2018 CWG: More lessons for Lanka

Sunday, 31 October 2010 23:37 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

A RESPECTED marketer in a ‘My View – Left, Right and Centre’ article titled ‘2018 Commonwealth Games in Sri Lanka?’ published in the Daily FT of 26 October 2010 described the “positive” vibes he experienced, seeing Sri Lanka planning for events as far away as 10 years from now.

He placed a value emphasis on the leadership action of “thinking big” and in developing a visionary community to make that big idea a reality. The writer went on to dwell at length on ‘Lessons from previous games,’ the subtitle of the article, and referred to the following:

Lessons 1: Why? The investment must be a part of the bigger agenda of developing Hambantota as a commercial hub of South Asia.

Lesson 2: Bigger picture – At the drawing board stage, draw up a master plan and agree on the key steps required in developing the essential infrastructure of Hambantota (this he estimates may cost the country US$ 4-6 billion; and raises the question whether Sri Lanka can afford it).

Lesson 3: The world is watching – Sri Lanka must be ready by 2016 with all its venues including Athletes Village before the press comes and attempt to get a boost to cover costs as much as possible.

Lesson 4: Bidding cost – Recognising that the first hurdle is to win the bid, Sri Lanka must be ready bear bidding associated costs of hosting, incentivising member nations to cast a vote in favour of Sri Lanka, and to correct any adverse perceptions and give the country an image it actually deserves.

Lesson 5: Get a Modi – Sri Lanka must get a Lalith Modi (actually recommended is a high-powered team) to drive the project with ruthless passion and commitment like driving a business entity working on corporate ethics, with statutory responsibility and accountability.

Lesson 6: Private-public partnership – Recognising the lessons from IIFA Awards and noting that ARs and FRs restrict flexibility, a private public partnership is recommended as the operating business structure and governance model.

Lesson 7: Mother Nature – Sri Lanka must be ready for any eventuality that Mother Nature will unleash.

Before the week is over, the President appears to have positively responded to the suggestions of the marketer in identifying lessons referred to above and:

  • Appointed a special committee to handle the organising aspects of the 2018 Commonwealth Games
  • Defined the new committee’s initial tasks as to win the bid
  • Suggested that the strategy of organising the games be under the ‘green concept’ to be leveraged in successfully winning the bid
  • Advised the committee to host the games in a manner which projects Sri Lanka’s new image
  • Entrusted the committee to build the required infrastructure
  • Asked that a talent search amongst underprivileged rural youngsters be a strategy in developing medal winning sports persons

It is hoped that the marketer in his next article will evaluate and critique how satisfied he is with the outcomes as reported above in addressing the seven lessons identified, including his opinion on the ‘profile best fit’ of the selected Lalith Modi Team for the tasks ahead, as well as on the likely operating structure of a committee driving this project.

 As a professional with business management expertise and experience, I am sure the respected marketer will be willing to expand his list of lessons in management by the inclusion of the following as well:

Lesson 8: Top line pre commitment/investment report and reaffirm “go ahead” signal – At this stage, even though Sri Lanka has already submitted its bid, a comprehensive pre commitment/investment report benchmarked to international best practices and formats be prepared showing objectives, project plans, best estimates of spends and revenue, resource requirements, expected cost benefits, risks, sensitivities and a top line national impact assessment.

This report to be reviewed by the committee with the President and the “go ahead with the bid” signal be reaffirmed, especially reviewing the level of priority of the project over other national and people’s priority needs, the sources of planned resource mobilisation, impact on debt service/cash flows, impact on national borrowings for other priorities (including the national debt rating) and the consequential long term national impact assessment.

Lesson 9: Inform Parliament – Parliament as the institution responsible for public finance allocation and control be kept duly informed immediately once lesson 8 is completed and also at each successive key commitment stage and be provided with necessary financial and other information relating to the project, risks, rationale for the project priority, the sources of planned resource mobilisation, impact on debt service/cash flows and the national impact assessments, etc.

It may be best that a Parliamentary subcommittee be established initially to validate the affordability, desirability, cost effectiveness, national impact assessment and risks (including any national credibility and reputation risks as well as risks of incentivising and hosting in a manner that might be deemed to be internationally unacceptable)

Lesson 10: Early warning note system – Establish an early warning system of assessing all emerging risks, key variations and control issues and communicate to all the executive leadership, key personnel, networked persons and institutions, along with the expected impact assessments and consequential management/mitigation actions.

Lesson 11: Post audit of IIFA Awards – A comprehensive post audit benchmarked to international best practices and scope be carried out and the lessons learnt to drive strategy, planning processes, implementation action plans and risk management of the commonwealth games be developed.

Lesson 12: Organisation and delegation/limits of authority, project coordination, advisory and overview support – Develop the core organisation structure, management structure and operational structure, with applicable responsibilities, accountability and delegated powers and clearly define limits of authority. A methodology and personnel to be engaged in project coordination and key decision making as well as regular project overview needs to be agreed. In addition, special advisory teams for different specialised technical, legal support and international coordination needs to be established.

Lesson 13: Detailed project plan – A comprehensive project plan benchmarked to international best practices and formats be prepared, sub divided the different stages of pre bid, bid , immediate planning phase post successful bid , infrastructure development phase, games, post games, indicating resource allocations, costs/revenue, cash flows, actions plans, environmental sustainability issues management, time plans, etc.

Lesson 14: Marketing, branding, credibility and resource mobilisation – A comprehensive plan to cover all issues connected with marketing, branding, public image, credibility management and resource mobilisation be developed, supported by necessary market research and public perception assessments made locally and internationally.

Lesson 15: Project management – Development of an economy, efficiency and effectiveness optimisation project management plan with necessary and supportive management tools including software and management information systems.

Lesson 16: Create a dashboard – Create a dashboard accessible by persons at different levels of authority of high level/mid level and full information of project progress status information package, using colour signals indicative of the level of assessed completion within assessed costs and to estimated time targets.

Lesson 17: Risk management and mitigation – A comprehensive risk s (including physical, financial , reputational risks) identification, management and mitigation plan for each of the stages of pre bid, bid, immediate planning phase post successful bid, infrastructure development phase, games and post games be developed and be publicly subjected to intellectual debate.

Lesson 18: A comprehensive national impact assessment – A comprehensive long term national economic, social and environmental assessment benchmarked to international best practices and formats be prepared.

Lesson 19: Transparency and intellectual public debate – A process to encompass as a part of effective management a methodology of publicly sharing information and engaging stakeholders in a continuing dialogue and intellectual public debate must be a committed part of the project management accountability.

Lesson 20: Corporate/international affairs and public relations – A team with capability of shouldering the responsibilities of corporate affairs, international relations and public relations and positively engaging with and managing the media, lobbyists, concerned citizens and civil society must be in place.

It is the fervent hope that the marketer will sharpen these lessons, make them more comprehensive, address the chosen team and engage with them in a positive spirit, recognising the potential positive impacts of success of this project as well as the possible downsides of failure from the long term national economic, social and economic standpoint.

(The writer is a former Chairman of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.)

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