Lend Lease is an Australian business success story and is seen as one of the most exciting companies to work for in Australia. How does Lend manage to be consistently successful and persistently different? Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Greg Clarke recognizes effective managerial planning plays an important role. One of its projects, the Bluewater complex in Kent, England-one of Europe's largest retail and leisure destinations-illustrates how planning is done at Lend Lease.
In the mid-1990s, two Lend Lease executive-Stuart Hornery and director of special projects Malcolm Latham-stood at the edge of an abandoned limestone quarry about 20 miles outside of London, surveying the barren landscape. Instead of seeing what most people would-an industrial wasteland-they envisioned a dramatic and unique civic space that would be a community-gathering place in addition to being a popular retail shopping center. They made the decision to purchase the site from Blue Circle Industries, a British cement company that had been trying to develop it for more than eight years. Upon signing the deal, Lend Lease got a preapproved development plan that was in place for the site. However, company executives chose to abandon everything in this plan but the project's name: Bluewater. That’s when the company's own planning efforts got serious.
Less than three weeks after that initial visit to the site, a team of Lend Lease employees, including Hornery and Latham and six of the company's best retail, property, and project-management experts, met with Eric Kunne, a well-respected U.S. architect. The team's goal was to bring to life Hoenery and Latham's vision for the Bluewater site. What they developed was an innovative, break-the-mold plan, simply titled, The Bluewater Factors. The team's plan outlined a shopping complex featuring a glowing white roofs cape; 1.6 million square feet of retail space; a 13,000-car parking garage; and over 50 acres of parks, seven lakes, and more than 1 million trees and shrubs. The project's scale would prove to be an enormous undertaking. However, the company's planning would once again prove effective.
For such complex projects, Lend Lease uses project-control groups (PCG) to blend creativity and accountability. The project gets a PCG which plays a role similar to a corporate board of directors. Members of a PCG don't work on the project day-to-day, but are accountable for it. Project managers are challenged to assemble a PCG with the possible diverse mix of skills, intuition, and experiences of people from both inside and outside the company. These PCGs can include as few as 3 people or as many as 15. They meet every six or seven weeks during the project's duration. And these meetings are serious. There's a precise agenda, a set of minutes, a financial review, and several other reports on the key aspects of the project. But these meetings aren't just about making sure that deadlines and budgets are being met. They're also an opportunity to engage in active questioning and exploration of ideas for better implementation. They're cross between dreams and discipline. One project manager said, "We know that we have to make a case for why we are doing something in the first place. That means we're not afraid to stop things. We're brutal about pulling the plug and moving on, even when we're already spent a lot of time and money on a project."
The PCG for the Bluewater project included Hoenery, Latham, Kuhne, The CEO of Lend Lease's European business, and the investment director of Prudential (one of Lend Lease's biggest investors). It also included a revolving group of architects; engineers; manufacturers; community advocates; local planning authorities; experts on construction, retail, and finance; and customers. Every five to six weeks, the PCG met to discuss budgets, agendas, and proposals for innovations. Did this commitment to effective planning work?
The time from initial idea to final leasing stage was just 1,628 days (a little under 4-1/2 years). The project came in two weeks ahead of schedule, on budget, and fully leased with more than 320 retailers from around the world. The Bluewater complex is a sprawling triangle with three two-story malls. Each mall's shopping streets connect with the surrounding landscape and each mall features a "leisure village" that integrates its shopping area with nearby recreational space. The complex features health clubs, restaurants, and a cinema complex. There are even "welcome" halls decorated like luxury hotels and staffed by full-time concierges. Since its grand opening in March 2000, an average of more than 75,000 people per day have visited Bluewater.
1.What role do you think goals play in planning done at Lend Lease? Explain.
2.How does Lend Lease illustrate effective planning in a dynamic environment?
3.What approach to developing plans does Lend Lease appear to follow? Explain.
4.Would Lend Lease's approach work in other organizations? Why or why not?
5.Lend Lease has a strong commitment to environmentally sustainable development. (Check out its Web site for information on its core values.) How might these core values affect planning efforts?