Sydney Water is Australia’s largest water and wastewater service provider, supplying water, wastewater, recycled water and some stormwater services to more than five million people in Sydney, the Illawarra and the Blue Mountains – both supplying and reviving water. Sydney Water is focused on preparing for the future growth of our city to service the extra one million people forecast to live in Sydney in the next ten years. Sydney Water is a statutory State-Owned Corporation, wholly owned by the New South Wales Government, and the sole provider of public water and water waste services to the Sydney community. As a water utility Sydney Water must act in accordance with regulations and the license conditions set by NSW Health and reviewed by IPART every five years. Sydney Water operates under the Sydney Water Act 1994 and has three equal objectives, to protect public health, environment and be a successful business. Sydney Water’s vision is to create a better life with world-class water services. The Delivery Management (DM) division is a strategic consortium between Sydney Water, Lendlease and John Holland to design and deliver infrastructure projects with 200+ staff and 1500+ ‘active projects across three regions. DM forms part of the Liveable City Solutions group. In 2017-2018, DM implemented a series of process optimisation initiatives designed to uplift project management capability by maturing DM. These changes were expansive, targeting leadership capability, operational processes and the asset delivery lifecycle. Together these initiatives formed the ‘Enable and Optimise’ (E&O) project.
The major components of E&O were:
The MOS: The design and development of a bespoke Management Operating System (MOS) as an overarching and fit-for-purpose management framework to enhance leadership, performance and agility for a group dedicated to project delivery. The MOS links strategy and leadership processes by: overlaying the plan-do-check-act cycle across all governance functions to enable continual improvement; provides panoramic and integrated performance measurement and reporting to enhance performance and control and prescribes planning/delivery time horizons based on leadership levels to empower leaders to lead and learn.
The Operating Model: The development of an operating model along with a comprehensive operational manual provide guidance and support for all DM staff and leaders in their daily work, encompassing both project/program delivery and ancillary business-as-usual (BAU) functions. This deliverable links people, processes and systems by providing a single source of truth.
Helix ACP v2: Rollout of a significantly upgraded version of the asset delivery platform, Helix version 2 (v2), containing comprehensive and optimised step-by-step processes and designated resource responsibilities across the entire project lifecycle as per the internal project management methodology for infrastructure projects, the Asset Creation Process (ACP), plus a notably refined complexity tool to streamline and safe-guard delivery.
E&O matures the project delivery environment in DM to facilitate excellence in project management at the project, program and portfolio level. Additionally, the project itself demonstrates project excellence by leveraging an innovative change and learning strategy and adaptive project delivery approach designed to empower and engage staff in the change journey. As a result, all new deliverables/products/processes are successfully integrated in daily business practice and project and business performance outcomes show strong and sustained improvement across the board. E&O is part of the broader continual improvement program called the ‘Towards Organisational Excellence Program’ (2015-2020) which is still underway with benefits tracked at the program level. The goal of the program is to mature the business model to be the deliverer of choice for Sydney’s Lifestream. Previously projects in the program focused on stabilising and aligning the organisation whilst E&O focused on optimising the business including project delivery via innovative new and improved processes. The next stage, now underway, uplifts partnering and procurement capability. All initiatives contribute towards improving the delivery of asset creation projects, the core work of DM.
These initiatives are strategically and commercially important to Sydney Water as they materially mature the asset creation process, either directly or indirectly. Such changes improve: capital results; project management delivery; business and division integration; strategic leadership; staff on-boarding; process standardisation and compliance; reporting; plus, performance and outcomes across diverse measures including the environment, safety, community, staff, stakeholders and financial at the project/program and portfolio level. Together these process improvements advance the business and drive a high-performance culture committed to continual improvement and agile adaptive leadership. From an industry perspective, this program demonstrates to other utilities how to best develop, rollout and perform to a standardised set of innovative optimised end-to-end processes, work as one united team under a management operating system, develop leadership capability and streamline infrastructure project delivery with proven performance results. Such exemplar models are are critical to the water industry because it provides the lifestream for the future and faces significant growth demands (e.g. population growth, rapid urbanisation), new technology, societal and environmental challenges (e.g. sustainability, scarce resources, drought, flood) along with regulatory drivers.
Sydney Water is committed to building a high-performance culture as an enabler of its corporate strategy. To deliver on this strategy, DM recognised an opportunity for process optimisation to maximise leadership and technical capability in a complex Volatile-Uncertain-Complex-Ambiguous (VUCA) environment. This resulted in the ‘Towards Organisational Excellence’ program (2015-2020) with the overarching goal to improve business and financial performance in DM. The desired benefits of the E&O initiatives are aligned with the broader ‘Towards Organisational Excellence Program’ are to drive a leadership culture of strategic decision making, performance orientation and continuous improvement. They are also designed to align goals and KPIs across all functions to realise corporate strategy, improve performance across all major measures, streamline and safeguard project delivery and mature the asset management model and create a more united integrated team with the focus on collaborative goal achievement and process standardisation. The structure of the initiatives is also aimed to implement more efficient and effective onboarding processes to support and guide new staff as well as ensure that communication processes seamlessly flow information across all governance streams.
External consultant, Critical Input, were engaged from the outset to design the uplifted models and materials, manage the program and manage/contribute to the various projects.
Program governance consisted of a Steering Committee, which ensured the project and change initiatives aligned with strategic objectives and could address any escalated issues. Effective delivery was supported by monthly program status reporting to the Steering Committee, the program roadmap, the project management plan and the Change and Learning plan. The development of each major deliverable followed a similar process: research, development, socialising/testing, implementation (via the change and learning plan) and closure. An adaptive approach ensured project management processes and change mechanisms were effective to meet stakeholder and business needs.
The immediate results were the project deliverables/ outputs– all of which were in accordance with the plan and integrated in the business. These were: the MOS; the Operating Model; the Operating Manual; Helix ACP v2; and the upgraded Complexity Tool. The ongoing impact and benefits of the project are best measured via performance tracking across all key KPIs and financial results which show sustained improvement. This is strong evidence of project excellence and successful change management. Sydney Water has demonstrated how to embed an optimised framework, standardised processes and enhanced leadership capability to improve project delivery and consistently deliver outstanding project results. The E&O project itself demonstrated project excellence by leveraging an adaptive and best practice delivery approach suitable to the soft nature of the project. It also leveraged an innovative change and learning strategy that effectively embedded the change. Key results demonstrating success include high staff engagement plus sustained improvement in performance across all KPIs and capital results reflecting a culture of continual improvement. In conclusion, project delivery and asset management has matured via the E&O project with proven performance results, benefits and value to a diverse array of stakeholders.