The company met its strategic vision of focusing manufacturing activities that provide sustainable employment in the UK. It also delivered the anticipated financial benefits of £148m cost avoided through the closure of sites, and a further £30m from the transfer of business activity from closed sites to retained sites.
As Bob Warner, CEO of Remploy, commented: "Remploy now has a really credible project and programme management capability, which is working to the highest professional standards. We now have what we need to meet the new challenges the company faces in its modernisation programme, including the building and development of successful businesses following the restructuring".
Remploy was set the challenge of modernising its business. The strategy required the closure of a significant number of factories - something that Remploy had never done before.
Previous attempts to restructure the business had not been successful. Important factors that had to be addressed were objections, on both moral and political grounds, from key stakeholders. To succeed the programme had to engage with these groups and to clearly demonstrate how the changes would culminate in a better and sustainable future. This meant a lot of planning, a lot of communications and participation in the planning, and a strong discipline within the projects to deliver what they promised.
Approach to solution
The scale and complexity of the change meant that using a project portfolio approach would not work. Project disciplines were needed to deliver specific results (e.g. the closure, merger and transfer of particular factories). But to deliver the benefits, to avoid unacceptable dis-benefits and to ensure groups were not inadvertently disadvantaged, required flexible approaches. The sequence of events were subject to complex negotiations, with the boundaries changing quite rapidly - with core elements of the scope, such as how many sites would be closed, how many employees would accept each of the different options available to them, and what level of funding would be necessary remaining ambiguous long after the start of the initiative.
For all these reasons, CITI chose a programme approach. This gave Remploy the ability to manage the overall complexity at programme level, including implementing changes resulting from negotiations or unexpected events, while maintaining absolute clarity about what each individual project was required to do, and managing the interdependencies at programme level.
Ambiguity is sometimes unavoidable, and attempting to eliminate it too early leads to failure, with stakeholders feeling dissatisfied and their agendas ignored. Programmes, despite the significant difficulties associated with their management, are often the only management vehicle sophisticated enough to address this - as projects uniformly fail in the presence of unresolved vagueness.
"The classic training model, taking individuals out of the business to sit in a classroom for a week at a time, was not going to work for us. But at the same time, we knew we needed to raise our game in managing change. I have to say, your people are brilliant!"