Network Rail's Wessex Alliance selection process: choosing for collaboration, 2015

This case study explains how Network Rail assessed tenderers (companies and individuals) in the Wessex Capacity Programme to select for appropriate collaborative behaviour when forming an alliance.

An aerial view of Waterlook Station. The Wessex Capacity Improvement Programme will deliver major upgrades to the UK's busiest station. Picture by Bjorn Christian Torissen.
An aerial view of Waterlook Station. The Wessex Capacity Improvement Programme will deliver major upgrades to the UK's busiest station. Picture by Bjorn Christian Torissen.

By focusing on collaborative behaviours, Network rail was able to benefit from better preparation, attendance and adding the best people.

This case study is one of a number of real life demonstrations of the Alliancing Code of Best Practice for Infrastructure Alliancing.

Executive summary

Without doubt, the most important step for the client in the journey to a successful alliance outcome is to choose the right participants in the first instance. There were different opinions inside the Network Rail team regarding the merits of preformed Alliances, however, given the very short timeframe that was available for the tender process (6 months), it was agreed to request suppliers to preform and tender.

From the outset there was a strong emphasis put on creating and sustaining the behaviours recognised as the core of successful alliances. The selection process was designed to develop client awareness of appropriate collaborative behaviour and to assess the behaviour of the tenderers at both company and individual level.

Below is an overview of:

  • Why we did it
  • What we did
  • How we did it
  • Benefits and outcomes

Why we did it

The alliance consultant, PTP Associates, made a strong case to the Network Rail team about understanding WHY? It was important that everyone on the client team understood why we were using the alliance model, our purpose. Why behaviour was important in the relational form of contract. Why behaviour is a major influence on the level of collective and individual trust in the alliance. Why trust is the cornerstone of the alliance model.

All of the Network Rail team were clear on the reasons we were using the alliance model for an important programme of projects. Engineering construction projects have traditionally been delivered through contracts that were often adversarial with outcomes that were often disappointing. The Wessex Capacity Programme, being undertaken in one of the busiest stations in Europe, could not afford to waste energy on adversarial relationships. It required people joined in common business outputs, with a solutions focused culture built on collaborative behaviours.

It was therefore essential that the selection process selected companies and individuals who could operate effectively in the alliance environment. This meant that the selection process needed to include tools that allowed behaviour to be assessed at an individual and company level. The overall aim of the process was for the client’s people to observe and experience what it would be like to work with the people they will finally select to alliance with.

How we did it

  • The Network Rail team engaged with the market and outlined their intentions for the Wessex Capacity investment.
  • This was followed up by face to face communication at the Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) launch event.
  • This approach was repeated at the invitation to tender (ITT) launch event.
  • Within the PQQ / ITT documents it was highlighted that people assessed during the ITT group assessment and interviews must be people who will be in the alliance.
  • There were a number of mid-tender meetings to clarify and explain expectations. These were attended by the alliance consultant from PTP, as well as members of the client’s team.
  • The Network Rail team, supported by the alliance consultant from PTP, carried out behavioural assessment workshops, written submission and interviews with all the preformed alliances as part of the tender process.
  • Upon completion of the selection process, there were post-tender presentations.

How we did it

  • Network Rail personnel expected to be owner participants, took the same group assessment exercises as the preformed alliances during the ITT. Individual feedback was given and points of learning understood.
  • The Network Rail members also undertook personality profiling and had one to one individual feedback from the alliance consultants.
  • Preformed alliances were asked to address questions on alliancing and collaboration in the written ITT submission.
  • Each preformed Alliance group undertook a behavioural assessment workshop over two days.
  • These workshops were run by a professional behavioural consultant from the alliance consultants PTP. The group’s behaviours were assessed by their behavioural assessment team of experienced and professional assessors, under very strict procedures.
  • Individual interviews were carried out on proposed candidates for key alliance positions, e.g., alliance manager, by the alliance consultant and two Network Rail members from the selection panel.
  • Group interviews were carried out for the proposed members of the Alliance Leadership Team (ALT) from the preformed Alliance, by the alliance consultant and two senior NR people. The group dynamics producing an interesting insight. These interviews were observed by one of PTP’s behavioural psychologists.

Collaboration Assessment Scoring (Weighting 25% of the total assessment criteria)

  • Group assessment - 12%
  • ALT interviews - 6%
  • AMT interviews - 4%
  • Written submission - 3%

Note: The highest scoring under ‘collaboration’ sub-criteria won the contract not the cheapest tender.

Benefits and outcomes

  • The behavioural assessment part of the selection process helped to prepare proponent groups psychologically for what was set out to be a very different type of delivery model. This included the members from Network Rail.
  • Having directly interfaced with the people from the various preformed alliances over a period of months, the Network Rail team were confident that they could build quality relationships with the people of the preformed alliance selected. The selection process had provided an opportunity to get to know these people.
  • NR stated in the ITT and various face to face communications that they expected the people who went through the Behavioural assessment to appear in the alliance. The result was 100% attendance. This has fallen, through natural churn, to 90%, 10 months into the programme. This is a vast improvement on what NR usually experiences in terms of key people appearing on the project once the tender is awarded.
  • The client is also confident that through this selection process and attention to individual behaviours they have the best athletes from each member in key positions in the alliance.

What is the Alliancing Code of Practice?

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

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Network Rail's Wessex Alliance selection process: choosing for collaboration, 2015

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