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UK submarine dismantling - A case study in programme management

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Corporate Member, Diligenta, kindly hosted this well attended event at the Friend Life Centre, Stoke Gifford, Bristol.

The SWWE Branch were very pleased to be able to invite John Davis, MoD DE&S Abbey Wood, Programme Manager for UK’s Submarine Dismantling Programme, to talk about this very challenging and unique case study.

John explained that currently UK has some 18 decommissioned submarines in storage, which will rise to 27 as current in-service submarines are decommissioned in the future. Decommissioned submarines are subject to a rigorous maintenance regime to ensure their safety.

MoD are committed to address the challenges of dismantling these submarines and John  explained the dismantling process and the challenges it presents and its dependence on planned National infrastructure, including the Geological Disposal Facility, (GDF).

The MoD’s acquisition life cycle, CADMID, (Concept, Assessment, Demonstration, Manufacture, In-service and Disposal), describes how equipment is procured and managed through its life cycle. The Submarine Dismantling Project, (SDP), has just completed the Assessment phase with Main Gate, (MG), approval in March 13. The Assessment phase included a lot of cost modelling and planning work needed to support the MG business case.

The SDP is currently in the demonstration phase, with the first submarine, to prove that the dismantling plans are effective. Once proven, the ‘Manufacturing’ phase will start with the second submarine and the move into ‘business as usual’ for the remaining submarines.

John explained that for Assessment a traditional project management approach had been successfully used to deliver the work streams needed to achieve MG approval. But with Demonstration and beyond, there were considerably increased challenges: uncertainty, volume of outputs, large number of stakeholders and regulators which require co-ordination and consistent communication over 50 years or more.

The solution was to adopt a programme approach, based on an MSP framework. This allows project interdependencies, risk and budget contingencies to be managed at the programme level. It also allows communication to be co-ordinated and managed across projects to ensure consistency with all stakeholders. Programme management can clearly differentiate between the current state, change, and future BAU for the long term, steady state dismantling programme.

Programme management allows for flexibility within a disciplined framework, which is required to manage the level of uncertainty of the SDP.  The uncertainly is being managed and steadily reduced by taking bite sized chunks.

John outlined the lessons for the programme management approach so far, including:

- MSP is not ideal for everything; it needs tailoring.  But is it very good for clearly distinguishing between change and long term BAU.
- It helps bring clarity and focus: a vision of how the projects fit into the bigger picture.
- It helps get senior commitment.
- It helps with co-ordinated stakeholder engagement and consistent messages across all projects.
- It is necessary to scale the investment in management resources: to avoid swamping projects with bureaucracy
- It allows the efficient pooling of resources
- It copes well with the dispersed teams around UK, and provides the glue and vision.

Following John’s presentation, we enjoyed a lively Q&A session which drew out further lessons and challenges.

SWWE Branch Chairman, Martin Gosden, summed up and thanked John this really interesting case study into the application of a programme management approach, the challenges and the lessons.  Case studies such as this are invaluable to help highlight just how to apply theory in practice and are a rich source of lessons from which project professionals can learn and develop.



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