Thursday, 31 January 2013

Ain't no sunshine for Toyota procurement risk management (PS Enjoy the music)

You are enjoying the comfort of your new Toyota, cruise control takes the strain and you have Bill Withers "Lovely Day" serenading you. Suddenly the music changes. Wither's starts into "Ain't No Sunshine ..." and your Bluetooth phone goes:
"Hi, hate to have to tell you, but Toyota have been let down by their procurement again, and once again we've to recall your pride and joy ..."  
"Lean on medoesn't seem remotely appropriate.

"How I wish it was the car in front was a Toyota and not mine" is how you paraphrase your disappointment with the procurement outcome.

Yes, you guessed it, procurement risk management just keeps on giving, another procurement risk management failure, and fresh on the heels of one of the biggest recalls in history, Toyota now have issued another recall. 1.3m cars recalled for two defects. The latest recall is estimated to cost Toyota $55m for the airbag recall, of course there's the other recall too to be accounted for. Suddenly the claimed procurement savings take a bit of a dent.

How do you calculate procurement savings when you end up costing customer loyalty, cash and reputation? Or, put differently, how do you put a cost on procurement risk management?

A spokesman for Toyota said "[we] may ask suppliers to compensate"- that sounds like real purchasing power!

Will Procurement still be singing that other Wither's hit "Use me"?

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

On a wing and a prayer: lessons from Burgergate

I discussed the Tesco's horsemeat mess, now known as 'Burgergate', a few days ago. A procurement mess which has led to procurement being discussed at 'the top table', family dinner tables and restaurant tables the length and breadth of the country.

It's featured on every main UK news channel (even on Sky News as I write). Today it was trotted out in a webinar I was taking today with colleagues in India and USA.  It is now though Horseburgers could have been on the UK plate for at least a year. Burgergate has cost Tesco around £1m so far.

Be careful what you wish for when you want a higher profile for a profession!

I won't cover the issues discussed in today's excellent Channel 4 News blog - certainty worth a read. It is also worth having a look at the statement issued by Tesco today, one statement itself is interesting:
"The evidence tells us that our frozen burger supplier, Silvercrest, used meat in our products that did not come from the list of approved suppliers we gave them," 

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

HS2 still needs to get all aboard

Only last week I applauded the publication of Making the Games - lessons learnt from the Olympics. Will we learn? Can we learn? 

Well we've now learnt of some of the early ingredients going into the mix for HS2 procurement and it does not strike me that we are looking at a recipe for success: 

  • A lack of political agreement in any party let alone cross party agreement;
  • Some politicians, even at this early stage, branding it an "enormous waste of money" while the Chancellor calls it "an engine for growth";
  • An estimated cost increase of almost £2bn in the past year;
  • The brief already beginning to change, including, the addition of a station at Manchester Airport;
  • A lack of winning the hearts and minds of key stakeholders on economic benefits;
  • Allegations of 'insider' knowledge which led to personal benefits while others lose;
  • Projections based on a 67 year whole life cost - heaven only knows what changes will take in transportation in the next 20 years never mind the next 67?
  • Legal challenges which have the potential to add years to the project.
Current projections are that the project should cost £34.5bn and be completed in 2034 - may be worth taking a note of that baseline figure and placing a bet on the actual figure and when the project will actually be signed off as completed.   

I remain completely agnostic as to whether or not HS2 is a good idea but have discussed before the need for accentuating the positive as part of a communications strategy, unfortunately the volume needs to be turned up and a bit more clarity on the business case. 

Although it is not too late to get the fundamentals in place, It doesn't look as if we've a good foundation for success yet. 

What we now need is some bravery in saying "get the basics right" otherwise we have a long slow journey ahead with little notion of the ETA or fare. 

Monday, 28 January 2013

Grasping the national opportunity for Procurement

Last week saw the publication of the Policy Exchange's 'Eight Great Technologies', authored by David Willets (Minister for Universities and Science). He sets out eight areas where the UK could become a world leader - eight areas for growth - eight areas which form the nucleus of a UK Industrial Strategy, namely:
  • the big data revolution and energy-efficient computing;
  • satellites and commercial applications of space;
  • robotics and autonomous systems;
  • life sciences, genomics and synthetic biology;
  • regenerative medicine;
  • agri-science;
  • advanced materials and nano-technology; and
  • energy and its storage.
Will this gain sufficient cross-party political ownership to provide resilience through the next electoral cycle?

Regardless, this provides an opportunity for procurement to make a significant contribution to the UKs economic recovery and Industrial Strategy. The section we're interested in is the Conclusion - for us, not the conclusion but a manifesto/prospectus.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

3rd 'tear' Apple ploy

If you have the joy of working on a Mac, then you also have the luxury of their own publicity machine hitting you in the face every time you log on. So today you could just search on Apple Supplier Responsibility 2013 Progress Report and hear of all the good work they've done during 2012. The report was published yesterday and discusses the 2012 audits - definitely worth reviewing.

Now we have already discussed some of Apple's problems yet I hadn't previously picked up their child labour problems. Children as under the age of 16 working on our precious Apple toys. To Apple's credit they uncovered the problem. The trail is complicated as it was Apple's supplier's supplier was at fault; a third tier supplier of labour to a factory (p.18). Shenzhen Quanshun Human Resource:
"conspired with families to forge age verification documents and make the workers seem older than they were."
A big plus for Apple picking this up but I wonder how long it had been going on and what corrective steps have been taken to protect against this in the future? I also wonder how many other firms would have picked this up - we recently discussed weaknesses in food supply chain vigilance. The decision to stop using the factory may have only added to the hardship of the families involved and shifted the problem, while using Apple's infamous creativity may have set the standard for others.

Yesterday I raised issues regarding British Gas approach to responsible procurement - a disappointing start to 2013.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Tragic low for procurement & the need for clarity

I started this week saying: "I hope this week we are freed from the embarrassment of another high profile procurement failure".  It is therefore a major disappointment to learn that the death of 14 year old army cadet, Kaylee McIntosh, in 2007, has been linked to procurement failures.

Procurement was not the only organisational failure:
“HSE’s investigation has confirmed that primary failings during the activity amplified a number of significant underlying organisational failures. In particular, there was evidence of poor planning, leadership and execution of the exercise, coupled with inadequate oversight, procurement, monitoring and training arrangements. These all contributed to the events that took place."
I have absolutely no idea what the procurement failures were and it would be wrong to sit in judgement. Nevertheless, we need to understand what were perceived to be the procurement failures. We need to be reassured that those who came to the conclusion of procurement failures were sufficiently competent to point the finger at procurement. We also need to learn so that Kaylee's tragic death in some way helps reduce the remotest risk of a future tragedy. I hope CIPS, as the professional body, will take the initiative in demonstrating contrition and helping us all learn.

Cold comfort for suppliers & households

What do you mean by sustainable or responsible procurement? Is it something like this:
"... need to manage any related risks to our reputation and continuity of supply. We also have an opportunity to influence suppliers and encourage them to adopt responsible business practices through our purchasing power."
We've discussed sustainable procurement before and some of the apparent 'do as I say, not what I do' anomalies'.

Today we've learnt that British Gas has turned off the demand tap prematurely of its home insulation scheme. Suppliers are left with commitments to households they can't honour under the scheme, potential job loses, and worries as to whether they will get paid. With snow still on the ground, families worried about heating bills and the latest GDP this news couldn't have come at a worse time. There are now some longer term reputation procurement risks which BG will have to manage:

  • Perception that BG have traded off 'reducing customers costs' for a short term gain and longer term increased revenue; 
  • Degeneration into an adversarial supply market relationship with the associated legal costs;
  • Breakdown of supplier trust;
  • Perception that cost outweighing environmental impact;
  • How embedded is ownership of commitment to responsible procurement.

While suppliers will suffer, the relationship with Whitehall is unlikely to be strengthened either nor the ability to be a credible voice.

I just wonder what the procurement risk register said in terms of probability, impact, proximity and mitigation?

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Calling the kettle black & Taking Account of Bidders' Past Performance

I just don’t get it. There was the fanfare of MP’s calling for a blacklist of poor suppliers based on perceived performance failures of one supplier (who shall remain nameless) but subsequently went on to win many contracts. Then this week brought uproar when the construction industry were alleged to have a blacklist of staff who had demonstrated poor past performance. Do we seriously want organisations taking on staff with a history of poor performance or are we expecting them to rely on the rhetoric and additional costs of making it easier for employers to get rid of poor performing staff. Would we want to procure from organisations which had poor preforming staff?

The recent Procurement Policy Note - TakingAccount of Bidders' Past Performance, euphemistically called 'Action Note 09/12', would answer, ‘no’.

The Policy Note is concerned with taking into consideration a suppliers past performance, and by implication, the past performance of the suppliers’ workers! Is this a case of ‘the pot calling the kettle black’?

What I just don’t get is why did we need a Policy Note to set out, only for contracts over £20m, that suppliers past performance should be considered. Call me na├»ve but the EU procurement rules have never prohibited taking into consideration a potential contractors relevant past performance.

Does the need for a Policy Note imply that central government procurement has not previously

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Making the Games

It is unlikely to be in the memorabilia sought on eBay but Making the Games does represent a very useful legacy of the London Olympics and Paralympics. A round of applause to the Government Olympic Executive and Department of Culture, Media and Sport for asking the Institute of Government to carry out this review of lessons learnt. Is it cosmetic though?

There's a lot in the report which just echoes what should be viewed as good practice, I'll plagiarise the lessons below and then highlight some lessons which we don't appear to have learnt, yet.

The key lessons, all worthy of consideration for anyone organising events, are:

  1. Project trumps silo;
  2. Bring together the right people in effective teams;
  3. Personal stability and personal responsibilities matter;
  4. Political cooperation creates space for project success;
  5. Change and time discipline are crucial; 
  6. Limit innovation;
  7. Budget realism and transparency brings benefits;
  8. Arms-length and the public sector can deliver;
  9. Design in safety and sustainability from the start;
  10. Beware false economies;
  11. Plan, assure, test.

Had we been asked to provide a checklist for those organising the Games in advance, I suspect most of us could have produced that list (and some more) - it is hardly rocket science. Yet, the Institute of Government clearly think they need stating. To be honest I think they do need stating and restating as the failure to address them is frequently a topic of this blog.

A few observations though:

Monday, 21 January 2013

Sacrifice the 5 Rights at our peril

In the mid 70s, when I first entered the world of Purchasing & Stores, Purchasing was the poor relation. The emphasis was on Stores. Gold stars and kudos came from stores management, minimising stockholding but avoiding stock-outs. Having said that, the mantra was the '5 Rights': The Right Product, at Right Quality, in the Right Place, at the Right Time, at the Right Price.

When carrying out the field research for my PhD, it became clear that one of the characteristics of those who had been successful in the transition from a clerical to strategic function had been their ability to demonstrate consistent competence in delivering the 5 Rights - it was the springboard for a more strategic role. 

So, it came as a surprise to me, during the 'noughties', when I started to meet those who had entered the profession at comparatively senior levels, who asked me what I meant by the 5 Rights. I continue to meet CPOs who have no idea what the 5 Rights are - what is perhaps more concerning is that they don't seem to care. It appears to me that strategic procurement seems to have lost sight of the 5 Rights - have the 5 Rights gone the way of the Dodo? If that's the case who is making sure that the 5 Rights are achieved?

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Does it snow in winter?

Spotted this tweet tonight (Friday):
Belfast City Airport has run out of de-icer. Flights ready to take off (inc. mine) cancelled. Could not make this up (@C4Ciaran)
Now I commute in and out of George Best Belfast City Airport (incidentally renamed in honour of someone who went to my, now closed, school). Indeed I came home through it last night.

It only started to snow in Belfast this afternoon and we haven't seen temperatures much below freezing over the last few months. Having said that, Christmas 2010 saw our generally wet little country brought to a standstill when temperatures plummeted below -14 and we had a water shortage. Believe it or not we had to have bottled water shipped in from Scotland! That may well have been a Black Swan event, but it does suggest that sometimes there's a need for a 'wooly pully' here!

We have had days of forecasts predicting heavy snow. On Thursday train commuters in London were told to expect delays the next day due to snow - as someone else said, if you know there's snow coming instead of warning of delays, plan to avoid the delays.

Had I been trying to get home today (Friday) I would have gone ballistic learning that all flights were cancelled due to insufficient de-icer. Those trying to get home for the weekend are unlikely to have been impressed. I suspect that there will be some calls for compensation but was this an unforeseeable and uncontrollable event? Unpredictability seems unbelievable. Who will be personally accountable for the lack of a customer focus?

This debacle may not be of the same scale as the West Coast Rail Franchise, the impact of suppliers opting to see some of their High Street business channels go bust rather than provide a lifeline, or even the appearance of horse meat in burgers but it is the same diagnosis: poor procurement risk management.

I suspect the top team at George Best Belfast City Airport will have procurement on the agenda next Monday, unfortunately for the wrong reasons. Is procurement strategic? Yes. Is procurement a major risk? Yes.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Bob: Outsourcing Guru

The make/buy decision is one which frequently alludes the procurement manager; involvement in it can be an indication of strategic influence. It is high risk but can lead to significant savings. Bob's experience indicates off-shoring software development to China can result in a service costing 20% of the previous cost with no detrimental loss of quality.

The 'You Couldn't Make It Up' is that Bob, who was able to work from home, had actually outsourced his own job and it was two years before the outsourcing came to light. Bob was able to be more personally productive in his own surfing and social media interests, satisfying the reporting needs of his superiors through a daily email. It's not clear how Bob selected the Chinese provider.

The downside is that Bob has now lost his own job - it is not clear whether his work is still being outsourced to China, whether there has been a detrimental impact on quality since Bob's exit from the organisation and what the contractual arrangements were.

The 'value' of food specifications and contract management

Newsnight, The 'I', The Daily Telegraph, The TImes, and BBC all thought the discovery of 29% horse meat in 'value' burgers was worth covering. As they haven't addressed some of the questions I would like answers to, I'll join the cacophony too. My second justification is that this is another example of procurement now becoming a board room agenda item; unfortunately because it is yet another example of procurement risk management going slightly awry.

  1. If the presence of horse meat was discovered two months ago, why have we just heard about it?
  2. Is it coincidental that since the discovery two months ago, we just happened to have had Christmas - was there any sort of cover-up to protect Christmas food sales of 'value' products'?
  3. While it doesn't appear there is any risk to health as a result of eating horse meat, we must all be familiar with the devastation caused by CJD (the picture with the blog is the infamous one of the then Environment Minister and his daughter demonstrating his confidence in British beef) - what lessons were learnt and preventative measures put in place? Why did  those corrective measures not work?
  4. If there cannot be confidence in the contract management measures which ensured horse meat was not present in burgers, how can we be sure we have not been eating something which was dangerous but has not yet been identified? The call for DNA testing will not solve this problem in the future as it will only confirm the absence of the tested DNA not what isn't being tested for its presence.

Monday, 14 January 2013

If C = 7k, and J = 2k, how many will suffer @ HMV as a result of suppliers calling the tune?

I assume you have recognised C is an abbreviation for Comet and J an abbreviation for Jessops.  The number refers to the number of anticipated jobs lost as a result of suppliers 'calling the tune' and leading to the firms going into administration.

Tomorrow, it is expected that HMV go into administration, once again as a result of suppliers 'pulling the plug' - 4,000+ employees are vulnerable. By 'calling the tune', in HMV's case, we mean suppliers not responding to the request for £300m of additional finance to pay of bank debts.

His Master's Voice must be crying out, loud and clear, to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovations and Skills, and the Chancellor for a strategy which halts the high street decline and can address credit guarantees. Banks were 'to big to fail' - what about retail? The demise of the high street seems to be accelerated by web sales but we must also be reaching a tipping point when shoppers are too depressed and demotivated by the sight of vacant shops to bother.

But will supplier short-termism have jeopardise their own future? Suppliers need buyers as a channel of distribution. Suppliers also need to reflect on how other potential buyers may view their 'short-termism'.
I am reminded of the Caesars and their demonstration of supreme power in deciding who would live or die in the gladiatorial fights. But I am also reminded that neither the Caesars

However, like a broken record, I have been reiterating time and again that Procurement Risk Management needs to be proactive in addressing what has manifestly become a real and present strategic risk.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Personal accountability & Mea culpa

Is there such a thing as personal accountability? I think there is a skewed version of it, 'responsibility', when it is used for job evaluations but it means little in terms of the downside 'being held to account'. I am now convinced we need to revisit 'the buck stops here' concept and bring some meaning to personal accountability. When something goes wrong, it is not individuals who carry the can but faceless institutions. When something goes wrong, it is not individuals, and frequently not even the institutions, who pick up the tab, but the tax payer.

Today we have learnt that failures in 'the system' could lead to that taxpayer picking up a potential bill for millions of pounds as a result of Savile's abuse. Let's be clear, Savile was wrong and appears to have been a totally unpleasant person. But Savile was not alone in blame - also in the dock are the Crown Prosecution Service, Surrey Police, the Metropolitan Police, West Yorkshire Police, BBC and the management of so many of the organisations which 'failed to protect'. If the individuals managing these organisations had managed irresponsibly, it strikes me, that if cases were taken under health and safety legislation those who oversaw such failures would be potentially facing for custodial sentences - had that been the case they may have treated 'responsibility' more seriously.

But it doesn't stop with Savile though, think of Hillsborough.

Then consider the case of making inappropriate employment decisions. I have already discussed unusual appointments to some procurement positions. The potential cost of benefits lost or foregone is not  personally carried by those who make the appointments, nor would the cost of any employment tribunal.

But what about those 'responsible' for procurement decisions?

Friday, 11 January 2013

Ireland: An explanation with a smile

Last week I provided a view on the Belfast City Hail 'Fleg' and the lessons for procurement negotiation and change management - yes, it was serious and hopefully you found it useful. Tonight there is yet more trouble on the streets and water cannons are once again being used. There are also appear to be daily 'security alerts' - you may not understand that means a potential bomb. I've been led to believe that unless the 'Fleg' decision is reversed, the protests will continue until 12 July.

I know from my commute to London that the logic of all this evades most - believe me you are not alone and while I can understand some of psyche it doesn't remotely mean I condone it. There's much more to Belfast than the news would suggest, for example, the picture accompanying this blog is within walking distance of most of the riots - it is the Titanic Belfast, yes, Belfast hands built the Titanic. You may also be surprised that Belfast is one of the top 3 cities to visit in Europe and there have been 650,000 visitors at the Titanic Belfast in its first nine months of opening.

However, one my daughters just shared the following insight with me. I would like to give credit to the author but we have no idea who it was. There is actually some truth, in what I will refer to as this 'unsolicited guest blog' - I hope it brightens your weekend:

Newry Craic and Banter (Wednesday at 22:22)  
So this is for the benifit (sic) of all my friends who are confused or alarmed by the recent images being broadcast around the world, given that we are now 15 years into the peace process..
The capital of Ireland is Dublin . It has a population of a million people, all of whom will be shopping in Newry this afternoon. They travel to Newry because it is in the North, which is not part of Ireland, but still pay in Euros.
Under the Irish constitution, the North used to be in Ireland, but a successful 30-year campaign of violence for Irish unity ensured that it is now definitely in the UK. Had the campaign lasted any longer the North might now be in France.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Jessops snaps: another buyer brought down by suppliers

Founded in 1935. Brought down by post-Christmas credit squeeze from suppliers. 2,000 employees no longer smiling for the camera.

I'm not going to repeat what I have cautioned previously about Lotus Cars and Comet. it's suffice to say that another vacant lot will appear on many high streets now that Jessops has gone into administration. Brought down as a result of suppliers losing confidence in their buyer (although it is fair to say that the integration of cameras in mobile phones must have increased the risk).

This brings additional personal stress for 2,000 employees - the real casualties. That's 2,000 individuals who were 'strivers' and voters, who along with their families may not be particularly benevolent at the next local and general elections!  It also begs the question 'Is the local government strategy to revitalise the high streets fundamentally flawed?' Those responsible for local economic development strategy could benefit from procurement risk management insights too.

For procurement practitioners it is another lesson that power in the buyer/supplier relationship has fundamentally shifted. It is only a crazy buyer who wouldn't now recognise that sellers, more than ever, may be their nemesis or even always available - sophisticated supplier strategies are now required as part of procurement risk management. (I also alluded to this yesterday when I discussed the ability of MoJ to assume the third sector would always be at their beck and call).

You have been warned and warned and warned!

P.S. 11 January 2013: The Times has interestingly made the following comment today:
"It is believed that last year Jessops began to take a more combative attitude towards the big Japanese suppliers, such as Nikon and Canon, which resulted in relations deteriorating." 

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

The Probation's Dilemma

I'm sure many of you are familiar with the Prisoner's Dilemma - perhaps through the scene in one of my favourite films, The Beautiful Mind, when Nash outlines how his college friends can all 'get the girl' through collaborating together. I think today we saw a new iteration, The Probation's Dilemma.

Previously we have discussed problems with the potential outsourcing of prison services, now we've learnt of plans to outsource the probation service. Personally I think this creates a real dilemma.
  1. The first problem is that already there is speculation one of those potentially in the frame for delivery are G4S.  Rather than revisit old ground and boring you, all I will say is: Olympics security delivery, black-listing, and Home Affairs Select Committee.
  2. Second, there is the potential power some of the providers may gain in service delivery, namely, providers of tagging, prisoner transport, prison management and, now possibly, probation services. That's a lot of eggs in one basket and a lot of risk with a very small supply base who could start to have so much power they could hold the MoJ to ransom. 
  3. Third, there's the problem with making Payment by Results work - specifying outcomes and contract management. Yes, Chris Grayling was one of the architects of the DWP Welfare to Work Programme, but to me that should still be treated as prototyping and an opportunity to learn. 
  4. Fourth, there's the not insignificant problem of very unhelpful impact the austerity strategy has had on the third sector who have a good track record in supporting ex-offenders. The third sector are frustrated with their perception of the Work Programme and many have suffered considerable pain as a result of the austerity measures; many are struggling to survive and have been forced to make redundancies. It's all very well offering the carrot of £500k to help them prepare to bid but could this just be a little bit too late?  Have we already lost some of their innovation and creativity in service delivery by being 'penny wise and pound foolish' in short-term procurement strategy? If you were a third sector organisation would you have enough confidence that the probability of success will justify the costs of bidding?
  5. Fifth, we have the lethal mix of third sector cashflow and payments by results - will potential third sector providers be able to cross subsidise an unproven government 'good idea'?
  6. Sixth, is the readiness to change - it certainly doesn't look as if those who already work in delivering probation services have welcomed this initiative with a fanfare of endorsement!    
So, as I see it, that's The Probation's Dilemma: the need to blend that difficult mix into a success for all the stakeholders so that they each perceive a 'win' - given questions about the MoJ procurement capability and the risks involved: Beautiful Mind or Beautiful Dream?

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Procurement S.O.S.

What would you do? You have three bids and one is 20% more than at least one of the others (NB we don't know whether it is 20% more than the other two or just one of the other bids). You have recently been the subject of major criticism based on how you handled a previous procurement evaluation. The bidder, which is now 20% higher, had previously been identified as preferred bidder in an earlier bidding round.

If the facts, as reported in today's Financial Times, are correct and this is a true reflection of the procurement of the helicopter rescue service, that happens to be the dilemma faced by the DfT.

I don't know all of the facts but it is just possible that the higher bidder is the correct price and the remaining two are wrong? Yet the DfT are thought to have rejected the higher bidder based on the price differential. Ironically that is the bidder which, in the previous round, was the preferred bidder. The previous bidding round was set aside due to allegations of corruption, yet the outcome of that investigation is not yet known. What happens if the bidder, who has been rejected from this re-run, is exonerated?

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Belfast City Hall 'fleg': Lessons for negotiation and change management

Few of you probably realise that just as I was starting my procurement career one of my 'any other duties' was sending out details, to those responsible for Belfast City Council buildings, when they should fly 'the Fleg' (as they say where I come from). I worked in Belfast City Hall right through the worst of 'the Troubles' and the daily threat of bombs - indeed I clearly remember a bomb going off a few metres from my office during a meeting with one supplier. Heaven forbid that we ever return to that dark past of daily atrocities. I left the Council in 2000 but I still live in Northern Ireland.

It may come as a surprise to you, but I think the whole 'Fleg' fiasco, like the Julian Assange fiasco, can teach us some lessons for procurement negotiations and change management.

The average man in the street could have predicted that a decision to instantly change from 'business as usual' of flying 'the Fleg' would have provoked anger and resistance.

2012 marked the centenary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant by 471,414 men and women - many signed the Covenant in their own blood in the same City Hall (see picture) - so timing of the change was not particularly sensitive. The fact that there were protests outside when the decision regarding the 'Fleg' was to be taken should also have signalled problems - clearly there were those not ready for change and quite vocal in their resistance to the change. The reality that there was a large continental market taking place in the grounds of the City Hall, with traders from across Europe, could also have indicated that the decision's impact would travel far and risk compromising so many positive Belfast stories of recent years. Risk management, stakeholder management, communications strategy and timing don't seem to have been considered in a way that would have minimised the resistance to change. It just doesn't appear that Belfast had reached the right stage of change readiness.