In the world of interim management, there are individuals who have a knack for turning even the most complex undertakings into success stories.
Building a bakery from the ground up is no mean feat. It requires meticulous planning, adept coordination, and the ability to navigate unforeseen challenges. Diane Calvert has over 17 years of experience in project management and we interviewed her about her recent interim project management experience with CH Guenther, a global food manufacturer. The assignment was arranged by Steve Rutherford, Valtus Partner UK&I.
Diane shares invaluable insights on how she successfully navigated the challenges brought about by Covid and the war in Ukraine, to build a bakery from bare ground to the first baked bun, in record time and on budget.
The right interim manager with the right experience
Diane’s background in project management is impressive. Prior to her role at CH Guenther, she was part of a team at Meggitt, the leading aerospace company, where they undertook the task of managing the construction and fit-out of a bespoke headquarters spanning a colossal 495,000 square feet.
She has worked with other prominent organisations, leaders in their fields, such as National Grid, NFUM, Severn Trent, and YHA. She also served as the CEO of two national charities, which provided her with invaluable experience in governance, procedures, management, planning, and organisational change… and she was going to need all of that in this role.
What made the role at CH Guenther particularly appealing to Diane was the opportunity to take the lead in a multifaceted project. As she explains,
It was me taking the lead, which encompassed dealing with the legals, the build, the landlord, the contractors, ordering all of the equipment, and managing shipments, as well as the installation of highly complex equipment within the bakery.”
Initiating the project
Starting a project of this magnitude comes with its unique set of challenges. Securing the lease topped the list of priorities, followed by liaison with the landlord’s team of contractors responsible for the base build ‘warehouse,’ and the subsequent involvement of fit-out contractors and engineers tasked with building and installing the bakery equipment.
At the outset, there was minimal governance in place, necessitating the establishment of proper governance and reporting processes. Only two weeks into her role, the kick-off meeting was held, under Covid, heeding all the restrictions and was about how to navigate the challenges of the project, from design through build and installation, then on to operational excellence.
The art of project management
A carefully managed plan was essential for balancing short-term deliverables with long-term objectives. Diane emphasises the importance of a well-structured plan, along with regular reviews involving all stakeholders to ensure progress remained on track.
Effective stakeholder management is paramount in such projects. Diane’s portfolio of stakeholders included the Global CEO and Global leadership team, with whom she met fortnightly to provide updates on progress and address issues. Internally, she worked closely with the UK CEO, the leadership team, and workstream leads, ensuring seamless communication and swift responses to challenges.
Escalating steel prices following the pandemic required meticulous financial tracking and the implementation of a Change Control process to manage unanticipated expenses.
The delivery of crucial equipment (oven, proofer, conveyors, and cooling tower) from the USA hit a roadblock with a port strike in the UK, prompting some quick thinking and rerouting.
The First Shipping Containers
Building the ovens
One of the most epic challenges was the winter delivery of three gigantic silos from Germany. The dramatic journey involved oversized wagons, escort vehicles, and even police escorts in certain countries. All of this while battling snow, ice, and high winds.
The first buns
As a rollercoaster ride, the project had plenty of highs. Diane’s personal high point was witnessing the team working together like a well-oiled machine and achieving the fastest-built bakery for Guenther. And the grand finale? Seeing the first bun emerge from the oven.
The First Buns
Upon project completion, Diane received highly commendable feedback from the CEOs, both Global and UK, and the Senior Leadership Team. The project had been managed successfully, in record time, and within budget.
In reflecting on the project, Diane enthusiastically concludes,
Diane in Bakery Whites
“This has been the best project I’ve ever worked on. We did it! We had a great team of engineering experts who needed a bit of organising, but were the best in class.”
Her journey with CH Guenther demonstrates that even the most complex projects can be brought to fruition with the right approach and expertise… and the right project manager.
Diane on Inauguration Day