Changing Construction

Is construction changing?
Does it need to?
I’ve attended two events recently where the emphasis of the discussions moved on from the topic in question to these more debatable questions.  I’ll accept that both events were focused more on the future of construction, but what struck me was the growing consensus both of attendees that are adapting and those urging for quicker and faster change.
The first event focused on Big Data and the opportunities for construction. The key conclusion for me was that opportunity does exist, but we need to focus on just getting the basic data right first as well.  The most striking presentation was provided by Gideon Farrell who, as a recent graduate with no pre-conceived views, is using technology to advance construction.  He is not focused on changing construction per se, but he sees the business opportunity to use technology which will in turn change construction.
The second event was CIRIA’s Future of Construction event.  I was struck by the positive overtone from the majority of speakers demonstrating how they are driving change within their own organisations and in turn changing construction.  Briefly:
  • Alan Clucas explained how Laing O’Rourke have put DfMA at the core of their strategy going forward;
  • Graeme Shaw passionately inspired others with his talk about how TfL are embracing lean and process improvement
  • The vision for Britain is digital as outlined by the BIM Task Group
  • John Boultwood talked procurement and highlighted that The IUK have produced excellent guidance in Project Initiation Routemap
The one salutatory warning was raised by Tim Chapman who eloquently raised concerns about the need to reduce carbon and how little we are actually doing about it; yet the built environment can and does have a significant influence over all aspects of carbon reduction.  I’d encourage you to review Highways England Carbon Routemap and the infographic (available at the bottom of the page).
Does construction need to change?  As one speaker said, if we don’t someone else will come in and take over.
Is Construction Changing?  It’s evident that there is much positive progress being made and I am personally optimistic that we are on the dawn of new era for construction, particularly:
  • if we realise the importance of Tim’s message that we must reduce carbon and realise the opportunity for the built environment in influencing this change
  • if we can get more Gideons involved; the younger generations need to be engaged in taking the industry forward
  • if more clients embrace Graeme’s passion for taking a common sense approach to improvement
  • if the supply chain adopt a similar value-added philosophy espoused by Alan based on DfMA and digital engineering
  • if we follow the guidance of the IUK routemap
Do you share my optimism? Add your comments below
Click here for click to the Storify of my tweets of CIRIA Future of Construction
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Collaborate not clobberate …

Clobberation … what’s this then?

I thought I was being clever by making up the word clobberation to mean opposite to collaboration; but apparently not … just google it!  It’s been in my head for some time that, whilst the emphasis in construction is to promote collaborative working arrangements, in reality the majority of work is carried out in the traditional transactional way … where it’s more clobberation rather than collaboration!Collaboration

At a recent BECi* event Tim Fitch emphasised the benefits of collaboration in his talk on the “Adventures of Collaboration from Sub-Contracting to Mega Projects“.  Tim’s key point is that collaboration is a better way of managing risk and creating value in order to deliver outcomes to the satisfaction of clients.

Why doesn’t everyone do it then?

Tim’s view is that collaboration can be for everyone and every size of project, but it requires leadership, firstly on the client side and then on supply side.  In other words, for collaboration to work effectively, it must be an integral behaviour of those in charge.  Moreover, trust needs to be built on both sides and this is often demonstrated by parties giving something up, normally some aspect of control.  Collaboration is not an easy option, but the rewards are available in better client satisfaction, profits and repeat work for starters.

Tim gave illustrations of how collaboration has and has not worked. In all cases, it is important to establish collaboration as a core part of procurement and ensure the right behaviours are incorporated into the project from the outset; in other words avoid establishing a transactional approach that inhibits effective collaboration. The British Standard, BS11000, provides a framework for establishing Collaborative Business Relationships – for more information, visit Tim’s website or visit the Linkedin Group.

Tim concluded with a view on the future for collaboration in construction, citing the biggest barrier to wider adoption as the cyclical nature of construction demand.  However, Tim was confident that with the right leadership and by developing the right relationships, collaboration, not clobberation, is the way to achieve successful outcomes.

Click here for the event Storify.

*BECi (Built Environment Collaboration and Integration) is the part of the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment at the University of Westminster.  If you are interested in talking as part of the next series of BECi talks, please leave a comment below.

Ingredients for Success

Aside

I love my sport and I love seeing sports people achieve their best and see what it means to them. I can get quite patriotic and emotionally when winners win.

Seeing Lizzy Yarnold lead from start to finish in the Skeleton at #Sochi14 was one of those moments.

What struck me most was her humility about how her success was achieved. However, her success in view can be summed because:
1) she had a dream – from the age of 11, she wanted to win a gold medal
2) she has passion – it’s so obvious how much she loves skeleton and being a sportsperson
3) she worked hard – she followed Amy Williams’ approach and loves training and is prepared to continuously work at being the best she can
4) she has some awesome support – from all those around her, including Merv.

Whilst Lizzy achieved success on the ice, I’d suggest these are the ingredients for anyone to succeed in whatever field they choose to excel.

So what’s your dream?  What are you passion about? Are you prepared to work hard and have you got the right support mechanisms?

How was the Government Construction Summit for you?

The Government’s Construction Summit has come and gone; what has it achieved?

I hammer home to my students the need to understand why they are attending my lectures; what is the opportunity cost of spending time in my classroom? And so I, naturally, challenged myself to do the same with the GCS2012. I intended to write a blog last week, but struggled to articulate the purpose of my attendance; and now, reflecting on the event, I’m equally challenged to articulate what I got from it.

The biggest benefit for me was the networking opportunity and connecting with individuals, face to face, that will assist with my principal aim of integrating BIM into the curricula of the University of Westminster’s School of Architecture and Built Environment (SABE). So it was definitely worth attending, but I have a sense that my lack of clear purpose reflects that of the event itself; who was it aimed at and what was it really trying to achieve?

As someone who has read the Government Construction Strategy it is pleasing to hear such positive action by the implementing working parties; it was, therefore, appropriate that all the individuals that are contributing their time and effort are acknowledged and there is a forum for disseminating the progress. However I didn’t feel the summit summarised the progress as well as the article in the Building Supplement; Has the Construction Strategy been a success? I suppose I need to read the report One Year On published yesterday.

I’m personally encouraged by the work being done, but I hesitantly raise a couple of concerns:

  • Professor Stuart Green in his book Making Sense of Construction Improvement examines why ‘construction’ hasn’t achieved what has been advocated by Latham, Egan et al. Green explains that individuals jump on the bandwagon of the latest initiative and unless you are toeing the party line you are seen as an agitator and potential social pariah. Are we doing the same again?
  • Moreover, Green outlines the influences of the trends in outsourcing and subcontracting; it is understood that the supply chain (as it is now called) adds the real value, yet where were the SME’s?
  • Whilst Marks Prisk and Farrar identified themselves as preferring the carrot to the stick, it was noticeable that Ray O’Rourke, as a businessman, promoted his willingness to invest in what he perceives will make money, not whether he’s being offered a carrot or beaten with a stick.

Building organised a well produced event, whether we needed the fanfare is debatable, but there are more important issues to discuss than this. Was it a commercial success? Did it need to be? Normally after such events, I have a buzz that energises me for the next few days; I don’t feel that buzz and that concerns me. So what did the event achieve? If it was update on progress of the Construction Strategy, I’d suggest my time would probably have been better spent just reading the One Year On report!

My concluding thoughts echo the discussion with others, that whilst the Construction Strategy outlines ‘what the industry needs to do’ and the working parties are identifying ‘how we should implement the strategy’, the ‘why’ has to be more than just cost reduction. And now I fear being cast a social pariah!

Thank you for reading.
Rob

Government Construction Strategy

Government Construction Strategy

If the cover of the Government Construction Strategy is anything to go by, you might be expecting a bland rehash of what ‘we’ve all heard before‘.

Or maybe it’s an demonstration that the authors from the Efficiency and Reform Group of the Cabinet Office and the Construction Sector Unit of BIS are practicing what they are preaching … why add cost when you don’t need to?

Aside from the ‘we’ve heard it all before’ argument, I think I can probably anticipate many of the objections against change

  • What’s the baseline against which the 20% cost reduction will be measured
  • It’s all well and good the Government dictats, but the implementers
    • will still be measured on cost reduction, not added value
    • won’t partner the supply chain
  • We’re on all the frameworks, we’ve done what we were asked to do, but we still don’t / won’t get any work
  • BIM will cost too much and we don’t have the time to train our staff

I’m sure you can add others, but I want us to be open-minded about change for a minute.
Look at my interpretation of what the strategy is trying to achieve:

  1. Make the Public Sector a better client
  2. Ensure the Government gets more bung for its buck
  3. Use the influence of the Government’s expenditure to improve the construction industry
  4. Implement the low carbon construction policy

Surely these aims are we can all agree upon?

The Strategy Action Plan

Noble Francis tweeted that the ‘devil is in the detail’ and as always he’s right. And this is where we haven’t seen it all before. The Strategy document is 43 pages long and half of it is the Appendix setting out the action plan. There are 13 Themes and with numerous objectives and specific actions and timescales.

The themes indicate the authors understand the nature of the problem, have listened to what ‘we’ve all heard before’ and set out to do something about it. The 13 themes are:

  1. Co-ordination and leadership
  2. Forward Programme and data
  3. Governance and client skills
  4. Challenge
  5. Value for money, standards and benchmarking
  6. Efficiency and elimination of waste
  7. Building Information Modelling (“BIM”)
  8. Alignment of design/construction with operation and asset management
  9. Supplier Relationship Management
  10. Competitiveness and reducing duplication (whole public sector)
  11. New Procurement Models
  12. Client Relationship Management
  13. Implementation of existing and emerging Government policy in relation to sustainability and carbon

Examining the action plan it’s clear that the new Government Construction Board has plenty of work to do. And my request is that we at least see if they achieve their first milestones before it gets undermined by negativity.

Will anything change?

At the Be2Camp meet up in May, Don Ward talked about collaboration (Never Waste a Good Crisis) and the question was asked ‘will anything change?’

This strategy is setting out an action plan to improve how the Public Sector wants to operate with the construction industry. This should be applauded as an important step in the right direction for change. Will it change?

Not overnight, but if this is what the demand side want, the supply side generally deliver. I’m optimistic and remain positive that this is a move in the right direction. What do you think?