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Delivering a programme the Olympic way

Delivering a programme the Olympic way


In 2012 London hosted the Olympic and Paralympic Games where over ten thousand athletes from 204 nations competed for over four thousand medals. This was perceived by many to be the most successful Games in history.

It was the culmination of a nine year programme costing £9.3 billion and involving thousands of staff, contractors and volunteers. As an example of how to deliver a complex programme to time and budget through exceptional leadership, extraordinary levels of commitment, passion, imagination, tenacity, tight governance and outstanding collaboration, it is a true inspiration.

Through our relationship with Lord (Chris) Holmes and our association with UK Sport Ignite have been able to explore exactly how this programme achieved what it did, and crucially how these same ingredients of success can be applied to other situations and environments outside of the world of elite sport. Outlined below is a summary of these key ingredients.

The critical ingredients of success

  1. High performing teams – every team working in support of the programme embraced the same key ingredients of a high performing team as those exemplified in the rowing, cycling and sailing teams that would ultimately compete in the Games.
  2. Strong and decisive leadership throughout – having strong leadership throughout, ranging from Lord Coe’s inspirational leadership at the top right through to empowered and imaginative leadership displayed by Games Makers in the day to day execution of the Games
  3. A winning mentality, high energy, and a real sense of urgency – taking inspiration from the elite athletes on how to ensure that everyone in the programme thought and acted as winners and retained high energy and where necessary a sense of urgency over a nine year period
  4. A compelling brand & cause – having a brand and cause for the programme that ensured that everyone felt a real sense of pride to be a part of
  5. Creative problem solving/ resourcefulness – having the skills and mentality to continuously explore innovative and resourceful solutions to the challenges the programme face.

    6. Optimum blend of skills & experience – having exactly the right skills and experience in every area of the programme to ensure they were not needlessly ‘learning on the job’

    7. Inspirational working environment – having a working environment that connected people to what they were there to achieve and inspired them to do the best work of their lives
  6. Clear and compelling vision of the future – bringing to life what success would look like such that everyone was excited about what could be achieved but also clear about where they could contribute towards delivering this vision
  7. Stretching and imaginative implementation plan – having a plan that was mind-boggling in its levels of complexity but nevertheless was totally clear about the critical path and was built to ensure that nothing got in the way of delivering against it
  8. Strong and effective governance – not allowing any siloes to emerge and ensuring that the right decisions are made by the right people at the right time and that the focus was always on the right things
  9. Insightful and inspirational performance management – establishing a clear sense as to what ‘gold standard’ performance would need to look like across the programme and then establishing the culture and mentality where everyone aspired to achieve and sustain this
  10. Proactive and effective change management – ensuring that the human elements of he programme were never neglected through enabling every person to be able to operate at the peak of their potential once the Games were launched
  11. High impact communications and engagement – capturing the imagination of the whole country through innovative and inspirational communications and engagement tactics that established a real connection with all those impacted by the Games
  12. High impact approach – having an imaginative and high impact approach for designing, developing and delivering each aspect of the Games to ensure that each aspect was as good as it possibly could be but also that everything fitted together in a cohesive and seamless way
  13. Strong and effective partnerships – building and sustaining highly effective partnership arrangements with those people and organisation that could contribute to ensuring it was the greatest Games ever


London 2012 could and should be a benchmark in how to deliver complex and innovative programmes in a way that ensures they deliver way beyond the original brief and both to time and budget.

Ignite have developed a framework that provides visibility as to how a programme can embrace the same principles that made those Games such an extraordinarily success, based upon the above key areas.

For more details contact Ignite at