Carillion's view of the Great Northern Great Eastern (GNGE) alliance as a participant, 2015

This case study provides learning and insights gained by Carillion, as one of the main partners in the Network Rail Northern Great Eastern (GNGE) Alliance, at each stage of the alliance.

Works carrying out improvements near Saxilby on the Great Northern Great Eastern line. Learn more about Carillion's experience with alliancing as part of its work on the GNGE line.
Works carrying out improvements near Saxilby on the Great Northern Great Eastern line. Learn more about Carillion's experience with alliancing as part of its work on the GNGE line.

The case study is placed within the context of the Alliancing Code of Practice for Infrastructure Alliancing.

The Alliancing Code of Practice outlines the information needed at different stages within an alliance. It provides accessible and valuable support to those embarking on an alliance journey and those already developing an alliance. It draws on experience from many organisations; clients, delivery teams, consultants and academics to highlight:

  • which aspects of alliance set up are most important,
  • when they are most applicable,
  • the building blocks that need to be in place to ensure the effective development of alliances.

Find out more about the Alliancing Code of Practice

Using the Alliancing Code of Practice for Infrastructure Alliancing

Decide Collaborative Behaviour

The Client, Network Rail, decided that they wanted to form the GNGE Alliance after initially tendering the works as three separate Target Cost contracts, with elements of the materials and services on all three contracts being provided free issue by Network Rail.

The Client therefore pushed the Alliance Partners together rather than naturally let an Alliance form through an Alliance tender process. Although a lot was achieved it is thought this inhibited the Alliance from reaching it's full potential.

There was no assessment of behavioural alignment before the Alliance was "pushed" together, which didn't get collaboration off on the right footing.

Learn more about the 'Deciding Collaborative Behaviour' element of the Alliancing Code of Practice

Create Collaborative Behaviour

Collaboration workshops were held at the beginning of the contract to bring the Alliance team together. However, the team were not necessarily chosen on their ability to work collaboratively and this led tensions within the team and the Alliance not achieving its full potential.

Co-location aided collaborative working greatly but to get the maximum benefits the location needs to be decided by the Alliance not the Client.

Adequate budget needs to be set aside for ongoing induction programmes for late entrants to the alliance and for refreshing and embedding collaborative working throughout the contract period.

The Alliance did not use a behavioural economist to assist with a maturity matrix in order that collaboration could be assessed. This had implication later in the project.

Learn more about the 'Creating Collaborative Behaviour' element of the Alliancing Code of Practice

Deliver Collaborative Behaviour

Further collaboration workshops were held approx. 1/3rd of the way through the project but there was no formal Relation Management Plan that was actively monitored and worked at to drive collaborative behaviours all the way through to project completion.

Have a change awareness programme and an alliance culture programme pre-defined to enforce the right cultures at the outset amongst staff

Learn more about the 'Delivering Collaborative Behaviour' element of the Alliancing Code of Practice

Sustain Collaborative Behaviour

As a consequence of not actively working through a Relationship Management Plan collaborative behaviours were not sustained to levels that would have best served the Alliance objectives.

The Alliance would have functioned more effectively if it had established a "Maturity Curve" against which individuals collaborative behaviours could be measured . Key collaboration milestones could be plotted against time anticipating pressure with project events and pinch points. and would flag key identifiers to test for collaborative behaviours. Individuals falling below the curve could be identified and action taken to ensure collaborative behaviours are maintained.

Learn more about the 'Sustaining Collaborative Behaviour' element of the Alliancing Code of Practice

Create Integration

There was a lack of a strategic framework to provide the right governance by the Project Alliance Board. This ideally would have given a sound understanding of strategic intent, mission, planning direction and time commitment.

Clear terms of reference are required between the Client as the Authority and the Client as an Alliance Partner and this needs clear and be bound into the contract.

The Client Authority should not be too remote from the project to ensure that decisions that he is required to make can taken in an efficient manner.

In addition to a strategy to bring the Alliance together a clear exit strategy has to be put in place from the outset considering all factors and stakeholders. This should outline the arrangements for closedown with clarity on the separation of partner companies, dealing with liabilities, systematic demobilisation of people and resources and clarify commercial considerations. This was not in place on GNGE and has lead to confusion and tested collaborative behaviours.

Learn more about the 'Creating Integration' element of the Alliancing Code of Practice

Deliver Integration

Having an IT strategy to deliver unified IT systems whereby all Partners could both access Alliance information and with the addition of Alliance branding, appear to external stakeholders to belong to the Alliance rather than individual member partners, aided Alliance integration.

Establishing a strong Brand Identity for the Alliance fostered pride in the Alliance, helped with recruitment of the right talent and engendered collaborative behaviours.

The GNGE Alliance has an integrated board and an integrated leadership team has been able to make "best for project" decisions.

Learn more about the 'Delivering Integration' element of the Alliancing Code of Practice

Sustain Integration

On GNGE we rarely exploited the potential to employ integrated high performance teams to deliver works and outperform the alliance objectives. Works were in silos from the outset due to the way works were tendered separately and pushed into an alliance and rarely tried integrate those silos so did not exploit the alliance potential to the full.

Learn more about the 'Sustaining Integration' element of the Alliancing Code of Practice

Create Leadership

There wasn't enough time invested at the outset on proactive identification , nomination and induction of the alliance leadership, in order to equip them with the right tools for their alliance journey. This could have involved additional leadership interventions, such as workshops and coaching.

Project Alliance Board (PAB) and Alliance Leadership Team (ALT) were established at the outset but they were established from a limited talent pool and the teams were pushed together from the available representatives of the various alliance parties rather than best person for the job appointments.

Alliance teams need to have the best blend of Partner representation and skill sets. An alliance therefor needs a proactive Recruitment Strategy to map required roles to available talent, identify gaps and be able to research the market to fill these roles.

Key leadership positions in the Alliance need to be elected by the alliance on a best for project basis not imposed by the Client.

Learn more about the 'Creating Leadership' element of the Alliancing Code of Practice

Deliver Leadership

The PAB was not as effective as it could have been. It could have been more effective if it had :-

  1. Allocated the optimum amount of time and attention to strategic issues and governance.
  2. Assigned an effective chair with strict agenda and time management
  3. Held members to account on there contribution and roles
  4. Pre-identified a mechanism for regular check -ins on the alliance strategy and direction.

In addition to establishing collaboration goals and ways of working at the top of the Alliance; a stronger communication strategy to cascade this down to all levels would have increased the efficiency of the Alliance and provide essential continuity during the different phase where there were there may be many moving parts including churn of staff.

An independent advisor would have assisted in challenging the PAB and holding them to account, which could have made PAB meetings more effective.

A board handbook covering terms of reference and codes of practice could have been created for the PAB to sign up to in order to assist with focus and effectiveness.

Learn more about the 'Delivering Leadership' element of the Alliancing Code of Practice

Sustain Leadership

Succession Plans for all senior and alliance critical roles need to be put in place in order to avoid a breakdown if individuals leave the project.

The PAB should have created a "cut down" version of the contract to brief out as a board to the ALT and others being held to account.

All to often people were chosen for leadership positions on their technical ability when there collaborative attributes might have been more suited for the role.

Learn more about the 'Sustaining Leadership' element of the Alliancing Code of Practice

Create Commercial

Greater transparency and earlier contractor involvement would have aided commitment to the Alliance and broken down the culture of ultimatums and mistrust that existed during contract negotiations.

The very late "forced " Alliance lead to a contract that although had a shared pain gain mechanism never truly aligned objectives fully to give a win win situation.

Early involvement with stakeholders is required to understand what their perception of Value For Money (VFM) is.

The alliance needs to deliver an explicitly defined VFM process and statement. These are owned by the Client and should be issued with the Invitation To Tender.

The Alliance should be incentivised to deliver VFM requirements that are not captured in the pain gain mechanism through the setting of KPIs with financial rewards.

KPIs should be limited to "Key" items (no more than a handful) and should be SMART to avoid a cottage industry forming in measuring items of little value to the Alliance and its stakeholders.

Ground rules need to be established for open and honest conversations on Budget versus Target in order that the best decisions can be made.

Work together to build up Targets.

Learn more about the 'Creating Commercial' element of the Alliancing Code of Practice

Deliver Commercial

Major change encountered on the project tested and strained the commercial model and collaborative behaviours as objectives were not fully aligned in the contract and no pre-agreed strategy for dealing with major change was in place.

The Alliance needs to be able to manage risk effectively. Adequate budget needs to be set aside for industry research at very early stage to learn from similar projects, put in place mitigation measures and in pre-identifying solutions if the residual risk should materialise.

The commercial model used to deliver the project was outcome focused and tracked the potential outturn position based on Alliance performance to date.

Learn more about the 'Delivering Commercial' element of the Alliancing Code of Practice

Sustain Commercial

The GNGE Alliance employed an independent Auditor and also devised a system where partners audited each other which helped build trust between the Participants in the alliance.

Learn more about the 'Sustaining Commercial' element of the Alliancing Code of Practice

Interested in seeing your project featured?

Do you or your company have a project you'd like to share with civil engineers from across the globe?

Our Knowledge Marketing team sources content from across the world of civil engineering, as well of as offering opportunities for sponsorship.

  • In association with:

Carillion's view of the Great Northern Great Eastern (GNGE) alliance as a participant, 2015

Training opportunities from ICE

ICE provides world class training for civil engineers looking to develop their skill set.