“Hard Things are Hard”

By Dan Middlemiss, 1 February 2024

Ian Mack has just published another very interesting analysis of complex procurement projects.[1] Mr. Mack brings his years of experience to bear on providing useful lessons gleaned from large-scale procurement projects around the world.

Forum members will be particularly drawn to his concluding observations on the lessons that these global procurement undertakings might have for Canada’s National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSS) and for the various shipbuilding projects currently underway, and also for those that may follow (see, pp. 9-12).

Without going into detail, because his study is well worth your perusal, these lessons cover the following issues:

•     delays in ship delivery against initial forecasts;

•     in the early days of the shipbuilding projects under NSS, the detrimental impact of the lack of leaders in government with lived shipbuilding experience;

•     the importance of hiring Master Builders;

•     shipbuilders around the world have been experimenting in their planning since 2000 so as to speed up execution and save on costs;

•     designers have used prioritized requirements documents, complete with both ‘fit for but not with’ and requirement jettison lists, to satisfy project schedule and cost targets; and

•     “In terms of initial forecasts, very sophisticated ship models of all kinds exist and Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Office uses them regularly. They do require basic ship parameters as inputs, but ranges of possibilities can be generated when in doubt to allow better informed initial ship estimates. Although such a model may have been just as available in DND during my tenure, its use for generating cost estimates within the financial group was not apparent to me.” (p. 11)

“In terms of ITBs, the approach in the RFP could move closer to the method Australia uses in its Hunter-class project, such that any Canadian offsets chosen by bidders were not to be offered in bids or risk jettison if/when they could cause schedule delays or jeopardize performance.” (p. 11)

There are many worthy ideas to consider in this short study.


[1]. Ian Mack, “Hard Things Are Hard: Lessons for Complex Procurement Projects,” Canadian Global Affairs Institute, February 2024 [Accessed at: https://www.cgai.ca/hard_things_are_hard_lessons_for_complex_procurement_projects]


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