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People Management expert joins OGKM team

02 Apr 2019
Meet James Tolputt, Head of Olympic Games Optimisation and expert on People Management, who is the latest addition to the IOC's OGKM team. In the following interview, he shares his passion about People Management, and explains why it is a natural match with OGKM and how he works with OCOGs in the light of Olympic Agenda 2020 – the New Norm. 

James Tolputt joined the IOC’s Olympic Games Department in 2009 after having worked in various capacities for the Games organisers of Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, Turin 2006 and Beijing 2008.  Prior to Games optimisation, he worked on Games strategy, readiness and operations within the IOC.

James, tell us: what is People Management?

In simple terms, it refers to the human side of an OCOG which is so crucial for the successful, seven-year preparations of the Olympic Games. We introduced the term «People Management» after London 2012, in order to closely follow all the people in an OCOG throughout the planning.  Whether they have been staff members for seven years or purely come into the organisation as a volunteer or contractor during Games time, they all become the Games Workforce during operations. This Games Workforce grows to tens of thousands of people that deliver the Games, and it must be well planned from the outset.  If we support them with their needs and requirements, they will in turn provide their best service to the other Games stakeholders. That’s also why Games optimisation and People Management (PEM) are closely connected, because optimisation has to be realised via humans. Decision-making is a human process, and we must help OCOGs to plan smartly and take informed and timely decisions.

How does People Management fit into the OGKM space?

OGKM promotes the acquisition and transfer of knowledge, and I work on the optimisation of the OCOG staff and Games workforce.  This is achieved through finding the best possible talent and providing them with targeted IOC services and support in order to succeed, so it’s a natural match. Although I have now become a member of the OGKM team, we were working closely together on initiatives before, for example how we make existing operational data usable for OCOGs, producing virtual venue tours of previous Olympic venues and promoting the use of Games terminology. In future our activities will be even more integrated, which will further improve our IOC services and support for the OCOG staff and Games workforce. 

How do you work with OCOGs?

Meeting the people involved in person, getting to know their ways of working and their culture are crucial if we want to support them in the best way possible. That’s why, on average, we visit each OCOG three or four times a year, sometimes in the context of project reviews, and at other times to run specific or educational workshops and meetings. During our visits, we blend learnings and information from previous Games with local expertise and talent to co-create the plans together. When not on site with them, we actively use video conferencing to listen to their challenges and brainstorm with them from a distance.  There is so much knowledge and information out there, and our job is to navigate them through the elements they require in specific areas. Finally, we encourage them to share their experiences and operational data post-Games with us for the benefit of future hosts. It’s a circular flow.

How does Olympic Agenda 2020 – the New Norm impact your work?

The New Norm definitely spiced up my job! It’s an invitation to do things differently and it creates a certain pressure on the IOC to deliver specific services to the OCOGs. Dozens of the New Norm recommendations refer to «people’s potential», whereas three to four recommendations are purely focused on People Management. Just think of the benefits of not employing too many OCOG staff too early on or keeping the staff of existing venues on board to fully leverage their event-specific expertise. The New Norm encourages OCOGs, and also candidate cities, to think smart and to ask intelligent questions, which is great. Additionally, it requires the IOC and other Games stakeholders to be more supportive of OCOGs and help them more in specific areas where they struggle. I find it very refreshing and positive! 

How do you see the future?

Paris 2024 is the first OCOG to fully implement the New Norm principles, and it’s fantastic to see how they embrace and implement the approach. Co-creation is an important aspect, but we must make sure it’s more than just a buzzword. In my view, if we really want to co-create with OCOGs in the future, some of the IOC staff and advisors must go and work directly with them, for instance in the form of secondments for a defined period of time. It’s invaluable for us to be regularly on the ground and in their shoes in order to help them optimise their Games preparations in their specific environment.

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