“The speed & quality of Jon & the Advance's team’s work, in coming up with & implementing a highly innovative & effective selection process, was exceptional.”

Anne Holden
MARS IPT Team Leader.

MoD MARS Project

The Challenge

To develop and run an innovative value adding procurement competition on the MoD's £2.5bn  MARS project, whilst developing the collaborative culture and capabilities of the internal team.

Following the general election in 2005, which saw the return of a Labour government led by Tony Blair, the Ministry of Defence embarked on the Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability project or MARS for short. The project, worth approx. £2.5bn CAPEX, needed to find a management contractor – or Integrator - who could partner with the MoD  to build eleven new ships for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. In effect, replace two thirds of the fleet.

To help them select the right Integrator, the MoD chose (in competition) The Advance Consultancy Ltd with whom Jon sometimes works through. Jon led the Advance bid team and, on award in late 2005 to the second half of 2006, led the management of this contract along with the help of thirteen other consultants all of whom were working under him.

The MARS project team also realised that they needed to evolve and would need assistance to become both an intelligent and knowledgeable client as well as a good partner within any collaborative alliance.

The Solution

The consultants’ primary aim was to identify which of the three companies down selected for the final competition would be a suitable partner for the MoD. To help with the selection process Jon and his team devised the ‘Alliancing Capability Toolkit’ or ACT for short to assess the capabilities of the three potential partners. This was loosely based on the EFQM Business Excellence Model, but adapted to suit a project in an alliancing context. Over a five month competition timeframe, the consultants continuously assessed the bidders looking particularly at the culture of the three companies. In particular, the process forced these companies to collect and demonstrate best practice from across the globe on their other projects and how they would modify it for use on the MARS project. As one bidder noted, it was the only competition he had ever been involved in which added value to the bidding company.

Each of the three companies under consideration was asked to submit alliance models. These models were scrutinised by Jon and his team, assessing the pros and cons of each company who were additionally given constructive feedback so that they could develop their bid proposals.

The senior MoD team leading the MARS project all underwent one-to-one coaching. This along with group workshops concentrated on reflecting and changing their style of working and interacting with those external to the MoD. Progress was made in terms of how they interacted with others and the MARS team demonstrated greater emphasis on achievement rather than simply following process.

The Result

During the course of the assignment, the MARS team also commissioned further work to develop a simplified model for selection of other alliance members. The National Audit Office praised the selection process as being a model for how to select a collaborative partner.

Despite the very fast mobilisation and development of the selection process (with a new client in an industry the consultants were unfamiliar with), the final recommendation was delivered to the original date. Unfortunately, due to political considerations, the announcement was delayed … and delayed … and delayed until the competition was set back to zero with none of the three down-selected being chosen !