Lincolnshire is a trendsetter. Starting with its cathedral, which was one of the tallest buildings in the world when it was built, the first military tank and including various agricultural innovations of the centuries, the county has consistently tried out new approaches to traditional problems. The latest and right now, one of the most important, is the pursuit of a fresh attitude towards local authority contracts, particularly for building and maintenance work. Lincolnshire County Council’s commitment to a ONE Team approach to its repairs, maintenance and facilities management services has seen it pioneer a new way of working.
It began almost six years ago when Lincolnshire County Council (LCC) was seeking to converge its property and FM requirements. It needed partners that bought into the approach from the outset. What Lincolnshire wanted for was a cultural change in the contracting relationship. What followed was an open exchange of ideas.
Kevin Kendall, LCC Assistant Drector Corporate Property, explained: “What we hoped for was a shared view, a shared culture and values that would allow us and our contractor to effectively unpack what amounted to a pre-nuptial discussion and closely examine what was going to work for everyone involved. That was what we got with VINCI Facilities. They bought into the idea of collaboration that we aimed for from the start, which meant that during the mobilisation a solid and confident foundation was shaped and agreed, underpinned via the NEC 3 form of contract reinforcing a ‘ONE Team’ approach.”
ONE Team approach
What does ONE Team mean, really? It is what it says on the tin. It’s about teamwork — which like any relationship needs give and take for it to work.
“ONE Team is about trust,” said Kevin. “You need to communicate — share news, feelings and concerns. For that trust to be maintained, to allow for the ebb and flow of feelings and changing situations it is vital to keep talking. One of the things we like most about VINCI has been their willingness to challenge us — nothing is taken for granted, like in a strong marriage. It is exactly the same in a business relationship between customer and supplier.”
A truism? Maybe. But six years into the relationship between Lincolnshire and the VINCI Facilities FM team its gone from strength to strength. Whilst these projects are underpinned by good contractual governance, the contract doesn’t mean anything unless the day-to-day working relationships — based on trust, openness, honesty and shared attitudes and a belief in getting the job done.
Sue Matheson, Account Director for VINCI Facilities, has worked on the contract with LCC from the beginning. She said: “The shared values have stood everyone in good stead. Service stream workshops were set up to unpack the tendered solution to ensure that all of the key stakeholders understand the solution. Most importantly one team approach has been backed up with everyone one working at a single location — at least up to when we began dealing with the challenges of COVID, which has seen the team to continue to collaborate but working remotely. It has been possible to continue to work effectively together because of the strong bonds formed over the first five years of the contract. Knowing everyone is available means the collaborative spirit running through the project is almost guaranteed and there is constant two-way dialogue to bring ideas and solutions to life.”
Kevin Kendall agreed: “An example of this is the close team working since the COVID pandemic. We have bi-weekly business continuity meetings with everyone in the same (virtual) room, something that would not have happened before this approach. But another key strength binding the ONE Team together is the relationship with VINCI and its senior team — they are always available to support Sue and the local team and to talk to my people too.”
VINCI’s Strategic Director, Gary Codling, ran a workshop for the 90 managers in the LCC senior team, which was very well received by the CEO and the LCC Senior Leadership Team. Also, VINCI Facilities has provided support via Taff Farrell, Head of Operational Excellence — ranging from ‘empowerment’ programmes to business planning sessions using VINCI’s VMOST (Vision and Mission, Objectives, Strategy, and Tactics) process. It has also started to take root across the wider LCC directorates, with VINCI Facilities leading and facilitating VMOST and LEAN workshops to LCC’s Assurance and Adult Social Services Team.
Again, this demonstrates the added value brought by VINCI to the partnership — through collaboration. But there are two recent projects that emphasise that impact even more. The first example of how collaboration and ONE Team working has been truly effective is the mobilisation of South Park — the UK’s first operational emergency tri-service (police, fire and ambulance) centre including a custody suite and winner of the One Team Award in HM Government Property Awards 2020.
Sue Matheson explained: “This was a bold, high profile project as bringing operational services together, with a need to deliver on their specific service requirements had not been done before. There was extensive collaboration between LCC, VINCI Facilities and all parties (including the building and project management team) as well as stakeholders throughout the project, which resulted in a fully operational building going live, with all emergency services being seamlessly delivered from day one.”
“One key difference added by VINCI Facilities was an onsite facilities manager,” said Kevin Kendall. “This was a big change and tested the budget. The argument was that we needed a technician, in fact a qualified electrician rather than a caretaker to be able to able to make decisions on-site, fix problems (where possible) at source and act as a lead liaison point of contact for all three services. It has proven to be an enormously successful role, and one which all three services value very highly.”
COVID-19 has tested everyone in the UK, but the response of the ONE Team makes it the second key example of the successful relationship between LCC and VINCI Facilities.
Kevin Kendall said: “The strength of the relationship between us and VINCI has never been more evident than during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen us work closely together to maintain essential services, forming a joint Business Continuity Team ahead of the UK lockdown. As a team, we worked together to pre-empt the impact the pandemic might have had and stayed together to deal with the reality of the past year. For me one of the small, but really important things have been the thank you calls to everyone — right across the council and VINCI teams — every six weeks during COVID.”
Sue Matheson agreed: “During March and April we had daily business continuity meetings, we looked at which buildings would close and then over the summer we assessed the ones we could re-open and how we would manage the remobilisation. One of the toughest tasks was the requirement for LCC mobilise a temporary mortuary facility in six weeks and VINCI put it into operation. None of it has been easy, but it might have been far harder to achieve what we did if there was not such a strong team spirit.”
Fundamentally, what VINCI and LCC do is support the community and it has been an important part of working as ONE Team. Many charities, such as local food banks, British Heart Foundation, Macmillan, and Alzheimer’s have benefitted from the generosity of the ONE Team who have donated to support fun team events.
“The ONE Team carried out beach cleans in Lincolnshire in 2019, removing over 30kg of plastic from the coastline. This was a great way to support team building, have some exercise and positively impact the environment, all at the same time,” said Sue Matheson.
Behind the success of the ONE Team ethos is an enlightened client. The LCC team itself understand the need for its suppliers, VINCI Facilities, to run a business but at the same time VINCI understands the need for a balance to achieve the council’s own objectives.
“In our end of year report for 2020 I said that our contractual relationship grows stronger and our collaborative ONE Team working is a key enabler for this,” explained Kevin Kendall. “What we have done is establish a foundation on which to build and that’s what we will do in 2021 when we review the model and launch our new corporate business plan.”