Infrastructure Construction

Client: Highways England

Assignment: Highways Construction, Maintenance & Operation

Highways Construction, Maintenance & Operation

The Problem

Deploying Lean Methodologies & Tools, including Coaching & Mentoring

Bourton Group provided consultancy advice on the design of structural and operational changes within Highways England to enable it to better deliver its organisational strategy, policy, purpose and objectives. Highways England, which itself employs 3000 people, and the broader ‘highways community’ is a multi-stakeholder and cash-constrained environment with very high levels of scrutiny and governance. This assignment was to create a strategy for the deployment of Lean throughout the Agency and its Supply Chain. This was a significant assignment in terms of both importance and scale as it set out how the Agency will implement Lean in one of the UK’s major construction and infrastructure sectors.

This Lean Deployment Strategy set clear objectives, both for the immediate future and the longer-term as follows:

  • Delivery of increased Value for Money (VFM) to road users
  • Time compression to enable major schemes and other key HE processes to be delivered faster
  • Realisation of tangible and auditable benefits in terms of cost, quality, and delivery
  • Delivery of capability across the Highways community
  • Delivery of measurable efficiency improvements
  • Significant cultural shift towards continuous improvement
  • Development of an industry standard for Lean Construction
  • Generation of a talent pipeline
  • Evolution of the Agency to become a more agile and responsive organisation

In order to meet these objectives, we developed a strategic approach to drive organisational change covering the structure and role requirements, performance management and culture at organisation, team and individual capability levels. We also set out a comprehensive program to build organisational effectiveness through engaging with and building staff capability – both inside the HE and within the supply chain.

The Solution

Getting Started

  • Program set-up and mobilisation through the creation of the HE Lean Division
  • Senior management and key stakeholder engagement
  • Development of strategic plans for both Supply Chain and Internal Lean deployment
  • Diagnostic and scoping of areas to focus for improvement
  • Awareness Raising of Lean within the HE and its supply chain

Building Capability

A program of development for leaders, teams, and individuals to enable them to understand the concepts, language, tools, and techniques of Lean and their role in the change was developed. This has provided a  common skill set and capability development model now being used across the industry – see figure below:


  • Roles and responsibilities were developed for members of the deployment team and for the wider improvement community, embedded in Personal Development Plans
  • We provided training, development, and ongoing support for members of the HE community (internal and supply chain team members) within the programme described earlier
  • Developed a skills transfer approach aimed at increasing the capability of the HE’s Lean Division to deliver training and support themselves

Creating an Improvement Engine by generating a range of improvement activities to solve the problems encountered within the industry and providing hands-on support as follows:

  • Bottom-up, work team based improvements involving creating daily work team meetings, visual management, collaborative planning, and basic problem solving
  • Lean Sigma project interventions to resolve end to end process problems that often cross-functional boundaries
  • Blitz activities to resolve known problem areas by concerted efforts over a short timescale
  • Use of Lean Collaborative Planning within Construction and Maintenance schemes
  • Top-down, strategic change issues that require dedicated central teams for major step change programs

Support the HE in Managing the Success of the Lean Deployment Programme by:

  • Program Governance and Management through a framework of weekly, monthly, and quarterly reviews; dedicated Programme Management support; A3 based reporting and external auditing of benefits
  • Development and maintenance of a Benefits Capture Model that records all major improvement activities
  • Development and deployment of a Lean Maturity assessment approach that allows the Agency to monitor the progress each of its key supply chain partners are making on their Lean Journey. HALMAT (Highways England Lean Maturity Assessment Tool) is proving to be a significant driver for the Supply Chain
  • The provision of Coaching in Lean and Lean Leadership for Senior Managers in both Supply Chain partners as well as The HE itself as a means of overcoming implementation constraints and issues

Bourton Group’s support has continued through into implementation and support for the delivery of significant bottom line benefits. Much of our work has been within complex and varying networks of multiple stakeholders including other consultancies, major contractors, various supply chain partners and the HE itself. It has not been unusual, when providing Lean deployment support to a major contract, for us to work alongside 4 or 5 partners, successfully coordinating their drive for improvement.


The Benefits

Joint efficiencies of over £80m have been shared with the Supply Chain since the programme commenced. These have been realised at a benefit to cost ratio often better than 30:1.

In order to achieve, support, and sustain this, approximately 150 Lean Practitioners have been trained – a combination of internal HE staff and supply chain partners.

The Lean deployment approach, training methodology, and specific tools and techniques have had an industry-wide impact with Lean practices, such as Collaborative Planning and the use of Continuous Improvement Cells have become standard practice on all Highways Schemes.

In addition, internally within the HE, we are on track to hit the following improvement targets:

  • An additional £2.5million cost savings from within the HE itself
  • 72,000 hours of HE internal productivity savings realised
  • To have trained sufficient internal resource to sustain the programme (e.g. 5% of employees trained to Lean Practitioner level)

Download Case Study in PDF Format

Download Case Study

What Highways England said about us

“On behalf of Highways England Lean Division, I would like to convey to you my thanks and appreciation for your efforts in supporting our Lean deployment programme. As you are aware we were faced with quite a challenge in regard to providing an increased level of support to our programme of projects (including MACs) and this ultimately demanded a high degree of flexibility from yourselves, as our specialist suppliers.

I am very pleased to report that we have delivered in year spend to target and more importantly we are realising value from this investment.  We are presently on target to deliver on our commitment made to The Secretary of State with regard to achieving a return on investment of at least 20:1. This has been another very successful year for HE Lean division and our support suppliers.

Collectively, we have again demonstrated the benefits of Lean deployment and I am optimistic that our requests for continued funding will receive a positive response.  I will keep you informed of how this progresses and indeed how we plan to manage future lean deployment support both to Major Projects, MACs, and internally at the Agency.”

Want to know more about our Infrastructure work?

Bourton Group scoop award for performance improvement.

Paul Doney Technical Manager, Lean Division Network Services