The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is committed to updating the UK Military Flying Training System (UKMFTS) to transform flying training for the three services over the next 25 years. They recognised that the only way to succeed in this ambition was for the MoD to partner with industry. In some senses this is not new – public/private partnerships have been commonplace in recent years. What was new was the recognition of the degree to which a successful relationship is dependent on effective Partnering. The procurement process evaluated bids on the basis of three criteria – with each granted equal importance – Technical, Commercial and Partnering.
What was the challenge?
An additional level of complexity was that all of the organisations seeking to win the contract for the provision of the training service were themselves Joint Ventures. Ascent (representing the collaboration of Lockheed Martin and VT Defence) was one of the three consortia who remained in the competition to be selected as ‘Preferred Bidder’.
How did we work together?
The fact that the UKMFTS tender assessment process was to attach as much importance to a Consortium’s ability to Partner as it did to the quality of the technology provided and the value for money provided a significant challenge to potential Training Service Partners to think differently about the programme.
Ascent came to Questions of Difference for support in the development, demonstration and reporting of their Partnering approach.
The key strands of Questions of Difference work included:
- Promoting Partnering behaviours within the Ascent team
- Establishing a Partnering Log, to learn from the existing examples of effective Partnering
- Conducting a Cultural Audit for Ascent as well as the two parent companies, to establish Partnering readiness
- Supporting the team tasked with writing the bid documents to ensure that Partnering was consistently represented throughout
- Ongoing skills training and coaching support for bi-lateral meetings with the MoD
Did the outcome meet expectations?
It was announced that Ascent won Preferred Bidder status in December 2006. Their capacity for effective Partnering was key to this decision. The MoD and Ascent engaged in contract negotiations, building on the relationship established through the tender process. In addition:
- The Ascent parent companies recognised Partnering as essential for future competitiveness and put strategies in place to address the issues raised in the cultural audit
- The Ascent team clearly exhibited their understanding of Partnering behaviours and no longer required the coaching services of the Questions of Difference team
What did Ascent learn from the relationship with Questions of Difference?
- Partnering is not a model that can be uniformly applied to mechanistically driven action. It requires context specific consideration to deliver great value, achieve mutual benefit and promote continuous improvement
- Partnering is most effective when conflict is seen as a resource, as it creates opportunities to manage difference as a source of innovation and change
- Partnering capability cannot be developed in isolation. True Partnering will only be established when the different organisations and individuals work together to determine what Partnering has to mean to meet their diverse needs and ambitions