David brings decades of experience leading capital investment and digital transformation projects. He was awarded a CBE for services to transport in London and was the President of the Association of Project Management from 2015 to 2019. Until March 2019 he was Managing Director, Digital Railway at Network Rail and prior to that was Capital Programmes Director at London Underground where he led the largest upgrade in the tube’s history
What challenge did you tackle and overcome in your business this week?
The businesses I work for as a non-executive director/adviser have all had to adapt very quickly (and successfully) to different ways of working whilst continuing to operate, and it’s been amazing to be part of this. For example, at Thames Water we had 3,500 colleagues, including call centre staff, working from home within 3 weeks! I’m sure we’ll all look back and see this as the start of big changes in working practices, for example in how we communicate. The tech available now means things are possible that wouldn’t have been ten years ago.
Which ongoing business challenge is occupying your thoughts this week/month?
Covid is on the top of everyone’s agenda right now, with a primary focus of course on safety of staff and customers. But whilst this is an acute (and incredibly sad) crisis it will also have long term implications and it’s important we start to think how we might adapt to these, with some being obvious now and some yet to emerge. For example, will there be an increasing business case to look at automation in certain areas, to limit the risks to human beings delivering critical services in any future pandemics? And hopefully we all realise that increasing UK content through growing our manufacturing capability is now critical
Best thing about working from home/remotely?
Time to do some yoga and exercise in the morning and share a walk with my wife. Also, my son is locked down with us so it’s been a real opportunity to spend more time together and I’ve also been able to connect lots with my two daughters (and grandchildren) who no longer live at home
Worst thing about working from home/remotely?
My guitars are in my study and it’s often too tempting to pick one up rather than crack on with reading huge board packs. I have to be disciplined!
What is the most significant change to the way you work as a consequence of the lockdown?
As well as the different ways of communicating I talked about earlier, it’s been important to reach out to colleagues to see how they are feeling emotionally as I know for many people this has been quite a frightening time. Doing more of this – supporting existing and former colleagues’ well-being is something I intend to continue to do
What changes are you most likely to keep and what will you definitely not continue, post lockdown?
Avoiding unnecessary travel to meetings when you can quite easily connect remotely is something that has become a necessity and it will also have a positive impact on the environment. We need to consider how we embed these and other efficiencies into BAU. Although I try to limit how much news I consume I do think I’m maxed out on watching and listening to it so I’ll give that a rest for a while!
Who or what has inspired you this week? (They don’t need to be famous)
It’s not hard to look for inspiration in the current environment with the superb efforts of our health service and I have lots of family on the front line as health professionals so their bravery and dedication to service totally inspires me. Also the fact our critical infrastructure has been kept going during this crisis is a fantastic achievement and I give huge credit to the frontline workers keeping the taps running, the electricity on, critical projects going, the broadband going, the streets and railways open and so on.
Best programme/film you watched on TV/streaming this week?
My wife is a big Michelle Obama fan so we watched “Becoming” on Netflix and I found that awesome
Are you doing more or less exercise than a typical week when you commute and if more, what?
We moved house in February and we’re lucky enough to have a large garden so it’s been a real opportunity to get grips with it and burn loads of calories. I also try and hit my exercise bike at least twice a week which is easier when you’re not commuting regularly
What are you consuming more of (that you should not be) now you are not in an office environment?
I’ve had a bread-maker for ages but find I’m using it far more now and I’ve got practiced at making different mixes of bread and if you set the timer you wake up to the sweet aroma of baked bread and it’s irresistible first thing!
Any words of wisdom?
Those huge risks that seem highly improbable (but are hugely impactful) may actually happen one day – are we really prepared across all fronts?