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Major programmes: an approach to complex and demanding environments

Societies around the world are currently facing a growing set of complex environmental, economic and social challenges which require major, often national or even global programmes to engineer significant change. The programmes set up to address these challenges will inevitably operate at di­fferent speeds, and require novel approaches in delivery.

In the UK, the National Audit Office (NAO) repeatedly has identified a set of common problems arising across major programmes in different parts of government. The NAO recently stated that there are four root causes: scope, planning, managing interdependencies and oversight. The Public Accounts Committee built on the NAO’s observations by commenting that “the calibre and number of people in leadership positions in major projects is still not strong enough.” The private sector is certainly not immune to many of these issues when it comes to effective major programme delivery.

Furthermore, the conventional approach to programme management, with its emphasis on detailed planning, control and stability, is being questioned. How does a control-focused approach fit an environment of constant change, and evolving complex systems.

To address these challenges, Deloitte has developed a flexible and responsive approach to major programme delivery, called Programme Aerodynamics®. This is based on our experience with multiple large scale capital infrastructure programmes, our response to help deliver COVID-19 testing and other innovation programmes. Programme Aerodynamics® enables the rapid delivery of high-impact programmes by enabling organisations to e­ffectively anticipate, shape and manage change, empowering them to:

  • Continuously scan the horizon to look forward, assess choices, and anticipate risks and opportunities;
  • Efficiently allocate and coordinate available resources rapidly;
  • Implement a forward-looking delivery approach to create momentum;
  • Foster a digital-first mindset to simulate problems to drive strategic decision making and enhance delivery; and
  • Build a human system to create direction, connections and a delivery rhythm.

The step-change that Programme Aerodynamics® delivers is analogous to the di­fference between managing a football club and an F1 team: from being stuck on the side-line to being able to continuously communicate with driver and car, adjusting, anticipating and swiftly responding to changing track conditions and competitors’ actions.

Programme Aerodynamics® is based on the following five key components:

  • A continuous strategy process, where strategy is applied and updated throughout a programme;
  • A flexible planning architecture;
  • Transformation delivery;
  • A digital design approach; and
  • A human system focus.

A. Continuous strategy

  • Ensures leadership can anticipate future needs and define the multiple steps necessary to deliver transformational improvement; and
  • Enables non-linear development of solutions and faster responses to new challenges.

B. Flexible architecture

  • Ensures all the components of a programme (including processes, technologies, workforce and intellectual property) and the interconnections can be identified;
  • Allows leaders to set the design direction with enough precision to move forward but without imposing excessive structure or unnecessary detail; and
  • Facilitates the rapid modification of the design as new information is received.

C. Transformation delivery

  • Creates a forward looking problem solving mindset to predict potential barriers and develop alternative delivery solutions; and
  • Enables leaders to create momentum, rhythm, and to continuously make progress even in most challenging of environments.

D. Digital design approach

  • Empowers leaders to leverage new digital capabilities including:
    • Sensors;
    • Shared data platforms;
    • Artificial intelligence;
    • Predictive analytics;
    • Digital twins; and
    • Digital programme controls;
  • Support simulation to improve strategic decision making; and
  • Enhances control of complex delivery programmes.

E. Human System Design

  • Studies the optimum individual skills, team behaviour and organisational structure to deliver the programme; and
  • Supports the migration of the delivery organisation.

The impact of the Programme Aerodynamics® approach can be seen in a range of programmes, including our support to the UK Government’s COVID-19 project that:

  • Built a capability to test 100,000 people a day from scratch in under six weeks;
  • Stood up more than 1,000 test sites – 89 drive through test sites, 510 walk- through test sites and 500 mobile test units;
  • Designed, managed and delivered the bulk delivery and collection of more than 85 million test kits to care homes; and
  • Runs a digital portal which ships more products daily than almost any online retailer on Black Fridays.

The integrated set of methodologies and tools underpinning Programme Aerodynamics® constitutes, arguably, the first new approach to major programme management in 20 years. The challenges organisations face today have never been more complex: this approach will empower the leaders of today and tomorrow to reimagine problems, accelerate build activities and deliver high-impact solutions for the benefit of citizens and corporates alike.

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