JMW was brought in to support the Crossrail Leadership Team and its broader network of contractor partners in getting the program back on the path to delivery. JMW’s first order of business was a candid assessment of the mindsets with which various teams were approaching the project and one another. Their findings would be the foundation for Crossrail leadership’s work moving forward.
The assessment revealed the ways in which external pressures and inevitable barriers to success had taken their toll on the leadership mindset and management of the project. With up to 10,000 employees and contractors involved at a time throughout the supply chain, accountabilities across interfaces were unclear, coordination was poor, and progress slow. In the lead up to the 2018 failure, the remaining construction time had been significantly underestimated—“drift” attributed to an over-compressed schedule that had become disconnected from reality. The intricacies of system integration had likewise been miscalculated. While there had been a strong collective focus on the 2018 completion date, immense deadline pressures had clouded the transparency needed for sound project decisions.
With coaching support from JMW, Mark Wild and the new Executive Team put a few fundamental “stakes in the ground” for how the program would operate differently going forward—principles that would determine the ultimate success of this turnaround story:
JMW introduced key principles of transformational leadership to help Crossrail’s executives and partners turn around the situation and complete the railway. To deliver on their commitment, critical shifts in approach and implementation would be required consistent with the two fundamental principles already declared.
The JMW team designed an intervention to help Crossrail’s leadership address the gaps identified and execute actions to address them. Over the course of the engagement, five central elements of the effort began to take hold and help produce the results needed for the project to succeed.
The new railway officially opened in May 2022 as the “Elizabeth Line,” renamed in 2016 in honor of Queen Elizabeth II. More than a million journeys were made in the line’s first five days of operation as London’s mayor deemed the railway a “roaring success.”
It took significant human and leadership effort, as well as more time and financial investment than originally planned, to reach this meaningful milestone. What may be its greatest achievement was that a cast of thousands of highly committed people aligned on a whole new way of working together that turned a tide which had become severely flawed and rose to the occasion of extraordinary challenges of overcoming those flaws while navigating through the impacts of an unprecedented global pandemic.
Data points on project results to date include:
In a series of sessions, JMW worked with the company’s senior leadership team to introduce them to high-performance tools and techniques, with an eye toward building a team aligned around a future that far exceeded any previous expectations or experience at the company. In the process of embracing new ways of approaching their work, delivering on their commitments, and leading their teams, the group created what they decided to call a “21 Destinations” vision and plan of action, developing a set of three-year stretch targets that would have previously been viewed as impossible.
The next step of the effort involved programs designed to introduce the 21 Destinations vision to the top 60 senior managers and key supervisors in the business. The purpose of these programs was to engage these key players in the vision, and help equip them to cascade the vision and galvanize the organization around a high-performance culture and delivery. Over time, a total of 180 senior managers and supervisors throughout the organization completed the program and became integral ambassadors in the turnaround effort.
An important part of the work also involved enrolling the organization’s board of directors in the new vision and plan. Through a program designed to provide background on the new vision developed and embraced by the company’s senior team and management, the board gained new perspective in advance of a critical senior team presentation. When the next board meeting took place and the 21 Destinations vision was presented, board members’ reaction was, in the CEO’s words, “overwhelmingly enthusiastic.”
In addition, leaders were equipped to powerfully intervene when inevitable problems and difficulties arose. There was forward momentum almost immediately, but to maintain that momentum, they worked with JMW coaches on being leaders who fostered an environment where people were encouraged and rewarded for initiative, responsibility, accountability, and ownership.
As executives took on roles of facilitators and coaches for extraordinary achievement, a strong collective vision was rolled out across the company. Annual road shows became a part of the organization’s best practice, engaging the “hearts and minds” of all staff at all levels. Employees began to set and achieve targets that previously would have seemed unattainable. Board members demonstrated repeatedly that they were fully aligned with the effort. The culture of the company was transformed, with even skeptics allowing their resistance to give way to the momentum of tremendous opportunity.
Within three years, the organization had delivered on 16 of the 20 destinations, and in another year’s time, they had completed 20. Key advances included delivering a new control center, reducing the total number of centers from four to two, and reducing delay per flight rates by 90%. Management was de-layered and staff was reduced where there were inefficiencies or redundancies. The company made the decision to stop offering a high-cost pension salary program to new employees, resulting in savings of hundreds of millions of dollars over the next 10 years, and reduced total debt by £114 million.
There were also key “firsts.” At the end of the first year of the initiative, the company turned its first-ever profit. And in a stunning financial recovery, company shareholders received the first-ever return on their investment and would see a 700% increase in share price over the course of five years.
In the five-year period of JMW’s engagement, the organization delivered 340 projects worth £1 billion on time and on budget. The business had succeeded in dramatically and sustainably improving on every aspect of its performance. The same troubled organization that had been the subject of public criticism was now the recipient of well-publicized praise, receiving accolades both as an employer and as the world’s leading navigation provider.
In addition, and more specifically, five years after beginning the work with JMW, the organization:
“There are very few occasions in one’s career that you can look back and reflect on a simply amazing team, but this was one. JMW had us believe that anything was possible, and we had our managers inspiring their employees to get the bar as high as possible, and then clearing it time after time.”
-Reflection from the company’s CEO