Tag Archives: crisis

London 2012 Olympic Games (project management)

Yesterday, I attended a conference by Ian Crockford on project management based on his experience at the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), the public body responsible for ensuring the delivery of the infrastructure, design and construction of buildings, transport and the legacy of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

london-2012-olympic-games4During the conference, Ian showed a couple of videos, several key figures of the project, and some insights of the best practices that were used, the main challenges they faced, the stakeholders they dealt with, the themes they worked on in parallel to achieving the project objectives and some anecdotes. Let me show some of the notes I took during the conference even if not in a very orderly fashion:

  • Time is the enemy”, even though he conceded that having such an immovable deadline (summer 2012) helped a lot. However, they aimed at completing the project one year in advance (summer 2011) to allow for 1 year of testing.
    • “80% of the value is gained in 20% of the time”, this is risky as it leaves you with 80% of the time to only achieve the remaining 20% of value… and the chances are that you screw it up:
      • it’s easy to lose value,
      • hold onto time,
      • increasing value is very difficult.
  • “Nail down the scope and budget early and stick to it”. After the designation of London in 2012, the ODA took 2 full years to plan everything, including the budget, which was only completed in June 2007 and published in November 2007. From the beginning they announced a plan along the line: “2 + 4 + 1”, 2 years of planning (allow enough time for planning), 4 years of building (including demolishing, construction, etc.) and 1 year of testing.
    • Even if he mentioned that changes are inevitable” he advised to create a culture of not accepting changes easily, only if very well justified.
  • Strategic themes (in parallel of project objectives): increase health and safety of the works (x10 times the British works H&S average), sustainability (local lobbies, Greenpeace, WWF…), equity (gender, race…), development (creation of apprenticeships linked to contracts with suppliers), etc.
    • Emphasis was on the increase in health and safety. It started as a bold objective,  with an open environment with all suppliers where they were told that the ODA would welcome every initiative that increased safety. This had many reinforced effects: lower employee turn over, better productivity, good atmosphere, etc.
  • Size (contracts, figures): the ODA had,
    • 150 NEC3 tier-1 contracts (valued at 2.5bn£) for the Olympic Park,
    • 160 JCT contracts (valued at 1bn£) for the Olympic Village,
    • up to 3,000 tier-2 contracts,
    • 10 concession contracts (utilities)
    • spend peaked at 180m£ per month in the Park,
  • Size (people):
    • The Olympic Park would host about 300 thousand people per day: 250k visitors, 25k media and 25k athletes. This lead to the provisional sizing of some of the infrastructures for such capacity and to provide for the removal of some temporary installations after the Games (e.g. bridges which during the Games had a width of 50ft, today are narrower than 20ft).
    • 47 thousand people worked on the project. Given the short-term nature of the project it was a challenge to attract and retain the people, to motivate and inspire them.
  • Decision making with emphasis on empowerment. “Let the partners deliver”. Asked about things that were underestimated he mentioned “the innovation capability of suppliers given the right environment” (examples given: new system to introduce handicapped into the pool, green plastics…).
  • Documentation: focus from the beginning in getting all the paperwork right (otherwise it may prevent the delivery of completed buildings, etc.).
  • Asked about the impacts of the crisis, he mentioned:
    • need for insolvency management,
    • 2 projects that were to be privately financed in the end were publicly financed (a housing project and the media centre),
    • as the budget was planned prior to June 2007 and the completion of the project ran from 2007 to 2011, many of the costs had been overestimated. This turned in a positive impact (opportunity). Forecasted inflation was not correct, expected bubble in property prices in East London did not happen, etc.
  • “It turns out that if you follow all the bits of Project Management manual… it works!”, even if he conceded that the last 6 months were spent micromanaging through completion.

Finally, there was a question that I wanted to ask before even going to the conference but that in the end I couldn’t ask (nevertheless I asked another one – on budgets). My home city, Madrid, has been a candidate city to host the summer Olympic Games for 2012, 2016 and 2020, coming as losing bidder the three times (London, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo). Trying to put the blame on someone or to find explanations for the painful defeats, the Spanish press has been prolific and ingenious in finding reasons. On the other side, the Spanish press was also quick to find the explanation for the selection of London for the 2012 Games either in the great last speech by Sebastian Coe or the last-minute lobbying by Tony Blair in Singapore (these explanations fail to explain why other speeches by remarkable athletes or lobbying by other high-ranking politicians go unrewarded). I wanted to ask Ian what was in his opinion the key winning argument or the strongest point of the London 2012 bid, but it turned out that he offered it right away in his speech (“won the bid for London”): the sustainable legacy, the tilting of London centre of gravity towards the East (Stratford), the recovery of a deprived area, the cleaning of polluted areas around the river, the effective use of facilities after the Olympics (a project which still runs until 2014). He pointed that in the cases of Sydney and Athens, the legacy had been a failure…

One of the videos he played, “Great Britain delivers” (3’32”):

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Filed under Personal development & HR

¿Cómo le ha ido a España en esta crisis?

Que España está inmersa una crisis seria no es noticia. Como tampoco lo es que algunas personas lo anunciaban antes de que la crisis en sí llegase.

Hace unos días terminé de leer el libro “This Time is Different”, escrito por los economistas Carmen Reinhart y Kenneth Rogoff, en el cuál leí sobre una anécdota que mencioné de la que escribí en este blog. El libro es una mirada exhaustiva a los distintos tipos de crisis financieras durante los últimos ocho siglos, cubriendo impagos de deuda pública, crisis bancarias, periodos de alta inflación, etc.

"This Time is Different", C. Reinhart & K. Rogoff.

En el libro hablan dan una larga lista de indicadores que permitían ver que la última crisis en la que nos encontramos iba a suceder y citan a varios autores que así lo predijeron. Achacan por tanto la crisis a fallos en la regulación y en las políticas que se aplicaron.

Pero no es de eso de lo que quiero hablar. Sumergidos ya en la crisis, ¿cómo son las crisis?

Tras revisar multitud de casos, los autores, investigan los episodios de crisis en economías avanzadas y emergentes antes y después de la Gran Depresión y la Segunda Guerra Mundial.

La caída tras una crisis:

  • La deuda crece en media un +86% (en términos absolutos) durante los 3 años siguientes a una crisis bancaria.

Aumento de la deuda durante las crisis.

  • Caída del precio de la vivienda en media de -35%, y un período de caída medio de 6 años.
  • Bolsa: la bolsa típicamente alcanza un máximo en el año anterior de la crisis y cae durante los siguientes 2-3 años hasta un -56% en media. La recuperación es prácticamente total tres después del año de comienzo de la crisis.

Evolución de la bolsa durante las crisis bancarias.

  • Crecimiento de la renta per cápita real: se ralentiza antes de la crisis, llegando a caer un -9% en el año de la crisis y los dos siguientes, volviendo a recuperarse en el tercer año.
  • Crecimiento medio de la tasa de desempleo durante casi 5 años hasta un +7% mayor en el valle (en el caso de la Gran Depresión, ese porcentaje se elevó al 16%).

¿Y cómo le ha ido a España en esta crisis?

  • La deuda había crecido un +69% desde 2007 hasta finales de 2010.
  • El precio medio de la vivienda según la Sociedad de Tasación ha caído un -18% desde 2007 hasta 2011.
  • El índice Ibex 35 alcanzó su máximo por encima de los 15.800 en otoño de 2007, cayendo un -56% hasta por debajo de 7.000 en marzo de 2009 (1.5 años después). Llegó a estar por encima de 12.000 en 2010, pero todavía hoy, 4 años y medio después de los máximos, no se ha recuperado (~8.600).
  • La renta per cápita ha caído un -4,6% desde finales de 2008 a finales de 2010.
  • La tasa de desempleo a finales de 2007 era de un 8.3%, alcanzando hoy el 22.85%, un aumento de la tasa de +14,5%.

Por desgracia, una crisis de manual, y en cuanto a las cifras de empleo especialmente drástica.


Filed under Economy

A house is no investment

In a previous post I commented that in times of crisis it was much better to have your investment in real assets than in government bonds. I gave the typical examples given by Bestinver managers: real assets being portions of an enterprise (stocks), chairs, and pencils, even houses

While this is true in order to make sure you keep the value of your assets through the crisis period, it is another story when we are talking about investing as in “To commit (money or capital) in order to gain a financial return”. Then I dare to say that buying a house is no investment. When buying a house there are not goods or services produced for others in the hope of a profitable sale; so if someone buys it in the hope of realising some profit that is pure speculation.

After having said this, I wanted to share two graphics from Case-Shiller Home Price Indices for American houses since 1890… In the first graphic you can see that after adjusting for inflation at the end of the 20th century, in absence of crisis and booms the value of a house was nearly the same than 100 years before, merely 10% higher. Why should it be higher if no goods/services are produced? Then you can see the boom that took place in the 2000’s up to mid 2006. That was pure greed and speculation.

Case-Shiller Home Price Indices for American houses, 1890-2006.

In the second graphic you may see the prediction made based on Case-Shiller Home Price Index. The prediction is pretty simple: there is no reason to forecast that homes prices have to stabilise at a higher point than the average of the past 120 years… other way to say that a home does not generate any value (still, it doesn’t destroy value either!).

Case-Shiller Home Price Indices for American houses, 1890-2009 and forecast.


Filed under Economy, Investing