The value of “value management”, as Mark Neasbey, Director of the Australian Centre for Value Management, has illustrated in each of his previous posts, is in challenging what we think we know. In “The Power of ‘What if?'” he reveals how questioning a ‘given’ led to a radically different solution and a saving of hundreds of millions of dollars. Mark writes:
The types of things that are generally in a list of givens include:
- a law or regulation that has to be complied with;
- a technical performance requirement – be it a range or a set minimum or maximum number or a specific number – which can represent dimensions, volumes, rates and so on;
- a limiting boundary or barrier or a technical constraint;
- financial – e.g. an amount not to be exceeded or specified sources of funding, interest rates and so on;
- ownership and operating arrangements;
- authorities and delegations;
- a specific time or date that the asset is required or to be disposed of; and
- application of a particular process or corporate policy.
[Not an exhaustive but just some main examples.]
Now the thing about such givens is that we develop our options or solutions accepting these, rather than challenging them. So they tend not to come into creative thinking processes, accept as a limitation. Yet what happens if its not really a given, rather it turns out to be possible to change it – even if only to treat it as an assumption?
A recent rail project to develop expanded train maintenance and stabling facilities began with a given that the existing mainline was fixed – it could not be changed. By not allowing it to be moved the project solution involved some complex and expensive engineering and infrastructure to manage the train movements into and out of the depot, which are planned to eventually have headways as short as 30 seconds. [Driverless trains.] There was also an effect on how the layout of the expanded facility could be realised – it was not going to be as ideally efficient as possible to operate.
During a value engineering review however, the effects of not moving the mainline to the engineered solution became clearly a cause – not of concern – but for a better appreciation of the opportunity forgone to create a simpler, more elegant engineered solution and at a huge cost reduction.
The mainline alignment had been stated as a given by the client early in the planning process. So all of the initial feasibility work and preliminary concepts evolved based on that given. What subsequently emerged in the value engineering review was that this arose from a decision not to acquire a particular developed property adjacent to the line.
By asking the simple question “what if…?” the team was able to show a much better outcome was possible – not only at a lower capital cost, but with significant long term reduction in maintenance and operational risks to the network.
Two important highlight lessons to me are:
- Do you have an understanding of what is being labelled or taken as givens for your assets and asset strategies?
- Do you have a process to all testing and challenging of such givens so decision-makers are aware of their implications?
The Task today: An answer to either of Mark’s questions OR an example of a positive ‘What if?” challenge of your own.