How most projects are at the same time both wildly successful and spectacularly disappointing, and everything in between, depending on the point of view of different stakeholders.
A friendly interview with Brian Street and Paul Bromley
Posted by APM on 3rd Oct 2013
APM collaborated with energy & petrochemical giant to create the accolade, as HSSE is at the core of Shells ways of working. And for the first time, APM celebrated the winner of the Health, Safety, Security and Environment awards during the last years high profile ceremony in Park Plaza hotel London.
I met Paul Bromley (Global Construction director) and Brian Street (Global engineering SHE manager) on an afternoon in March trying to go through their experience in achieving the APM Health, Safety, Security and Environmental Excellence award and dealing with some of their challenges on their journey to success.
L to R: Dick L. Wynberg Head of Shell Project Academy, Brian Street Global Engineering SHE Manager, Paul Bromley Global Construction Director, Andrew Ingleby Governance Director Global Engineering Projects, Chris Hollins Awards Ceremony Host
You won the award sponsored by Shell last year; how did it feel?
We were short listed to the final three and didnt know about the results till the last moment at the ceremony. It was really a terrific experience Says Brian.
Paul continues that it is very satisfying to be recognised for what we have done. Not necessarily by us, but by the whole engineering group for developing it. Plus it is recognition of the work which has been done in North West for the last 20 years that we rolled out into these countries. And that is a quite exciting achievement.
Tell me a bit about the award? How did it feel hearing your name during the ceremony and when were you notified?
Paul: There were many awards in different categories that night. We knew the evening order and I think we were about half way through. We were very apprehensive, keeping in suspense and it was terrific, as Brian said, to be told that you had won. And all of the sudden all the pictures and movies came up and we had to go to the front; and out photograph were taken!
And then Brian continues that being in the competition with likes of Olympic delivery committee while them wining a few awards and being dominant on the evening feels very good.
What does this award mean to you and your team at AZ?
Brian: Its really a good question. We are not trying to impress the clients. Within the AZ itself, we were aiming to know that what were doing was the best in class. It is always a quite difficult situation, being in an internally focused environment. We think we are good at what we do, how we do it and how we manage it. This award externally endorses our abilities; verifying that what we are doing is best in class. And Paul continues that it gave external recognition for all the teams efforts during the past 20 years. And Brian adds that the awards have been a very pleasing reward to both Astra Zeneca and their suppliers, who work together as a single project team.
What are the criteria & expectations for the award?
The award entry had limitations such as the number of pages (6 pages in total). And as a result both Brian and Paul decided to put in some pictures and tables, which provide a lot of data in relatively small space. It was quite difficult trying to get over the full message. We had to illustrate our achievements over a large number of projects in the emerging markets in a few pages, a significant challenge indeed. Says Brian
He continues one of the major criterias was having something transferrable to other projects too. And, in our case, the beauty is the simplicity of the process. In fact it is about a lot of efforts; you have to put the effort in, and keep putting the effort in. And a lot of the tools in our process were simple and transferable to other projects.
When did you apply for the award entry? And what was involved during the whole process?
Paul: The actual award entry was submitted at the end of June 2012. And the ceremony itself was at the end of November. The overall competition was completely based on the initial entry submission and there were no interim additional assessments/entries. The judging panel introduced the successful shortlisted nominees of each category in the APM October magazine. We had to convey the whole message within the 6 pages of submission document completely correct at the first time.
Tell me a little bit about the project, your involvement & challenges
Paul says The process was all about planning and setting sensible standards and then communicating them in a very clear and simple way so you can implement it meaningfully throughout the project. Health and safety is a good example on our first project in India. We had contractors who had 50 pages of method statement and it was quite clear that this is something which will not be implemented effectively.
Paul continues that At one of the other sites in India, 7 languages were spoken and in China we also had many different languages, therefore having pictures and diagrams were a great means to keep the message simple and communicable.
Implementing the process correctly is critical to make everything visible, making sure that everybody is aware of whats going on and remembering that you need to encourage people. You need the carrot as well as the stick, and I think its four carrots to the stick; its 80/20. People need to be encouraged and rewarded for following the process. It helps if they receive rewards for acting and behaving in a safe way.
Leadership is very important. Leaders must walk the talk and not pass unacceptable standards or issues by. There must be sanctions, for hazards on site too. In India we were experienced a potentially very dangerous occurrence when we found once the crane drivers was up on the crane inspecting his gip without wearing hiss harness. So he was sent off-site. He knew the rules and broke them. The fact that it brought the site to stand still for a few days until a new crane driver was found sent a very strong message to everyone.
In a few words how do you see your most important role as Project Manager?
Brian: Paul and I take a governance role. This is about setting standards from the very start. Early on within the life cycle of projects, before we appoint the contractors, we set a standard and then get them to price for delivering to the appropriate standard.
Paul continues Contractors sometimes dont believe you will apply the standard to start with. Everyone says that they want safety, however wanting it and achieving it are two different things. So it is about pushing it all the time, demonstrating these are our standards and we will not accept anything less. And quite often that does involve stop there. We are not going any further until we deliver this particular safety standard. And this includes a lot of communication with the subcontractors and suppliers from the beginning. And it goes all the way down to the smallest loop on the chain. We cant manage it on our own. We need to be able to transfer knowledge to the people on the ground in each country to believe it and manage it actively.
Planning & Communication says Paul If you dont do it right, then probably youve not told them
We visit sites and we spend two weeks at a time with the people in charge with it in different countries. So we get the relationships right and then call at least once a week to understand whats going on and to support. We try to anticipate what the next issue will be. Whether fit out or work at height for example one of the big issues we have found is getting people back to working safely after holidays and time out.
Tell our readers how you started in Project Management?
Brian studied for a degree in building; construction management. Then he went to work with a major contractor as a Setting-out engineer. It was probably very early to gain management experience, but a very good experience. He says. From there I moved into planning which was another good building block. Then I moved into the quality which covered most of the key grounds in project management, apart from the cost aspect. Finally I moved into the safety management. I have been with AstraZeneca for 12 years now. Initially I worked on the Alderley Park project which was a considerable construction project. Gradually work expanded into regional, national and now global projects.
Paul graduated 30 years ago with a civil engineering degree. He says I spent my first 10 years working for a major contractor, which was a wonderful experience. I started working on site as a setting-out engineer and then became a site manager/chief engineer. And I was very fortunate to be evolved in some large jobs; from start to finish. I have largely been in various roles in AstraZeneca and with previous employers; from project control & planning, cost management, contraction manager, construction director. Work has been more international over the last four years really.
Tell us about the next challenge in line?
Paul: Addressing differing attitudes in different countries is always a challenge. The driver is trying to keep health and safety exciting and in front of people minds; trying to keep up momentum. Its exactly the same as evaluating your own behaviour in everyday life. If you drive through an accident, you will slow down for a while, but probably before you get to the end of that journey, you will be back to speeding again.
He continues that Everybody understands safety, and wants to apply safety standards well across their project, but there is a quite a lot involved in getting it right. There is a time, cost and quality compromise triangle, and we see safety over and above that. Construction is probably the second most dangerous activity we do besides driving, and safety must be in the same priority to your cost, time and quality.
Brian believes that culture plays a big part in safety. He says that In countries such as India and Indonesia, there is more of hierarchical structure and command in control approach in society while Russia for example is not like that. In Russia, you need to build trust to gain information. Understanding which approaches the cultures is the step one to success in all of this. You will not get people to collaborate well if socially they dont naturally talk to each other. So thats why we have to try to learn about local conditions to understand which approaches we can trust. And because of that, our approach in one country is not necessarily similar to that for another. The broad message is more or less the same, but how we implement it is quite dependent on a countrys cultural behaviours.
Where do you see yourself in future?
We both think that there is a lot to do in AstraZeneca to continuously improve safety. Brian has developed a cost related diagram for the safety which shows the cost avoidance of certain accidents which could be made by implementing the set safety measures. We can now illustrate the avoidance of the cost related to potential accidents by applying our safety standards.
What's your motto or the advice that you live by?
Both Brian and Paul unanimously believe that Plan, communicate and deliver is fundamental. Also having sensible rules considering the nature of project, geography and local culture are a very important. Some places are very cold, some are very hot. Risk tolerance is different for example in the UK, there is a very risk-averse attitude. So as an example, it would be difficult to ask the workers to have the same amount of PPE on as UK and then work in the heat. Success rests on taking a sensible approach and listening to people. Finding out the reason for not doing something rather than the reality. So, set sensible rules, communicate them, and then they will implement.
What is your advice to the youngsters in Project management?
Always try to have a broad vision and see the bigger picture. Look at project cost, quality, program and safety standards together, to deliver projects successfully.
Quite often you see managers mainly emphasising cost and not focusing on the other aspects of a project. That approach can quite easily result into conflict. If we define the scope right, as well as safety and quality standards, then we will achieve the most optimum price, by avoiding the cost of unsafe and low quality delivery of the project. If you dont get any of these elements right, the cost will simply go up.
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So what do people actually do on projects, and in particular do they collaborate with each other? If they do collaborate how has this come about?, and if collaboration is lacking, how then do we as project managers and leaders, encourage more collaboration?