Rambutan steps up to help Abellio win the Greater Anglia rail franchise

by Sarah

The challenge

Imagine this: you want to bid for a rail franchise and you need to write a 600-page document for the Department for Transport (DfT) which meets the specification exactly and sells your business as the one to bring improvements and value for money.

What you put into your bid document will become part of the franchise agreement if you win, meaning that if you win the bid but fail to deliver then you’ll be financially penalised.

Then add to this mix the fact that you’ll have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make sure your rail services for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games run perfectly, with the eyes of the world judging you.

Finally, the franchise will only last for 29 months, which gives you a limited time span to make your mark and maximise your chances of winning the following 15-year long franchise.

It became clear some of the team had worked together on a previous bid where they’d experienced long hours and conflict within the team and had lost the franchise. With the post-bid survey revealing a 22% satisfaction score, the Rambutans realised this team needed some really focused, effective support.

The upshot was a decision to take a ‘pincer movement’ approach: David would focus on team building, culture, and effective leadership whilst Sarah would focus on increasing the capability of the team by taking the role of ‘writers’ coach’.

The solution

 After David and Sarah received the call from Ruud Haket, Bid Director, they immediately sprang into action by setting up a meeting with the entire bid leadership team.

During the meeting, everyone had an opportunity to explain what they needed, how they could all work together and how they could be most effective. Here’s a little bit of what we did with the team:

dissected the previous failure by everyone sharing their view of how and why they thought it went wrong

• agreed bid-specific behaviours based on Abellio’s values, and gave feedback to anyone living and not living them

• ran team and leadership development events and one-to-one coaching

• agreed, with the help of Olympic gold medallist Ben Hunt-Davis, the mantra of ‘will it help us win the bid’. This was applied to everything the team did and the decisions it made e.g.: If we have a team curry tonight – will it help us win the bid? Will leadership coaching help us win the bid? If we have a ‘day off’ will it help us win the bid?

• developed a bid writing style guide to achieve consistency across all 15 writers

• gave one-to-one writing coaching to make sure the document was written in an engaging and thorough style from the word go

• agreed a method of giving the DfT feedback so that issues and queries could be quickly sorted out

• adopted a mindset of the bid being viewed as a technical sales tool rather than simply a technical document.

The result

Abellio won the GA franchise by a country mile; the bid team had a great time (no, really… in the post-bid survey, the satisfaction score moved from 22% to 97%) and the bid was finished well before the DfT deadline. The bid director has now been appointed Managing Director of GA and David and Sarah have an amazing story to tell.You don’t have to take our word for how successful the team was, because here are a few comments from the Abellio team:

• “This is the best written bid ever.”
• “This bid won by the biggest margin ever.”
• “Rambutan helped us win and win well.”

Want to know more?

Abellio are part of a transport group that also operates the successful Northern Rail franchise and Merseyrail concession (both in joint ventures with Serco), and bus services in London and Surrey. It’s owned by ‘NS’ in the Netherlands, who operate the rail services, stations and facilities on much of the Dutch network and believed they were well placed to bring real improvements to the Greater Anglia (GA) franchise and deliver successful rail transport arrangements for the 2012 Games

Well Abellio started by making sure every single one of the bid team members were:

focused on a common goal of winning the franchise

led efficiently and effectively

communicating effectively, both amongst the team and in the way they wrote their bid document

What Ruud said…

“The leadership team for the Greater Anglia bid are really grateful for the help and support the Rambutan team gave us during the production of our winning submission. By guiding us in the process to define the rallying cry of ‘Will it help us win the bid?’ we were able to give and receive feedback across the team and monitor the extent to which our behaviours were contributing towards this shared goal. They also played a crucial coaching role to bid writers to ensure consistency in the style and tone of the documents produced for the decision-makers at the Department for Transport. The Rambutans were a great asset to our bid team and played an important part in us winning the Greater Anglia franchise.”

Ruud Haket, Managing Director

David and Sarah love to talk about their work with Abellio and if you’d like to hear more give one of them a call on 01858 461071. Make sure you have plenty of time though, because they really do like to talk about it!