities. This approach maximises the surety of completing work right first time.

With aligned project objectives, the collaborative team can robustly set about designing out defects, assessing potential risks and addressing them, use method statements to extensively interrogate the build requirements in detail, plan and control the construction work, and manage risks and interfaces with stakeholders and third parties.

A main contractor collaborating with their proven specialist supply chains allows innovation to flourish and draw opportunities to improve performance management from both the wider construction and in some cases other industries. It is equally important that there are robust procedures in place for the selection and appointment of the supply chain.

As a minimum there should be a supplier protocol in place that expressly sets out the expectations for the suppliers and also the main contractor’s commitments to their supply chain. There should be evidence of regular supplier performance monitoring, dedicated supplier relationship managers, supplier development forums, learning opportunities and regular supply chain engagement survey results.

In commercial terms the framework should have clear and simple processes to monitor actual spend against planned spend. This will ensure cost forecasting is accurate and that management intervention is instigated to mitigate the impact of any unforeseen circumstances as early as practicably possible.

Other critical elements to look for include evidence of Innovation Registers, Environmental Management Plans, and Community Engagement Project Execution Plans that ensure highways neighbours and local businesses’ needs are carefully considered.

The final key ingredient is having at your disposal a suite of balanced scorecards and performance dashboards to visualise performance management indicators at a glance. This visual format enables prompt and effective intervention by the collaborative team to solve problems quickly and maximise highway utilisation.

Maximising the learning is achieved by adopting both a Fair Culture Assessment process to investigate and identify the root cause of failures, and using embedded improvement opportunities to identify new innovation/ideas and share best practice.

In conclusion, local authorities considering a single source framework solution should seek partners who can evidence a culture for learning, who openly share the learning from their failures and are recognised for developing and sharing new ideas. In practice it is this open learning and sharing culture that underpins surety in performance management and in achieving continuous improvement year on year.

Richard King CEng MICE is a Director at Osborne and Chairman of CECA Southern