Project management, organisation and communication highest priority for MAX IV beamline programme

The Board of MAX IV Laboratory has now presented a number of actions in connection with the Swedish Research Council’s review and recommendations regarding the MAX IV beamline programme.

“We have a lot of work in front of us, but now we see a clear path for the work forward,” says MAX IV’s chairman, Marianne Sommarin.

“With these actions, and the reviews that brought about them, financiers, MAX IV’s management and board have a consensus on the problems and what is required to complete the beamline programme effectively. We have a world-class facility in MAX IV and more users than those we have received so far are waiting to use them, “says the Vice-Chancellor of Lund University, Torbjörn von Schantz.

The actions that the Board now will prioritise concerns three issues:

  • Lack of professional project management
  • Unclearness in the decision chain and delegation scheme in the organisation, including the board
  • Insufficient communication

 

In regards to project management, the Board proposes that an experienced project manager be employed as soon as possible to support to the director. A project office should be set up to monitor scheduling, resource utilisation and financial monitoring.

The board will now look for a new director and specify a profile. A clear chain of decision-making from floor to management and vice versa will be established. The Board will also come with a proposal on how the structure of the Board meetings can be changed so that the Board can get effective transparency in all areas critical to success and to follow up on the satisfactory implementation of the recommendations. In order for this to succeed, clear reporting from the project manager to the board is required. The Board shall also review its composition so that there is no lack of skills in critical areas.

Concerning current lack of communication to funders, other stakeholders and users, the Board will propose improvements. Suggestions for internal communication plans may be relevant as well.

On November 6, the Board will submit a final report to the Swedish Research Council and to the management of Lund University.

MAX IV is Sweden’s largest investment in research infrastructure and a flagship in Swedish research. MAX IV consists of two major projects: the accelerator project, which includes planning, design, construction and commissioning of the accelerator producing synchrotron light and the beamline programme that includes planning, design, construction and commissioning of the beamlines.

Since the inauguration of MAX IV in 2016, the accelerator project has been successfully completed and brilliant light is being produced. The project has demonstrated both world-class innovation and scientific development.

The beamlines have come a long way in terms of planning and construction and have different schedules for when they are to be put into operation. A total of 16 beamlines are funded to date, three are operational and receive researchers, and two more are in the final phase when expert users and staff make the final calibration before regular users take them into use. From January 2017 until August this year, more than 300 researchers have used MAX IV to conduct experiments.

MAX IV have been aware that there are problems with the organisation and processes at the laboratory. In order to provide MAX IV management support for these issues, the University’s KIA consultants have been working on mapping essential processes since April 2017. The final report on this was submitted in September 2018. KIA consultants are the University’s internal consultancy support in matters of organisation, management and governance. The KIA consultants’ conclusions about deficiencies in project management and processes are consistent with the two below reports, those from the Swedish Research Council and SAC and MAC.

On May 9, a report from MAX IV was received by the Swedish Research Council, which is the main funder of MAX IV, with an updated schedule for the beamline programme. The Swedish Research Council then saw that some beamlines were delayed by up to 2.5 years compared with timeline in the funding applications. With the report it became clear that project management of the beamline programme did not work properly.

As a measure to support MAX IV’s project management in the beamline programme, the Swedish Research Council in July appointed an expert group to make a review, which had two purposes: partly to understand the origin of the reported delays in the beamline programme and how to best addressed these, partly to give advice on how to restructure the project organisation so that existing resources are being used in a more efficient way.

This review showed serious shortcomings in project management at MAX IV and presented eight action points. In addition, a review by MAX IV’s two advisory bodies – the Scientific Advisory Committee and the Machine Advisory Committee – made on request by the Vice-Chancellor Torbjörn von Schantz, showed similar shortcomings as the previous review by the Swedish Research Council.

On 27 August, the Board of MAX IV received an assignment from Vice-Chancellor Torbjörn von Schantz to present an action plan based on the recommendations in the Review of MAX IV Project Management.