Q&A Jul 24, 2023

Building World-Class Teams to Solve the Greatest Global Program Challenges: A Q&A With Andy Alder

Jacobs Vice President of Major Programs Europe Andy Alder shares his views on leadership, collaboration and major program trends that are shaping the future of program delivery.

Q&A with Andy Alder Jacobs VP, Major Programs - Europe

Andy Alder is our Head of Major Programs Europe and has spent most of his career managing and delivering major programs. He has supported world-class infrastructure projects like Crossrail’s Elizabeth Line, Thames Tideway Tunnel and the Jubilee Line Extension in London, and the Kuala Lumpur Metro in Malaysia. He is a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), Fellow of the Association for Project Management, Co-Chair of the ICE’s Productivity Advisory Group, Chair of the ICE Audit Committee and an Honorary Professor of Practice at The Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction UCL. 

Andy shares the trends shaping the future of program delivery, the power of diverse, multi-skilled teams and his leadership lessons:

How is your work helping solve client challenges and unlock social value? 

As a purpose-led company, we know we have a pivotal role to play in addressing the climate emergency and caring for our planet, and I’m passionate about being able to make a positive impact. On Tideway, that’s contributing to creating a cleaner, healthier River Thames and a legacy of high-quality community spaces in the areas we’re working in. The Tideway Tunnel will prevent 50 million tons of sewage from entering the Thames every year, serving an incredible purpose. It’s fascinating from an engineering and construction perspective, and I have had the privilege to lead and work with a truly world-class team. Those three elements combined make it a brilliant program to work on. 

With the Elizabeth Line, the purpose was to tackle traffic congestion on the public transport network, connect communities and offer sustainable transport solutions. With Anglian Water, it’s about ensuring water supply to communities and reducing the environmental impact on water sources. Having a clear purpose, aligned with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, really serves to inspire and motivate our people and teams.

What’s one of the biggest leadership lessons you’ve learned? 

I love working with great teams, and my work on major programs has allowed me to experience a wealth of diverse teams. That includes diversity from a cultural perspective but also teams that bring together different specialties, disciplines and expertise to produce a better solution collaboratively than what we would have achieved individually.

Bringing experienced people together with graduates and apprentices to transfer knowledge and watch people's careers grow is gratifying, and together everyone benefits from new ideas alongside experienced thinking. Seeing people grow in their roles, take on greater responsibilities and develop their careers to amplify the value we provide to society is very rewarding.

How do you build a successful culture from new in every program?

It all starts with recognizing that building the right culture is a critical leadership action that we need to put deliberate effort into. At the start of our program, we’ll have rich discussions and workshops with our teams about what type of team we want to be, what’s important to us, the values we want to hold and how we want to work together. Typically, this goes into a charter where we all clearly communicate and agree on what our culture should look and feel like. Then comes the crucial responsibilities: living this charter daily, constantly reminding ourselves, being role models and having the courage to intervene when we deviate from our aspirations and collectively keeping ourselves aligned with them. To do this as a leader, you must be visible, committed, open to feedback and enjoy engaging with people.

What are some key insights from your major program experience? 

You must intricately understand the problem you’re trying to solve by probing the challenge and analyzing it from different perspectives. That allows us clarity around the solution and to be absolutely sure it will deliver the required outcomes. Crucially, the outcomes also need to consider the breadth of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals and the specific technical project requirements.

Establishing a collaborative culture and ensuring the whole team is aligned with the outcomes is also vital. Collaborating with stakeholders, gathering diverse perspectives, and using these perspectives as a guide for refining solutions helps ensure that teams are aligned. Getting the commercial arrangements aligned with the project objectives so that all organizations are working together effectively is critical.

It’s essential to create a positive environment where all team members can bring and present their ideas, anyone can safely challenge any part of the plan and everyone can flourish. We’re all constantly learning, and that’s how you get the best out of the team.

Most importantly, look after the health, safety and well-being of your team, client and the public. Programs only get delivered by great people working together, and we need to do our very best to look after, empower and support them. Ensure that you’re delivering to the highest standards, and you’ll leave a legacy that everyone can be proud of.

“Major programs are essential to tackle the effects of climate change and make us more resilient and move us toward a net-zero future. ”

Andy Alder

Andy Alder

Jacobs Vice President, Major Programs - Europe

What program are you most proud of regarding social value, and why?

From a social value perspective, I’m really pleased with what we’re achieving on Tideway. This covers a range of things, from the environmental benefit of tackling sewage pollution in the River Thames to investing in creating new quality public spaces at the worksites where we built the shafts to connect the sewer network to the new tunnel. During the delivery phase, Tideway worked hard to support several local partners and charities, and these included some excellent volunteering and fundraising opportunities like cleaning up the river foreshore, cycling from the source of the Thames back to London and rowing the length of the Tideway route along the Thames. There were also many opportunities taken to provide employment and career development opportunities for people in the whole team and the local communities, helping to create a vast legacy for future major program delivery. It’s a project I’m really proud of.

What are some key trends you see influencing the shape of future major program delivery?

Climate change is the biggest challenge facing us all, and major programs are at the center of addressing that. Major programs are essential to tackle the effects of climate change and make us more resilient and move us toward a net-zero future. 

Alongside this, many major programs will be necessary for society’s needs, delivering vital services or infrastructure, and these must be delivered in a way that recognizes their potential impact on the environment. Embedding sustainability into programs, constantly working to ensure that designs are more efficient, selecting the best materials and minimizing waste are all critical. 

We need to look carefully at how we work and be more efficient and productive with our finite resources, whether material, human or financial. We need to think about what we need to build and whether we can achieve the desired outcomes by building less and using existing assets and systems in a smarter and more integrated way. 

We will still need to build things, and when we do, we must use modern methods of construction, and make sure we plan, procure, design, construct and operate in a way that's incredibly efficient. Offsite or near-site manufacturing and thinking about the overall supply chain and logistics enables efficiencies and assures quality with repeatable and standardized approaches, and we need to embed this more.

Essentially, the two key influencers shaping the future are sustainability and productivity. Modern methods of construction, integrated teams and collaborative procurement can enable both of those by allowing us to do more with less and in a way that minimizes environmental damage. 

What are your top three most memorable moments working in Major Programs?

Many years ago, I was involved in the Docklands Light Railway program, where we designed the new rail extension from Canning Town to London City Airport. I managed the engineering from concept design through to construction and commissioning, and our team was on board the first train that ran along the new line — that was a fantastic experience. 

With the Elizabeth Line, a big milestone was the start of the tunneling. There was extensive planning and preparation to ensure stakeholders across London were communicated with and ready for the start of construction. We were preparing to tunnel near London Underground lines, water mains, gas mains, sewers, underneath listed buildings and some of Europe’s most expensive real estate. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Shortly before we launched the tunneling machines, we held a Family Day on-site when family members could come along to see the tunnel boring machines turning. Bringing my wife and children along and seeing other families experience that was an amazing moment. 

Leading a program of the scale and complexity of work in Tideway, right in the heart of London, has been amazing. I’ve had the privilege of working with brilliant teams aligned with the purpose of cleaning the River Thames and reconnecting London with the River. 

I’m also really proud of the people I work with and take great joy in watching their careers grow and flourish. 

What do you love most about your job and working here at Jacobs?

I enjoy the breadth and variety of the work we are involved in and the value we can contribute to society through the programs we’re involved with.

I really value our approach to inclusivity where everyone can prosper, develop and enjoy themselves. Our focus on health, safety and wellbeing, sustainability and doing the right thing is also something I’m proud of. 

All about Andy

  • 30

    years working for Jacobs

  • 25

    kilometers - the length of the Tideway tunnel

  • 4

    continents worked across on major programs

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