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Case study

High Performing Teams: Anglian Water's @one Alliance, 2015

05 November 2015

High Performing Teams: Anglian Water's @one Alliance, 2015
The Raithby Water Treatment Works. Anglian Water's @one Alliance has worked hard to improve collaboration and integration between teams.

Executive summary

Turning the creation of an Alliance into the delivery of one, able to achieve challenging commercial objectives and bring together a set of specialist and culturally different organizations, requires clarity and a sense of purpose.

One essential aspect is to understand and define the specific ways in which integration and collaboration are put into practice and sustained and which other behaviours are relevant.

The @one Alliance has developed and applied its own High Performing Teams (HPT) model to deliver a collaborative and integrated organization. The model is improved and refined based on lessons learned about effective team behaviour and ways of working, as the alliance matures.

Below is an overview of:

  • What we did
  • How we did it
  • Applying the High Performing Teams (HPT) Principles - Academy
  • Benefits and Outcomes

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

What we did

Towards the end of year one of Asset Management Plan (AMP) 4, @one took the step of trying to define some overarching principles and behaviours that would determine the way in which integrated teams should work. These would reinforce enforce the commercial model and give teams and individuals a framework for how to work together, day to day, to achieve collaboration and integrated project delivery. We decided the framework had to work back-to-back with the clients’ objectives and not duplicate any of the behavioural processes used by the partner organisations.

The solution arrived at was to develop our own model for what high performing teams looked like in the @one Alliance. It was a deliberate decision not to take work done by other organisations and benchmark @one against it. Instead, we decided to explore what made some teams more effective and successful than others and then use this to define the principles and behaviours that all teams would apply. Once this was complete, we could benchmark with external organisations if required. As importantly, we wanted continually to measure ourselves and our progress as a way of sustaining alliance teams and driving greater efficiencies.

At this point successful teams were defined as those achieving key KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), including time, cost and quality.

How we did it

The method we used was a series of interviews using the “repertory grid technique”. Twenty five people were selected, representing leaders and team managers in @one and leaders working for the client and partner organisations. All had knowledge of the different project delivery and support teams working in @one.

Repertory grids

Repertory grids work by presenting each person interviewed with the names of three teams and asking them to select the two of the three that are the highest performing in their opinion. They are then asked to describe the similarities shared by the two highest performing teams. The answers usually require some thought, but flow quite quickly along with behaviours that inhibit the team not chosen. The selection of three teams is repeated with each interviewee around eight times, with every answer recorded.

When all the interviews had been concluded, the statements were collated and those that appeared most frequently became principles. We ended up with around twenty, which were distilled down into twelve core principles.

Applying the High Performing Teams (HPT) Principles

Initially, the principles were turned into a survey, which members of every @one team completed about the area they worked in. The results were collated and compared in two ways:

  1. Against other teams and
  2. Against KPI performance

There was a clear correlation between teams that reported themselves most aligned to the principles and the achievement of team KPIs. These teams were also the most integrated in terms of having a spread of people from different partner organizations working on them.

Since then, the principles have been updated twice. The results lead to us refining the original principles, reflecting in them lessons learned but not creating a new set.

In AMP5, the updated principles contributed to @one adopting a “best for task” approach, whereby every team was resourced with the right person for the role, rather than which partner organisation they worked for. Since 2010, all positions have advertised and people are selected into roles following interviews involving @one managers from at least two partner companies.

Additionally, every AMP5 role in the alliance structure had a defined job outline, which included the HPT principles expressed as behaviours for teams and individuals to adopt or work towards. This enabled us to underpin the creation of high performing teams, by giving everyone a clear statement of what they needed to do as a team member. It also provided part of the specification for people recruited from the partners and coming into @one as new starters.

In AMP6 the principles have been turned into a process, which every team in @one follows. It supports the understanding of year one objectives and outputs and their continued development as more integrated and collaborative teams.

Benefits and outcomes

One benefit and outcome was a clearly defined set of team principles (specifically relevant to alliancing, but that can also be benchmarked against other organisations, as well as internally), which provide a foundation for:

  • Bringing to life the words integration and collaboration – making them practical and applicable to a “best for project” approach
  • Role outlines
  • Recruitment specifications
  • Developing team and individual performance and improvement
  • The @one Academy – a leadership development programme for senior managers and other key roles
  • and Measuring the maturity of alliancing in @one.

The outcome has been that all teams will go through the HPT process in AMP6, which in year 1 includes workshops to develop:

  • Clarity and understanding around project and programme delivery and efficiency
  • Teamwork and capability and
  • Communication and collaboration.

Another outcome is the twice yearly completion of a survey to identify to the team where they are succeeding and where they can improve. The survey is used within teams and between teams to maximise the impact of the feedback about team performance.

The HPT model has become one of the cornerstones for @one to explain and continuously improve its approach to commercial, multi-partner alliancing.

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

  • Charles Jensen, knowledge content producer at ICE