Driving world-class delivery across the Defence Enterprise

The Defence Enterprise is huge.  A complex matrix of sub-portfolios that have the front-line requirement, delivery agents that provide capability, and the defence industry that provides experience and capacity. Within this environment, Project One is proud to have built a fantastic track record helping some of the largest defence industry businesses with their international portfolios of critical change and transformation.


Given the criticality of the defence requirement, the possibility of the number of complex defence programmes growing and the ongoing fluctuating delivery confidence across the government’s delivery portfolio – how can the Defence Enterprise drive world-class programme delivery?



A paradigm shift is required.


Fundamentally changing the way people work to remove complexity, integrate teams, and lose the current delivery opaqueness.



What would good look like?


In our experience realising this shift would mean that the right people are delivering in a truly integrated team – working together, supported by the right controls and the right assurances. But paradigm shifts don’t happen overnight. In this instance, any transformation needs to be sensitive to the fact that defence programmes are often ‘bleeding edge’, multi-year, complex and delivering directly into the operating environment, within which keeping legacy capability going is critical until a transition to the new capability is achieved. This is often also being done on a global scale. So, what could be achieved?



Secure the right people.


In our experience ensuring that the team have clear roles and responsibilities is fundamental to the effective operation of the programme. Successful delivery depends on it. A key symptom of delivery failure is ‘role creep’, where people are not sure of their role and are no longer accountable and responsible for delivery. Delivery becomes transactional and negative tension develops, skewing delivery towards the dominant voice.


The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has c.66,000 civilian and c.200,000 military personnel. These are supplemented with the many hundreds of thousands of defence industry staff. It is essential to secure the very best people with the right delivery skills and relevant delivery experience – no matter which parent organisation they come from. This means getting the right people into a set of core full-time delivery roles from the start. The Senior Responsible Owner (SRO) will ensure that the programme is focused on success. The Programme Director will understand the requirements, will deliver on time and cost and ensure we focus on delivering the business benefits. The Design Lead will ensure that the programme can coherently bring together people, process, information, and technology. The Change Lead will ensure that the department is aligned, is ready to drive the change and can realise the benefits.



An integrated team.


In our experience, success comes with co-locating the team and operating on a set of team behavior principles. The outcome is trust, mutual appreciation and increased delivery velocity. This approach removes the air gap – the requirement ‘handover’ to a delivery agent. In this ‘handover’ environment there is often one requirement, two (or more) delivery teams involved, differing demands within each team and an opaque approach to prioritisation. Delivery dates slip and, if contract management is not top-notch, then working relationships can switch to transactional.


Ensure that all the people who are responsible for and accountable for delivery are in the same team – making sure that any parent organisation badges are ‘left at the door’. Drop the very outdated ‘Authority Supplier’ divide, it is a huge artificial legacy cultural barrier to working well together. Instead work in partnership to the same outcomes. Take advantage of modern commercial approaches such as Competitive Dialogue and Firm Price, Fixed Outcome. Make sure that the programme has procurement, legal, finance, resource and digital integrated into the programme team.



Working together.


Effective transformation is reliant on the MoD, industry and the programme working together to deliver the benefits required. The department’s role is to provide sponsorship, ensuring there is a business drive for the change, for setting direction, providing the policy, setting the priority, and owning the benefits. The programme’s role is to work with the department to understand the demand and priority, deliver new capability to time and cost and work to provide the business with delivery confidence.


Transformation does not occur in isolation – but as part of a broader environment, the ‘enabling environment’. It is important that this is well understood and managed – including governance, approvals, scrutiny, and assurance. If understood and managed well, then none of the enabling environment should present a barrier to effective delivery. Currently there are many barriers (real and perceived) which can frustrate delivery. With the right sponsorship and with an agile mindset, many of these can be challenged and overcome.



Ensuring the right controls.


Waterfall programmes control delivery via detailed documentation, formal delivery reviews and approval gates. Agile programmes control delivery via agreeing the definition of done and working to programme goals and timelines. Whichever delivery approach, set your governance up for success. This means keeping it simple. Have two main forums – one focused strategically (set direction, agree priorities, assure delivery, manage escalated risks), the other focused on delivery (ensure delivery against milestones/goals, manage approvals, ensure demand and change is well managed, manage risks and issues, manage resource and finance). Do not make a cottage industry out of governance, reporting and risk management – keep it to the level where people can engage, understand the content and make a positive impact. This can be achieved on the most complex of programmes.


It all seems obvious – but paradigm shifts are hard. Success takes vision, transformational leadership, collaboration across the enterprise, clear accountability, the right skills supporting people to change, a clear design of how the enterprise will be and a realistic plan to achieve it (it will not happen on its own).


Project One is a leading independent management consultancy, voted by our customers and industry peers with special recognition for organisation change and digital transformation. We have deep business transformation experience. This means that our customers immediately benefit from our experience and insight. Helping to drive successful transformation is what we do. The combination of our industry experience and our complex change leadership capability makes Project One an ideal SME partner to support our Defence customers make the most of this massive investment.

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