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6th Alan Webb memorial lecture: Transport for the Olympics

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2012 has started very well for the South-East Branch of APM. On January 10th the Sixth Alan Webb Memorial Lecture was held at the Royal Engineers Museum in Gillingham.

Alan was a founder member of the Branch and he would have been so pleased to see us, as guests of the Royal Engineers, in such a prestigious venue. His pleasure would have been compounded by the distinguished speaker for the evening, Sue Kershaw, Executive Head of Programme and Contract Delivery for Transport at the Olympic Delivery Authority. Sue is a recently appointed Honorary Fellow of APM, as well as a prominent member of the ICE and author of their best practice guide to clienting.

In her presentation Sue started with an overview of the Olympics and Paralympics, the scale of the activity is mindboggling and the end date cant be moved! A real challenge for a project manager!

Sue explained the organisation and structures put in place to translate the decision of the International Olympic Committee, to hold the Games in London, into a functioning reality in a way that made it clear to the audience despite the number of acronyms. The stakeholder map is a masterpiece in that it is all on one sheet and encompasses a huge range of people.

The Olympic Project is on track, the Olympic Park is complete and testing has been done on a wide range of the activities. Final testing will be done using the Student Games in May and the Diamond Jubilee in June. Meanwhile there has been a lot of desktop testing and simulation and modelling.

Co-ordination is the name of the game and Sues project has included a collection of firsts in this regard that will benefit those living and working in London in the future. Accessibility has also been built in to the transport system more than ever before.

One of the surprising things about the project was the size of the transport project management team. There were only eight people in the central team responsible for managing the communications and relationships across the whole project.

Sue had some really interesting messages for everyone, as a profession we have become accustomed to looking for very well defined processes as the start point for any job. For the Olympics change has become a way of life, decisions have to be made quickly but they may be changed equally quickly. Processes have to be flexible.

One thing we all would love to do, forget filing cabinets and monstrous quantities of paper the WPB rules! The contractual bases for the many partners were all considered individually and designed to fit - there was no One size fits all. Starting early and understanding the operating risks has been pivotal to success.

The Olympic Games has acted as a catalyst for cooperation with the wide range of major projects in London at present, let us hope that this is a precedent that will continue and be part of the legacy.

The audience would have liked to keep Sue there for a long time with a series of interesting questions, it was a really good evening. We are most grateful to Sue for provoking a lot of thought. Please take the opportunity to look at the slides from the evening, they are worthy of further study.

Those of you who can make the time, APM is involved in the project to understand the learning from the Olympics so keep your eyes peeled for coming events on the subject.


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