How agility will help Britain reach its goals for 2030

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Balancing act: the government wants to build on strengths and address weaknesses

What will Britain be like in 2030? In January of this year, the government issued its eagerly anticipated Building our Industrial Strategy Green Paper, setting out the government’s vision for a post-Brexit Britain

The paper focuses on “creating the conditions where successful businesses can emerge and grow,” encouraged by an “active government” that “will build on Britain’s strategic strengths and tackle our underlying weaknesses, like low productivity.”

It identifies 10 pillars to advance the strategy across the entire economy: science, research and innovation; skills; infrastructure; business growth and investment; procurement; trade and investment; affordable energy; sectoral policies; driving growth across the whole country; and creating the right institutions to bring together sectors and place.

With the follow-up White Paper expected later this year, the government’s goals should be treated with both urgency and deliberation. According to the UK’s Office for National Statistics, productivity in the UK lags significantly behind that of the rest of the G7 economies – it is almost a third lower than in the United States, France, or Germany – and is only just returning to pre-financial crisis levels.

The ambitious vision set out for Britain’s future, centered on change, growth, and improvement, suggests that the public and private sectors must become increasingly adept at executing projects – the strategic initiatives that drive change.

According to the UK’s Office for National Statistics, productivity in the UK lags significantly behind that of the rest of the G7 economies

Recent research from the Project Management Institute (PMI) shows that progress is already being made in the successful execution of strategic initiatives. PMI’s 2017 Pulse of the Profession®: Success Rates Rise: Transforming the High Cost of Low Performance, issued in February, showed that for the first time in five years, the number of strategic initiatives meeting goals and being completed within budget increased.

The research also showed that compared to last year, there has been a 20 per cent decline in money wasted due to poor project performance, with organisations now wasting an average of 9.7 per cent – US$97million (around £73m) – for every US$1billion (£75bn).

Furthermore, organisations that invest in proven project management practices waste 28 times less money due to poor project performance. The determinants that went into increased project performance could help shine a light on the way forward for Britain, particularly around such key investment areas as digital initiatives and infrastructure.

As was noted in the green paper, infrastructure “supports the other pillars of a modern industrial strategy”. Timely infrastructure investment is critical to the future of the country, which is why PMI is currently undertaking a major research project along with the UK think tank, the Institute for Government, considering how to improve infrastructure decision-making in the UK. Without a robust, modern infrastructure, speed is compromised, trade is hobbled, and competitiveness ebbs.

Just as important is a robust and secure digital infrastructure. Research from the government suggests that improved broadband speeds could add £17billion to UK output by 2024.

Based on various papers put forth by the government, we know the areas where successful completion of projects is especially important. As a result of PMI research, we also know that improvements in project success are possible. Additionally, more recent research from PMI gives some important insight into reasons for improved success.

Findings unveiled in PMI’s Pulse of the Profession in-depth reports, Achieving Greater Agility and The Drivers of Agility, demonstrate that an organisation’s agility level contributes to successful outcomes ― and increases the value that projects deliver.

Agility is the capability to quickly sense and adapt to external and internal changes to deliver relevant results in a productive and cost-effective manner. As an approach to delivering value, it’s a mindset based on a set of key values and principles designed to better enable collaborative work and deliver continuous value through a “people-first” orientation.

Higher organisational agility results in more projects meeting original goals and business intent – one of the key measures of project success. It stands to reason, then, that the UK must focus not only on the areas most likely to bring about strategic industrial change but also those methods and the mindset most likely to contribute to success.

With increasing competition and accelerating disruptions from new technology, market shifts, and social change, the need to demonstrate agility will be greater than ever. And the stakes are greater still as the UK seeks to thrive under the auspices of Brexit. Success will hinge on the ability to react and adapt to unexpected roadblocks and market changes and switch priorities quickly without losing momentum.

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