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:
  • No one could doubt that the split in responsibilities between the public sector and private sector seemed to deliver. However, would we really recommend that structure for procurement? I would dearly like to know how the allocation of complying with Public Procurement Regulations was addressed? We need to understand so that others don't think they are copying the model and then fall foul of a challenge. 
  • We also need to understand how the division of responsibilities made sense and if it added to problems, for example, the division of responsibility for security between the Home Office and LOCOG - did that add to the G4S fiasco?
  • Do we really believe there was budget transparency? If the Games are the exemplar then I think we need a redefinition.  Budget clarity was and remains a moot topic of the Games. The average Joe and Josephine recognised that there was a complete lack of transparency and obfuscation - we genuinely cannot understand what the baseline budget was and how it appeared to be managed by spin doctors throughout the preparation of the Games.
  • The value of gateways reviews is questioned and the suggestion that the use of 'expert critical friends' may be more useful in providing informed challenge in the future. There does appear to be a current flaw in the effectiveness of gateway reviews but I really wonder if the weakness is in the method or the application of the method? If external critical friends were used instead, how would those providing the challenge be personally accountable, and is it really likely they would come up with a significantly different method?
  • The imperative of making sure the Games took place when they were supposed to needs to be handled with care. I'm not sure but is there any history of the Games not being delivered on time? We all know that if you have a deadline to meet you can throw more resources at it or reshape the definition of what was to be delivered.
  • The idea limiting innovation was possibly a trade off for ensuring delivery to time, but did it restrict the ability to develop lower cost solutions, did it restrict the opportunities to showcase the UK's science and technology? What would have been helpful would have been to have seen sight of what would an procurement innovation plan for the Games have looked like?
  • In my quick scan I didn't pick up any reference to the constant reference to Team GB which led to many in Northern Ireland being offended and feeling their medal winners were not given appropriate credit - of course the report also glances over the problems caused through flying the South Korean flag for the North Korean footballers - as we know flags and pride in country can lead to trouble.
We will never know how delicate a balance it was between a Games celebration or a Games embarrassment but this report should help others avoid the later.

1 comment:

  1. A personal mantra is that most organisations go wrong when they fail to do the basics right. I agree with you that what they have identified might be seen as "the basics" but they not only recognised them they followed them. I agree with the other stuff too.
    Particularly Team GB - ouch.