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Plan for perfection

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When David Higgins was installed as the chief executive of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) he had a simple plan. Two years planning, four years building and one year of testing before the Games began.

Many questioned the plan but, resolute, he took the decision to implement the system, confident it would deliver.

What resulted was perhaps the most success programme ever delivered in British history.

Why was he so confident? The answer is simple planning. How do I know? Because he demonstrated his thinking to me personally.

David, this months Project interviewee, agreed to meet me to discuss his current role as the chief executive of Network Rail.

In his sixth-floor office in the heart of Kings Cross he keeps a rather unremarkable looking box with ODA written on in marker pen. Inside is a piece of history. This is what I used to pitch my two-four-one idea to the Government, he tells me, as he produces a huge Gantt chart.

David proceeds to tell me how he worked backwards from the opening ceremony of London 2012 to develop the plan, anticipating challenges and building in contingency plans.

There is certainly a lesson here for all of us. It isnt rocket science. It is meticulous attention to detail, the ability to think outside of the box and build in a strong process to cope with future challenges. This allows you to ensure the main bulk of work in the project the physical build of the Olympic Park in Davids case is undertaken with as few issues as possible.

David allowed two years for this crucial planning phase, but the results speak for themselves.


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  1. Peter Parkes
    Peter Parkes 05 July 2013, 03:05 PM

    With more people like David Higgins around, there would be little work for those of us involved in project recovery and turn-around.  When I tell clients that they can choose to get organised at the start, the middle or the end, it seems a no-brainer.  Yet most seem to default to rushing in, and end up trying to get organised in the final spurt, with many falling by the wayside due to poor planning and having to botch together a recovery plan in the middle.  No wonder we made him an 'Honorary Fellow' last year, for showing us how to make every project succeed.  I expect he will do the same at Network Rail.  ('Every train on time' anyone?)PS  His new chairman is no slouch either