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Gold winner

Employer: Sir Robert McAlpine

Project: The Sherwood, London

Eugene McCormick’s technical knowledge and collaborative management style were instrumental in turning around a project that risked running well over budget and beyond programme.

Despite joining partway through, he provided the team with clear direction to recover this scheme to convert an eight-storey hostel into residential units. On an exceptionally technically challenging project, with a complex contractual situation, he brought the whole team together to finish on time and on budget for a valued client.

Brought into the project to provide two weeks of leadership to a young team while the project manager was on leave, Eugene McCormick found that this scheme to convert an eight-storey hostel into residential units suffered from a team that had lost focus. As a result, it risked running well over budget and beyond programme, potentially causing significant financial problems for a valued client.

Setting about establishing what was wrong, and what needed to change, he soon discovered that the client thought the main contractor should be doing more, the trade contractors were demotivated, there was an overly ambitious view of what could be achieved, and the project plan was not clearly defined. After gaining the client’s trust by showing he had both the solutions to the problems and the drive to make them work, he was asked to remain in charge and complete the project. With his two-week honeymoon over, the real task of turning the project around began.

Eugene identified significant scope gaps between the appointments of the professional team, including his own. He changed the behaviour of his team by giving leadership and direction, increasing its size and changing some members. He then persuaded the client to give him the go-ahead to lead a collaborative production of a clear, mutually agreed plan. The contracts were realigned to eliminate the scope gaps, the budget was reset, and a new programme drawn up, enabling the whole project team to move forward, achieving handover before the client’s immovable long-stop completion date.

Access was a bed of nails. The building was surrounded by busy streets and businesses, including a theatre and restaurants, and had a live gym occupying the bottom three levels of the building and no internal corridors. Eugene made the installation of atrium bridges inside the building the key to his programme, both to improve logistics and to release the atrium works and apartment fit-out.

However, after having to replace more of the beams around the perimeter of the atrium than originally intended, he was faced with a rapidly approaching embargo on road closures for the crane needed to install the bridges and no prospect of making time up by out-of-hours working because the neighbours had to be accommodated. With missing the bridge installation date risking a four-month delay to the project, Eugene found the answer in the engineering – simplifying the bridge connection design so that more work could be done off site and resequencing the beam replacement works.

It’s just one example of how he created an environment in which every opportunity for saving money and time could be scrutinised. The innovative culture he championed included complex scaffold designs, the optimisation of the sequence of structural alterations, and the virtual modelling of key interfaces. Combined with the collaborative culture he drove, the project hit all its budget, programme and quality objectives.