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.

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Government Construction Strategy

What’s happened to the Government Construction Strategy?060111_1314_GovernmentC1.png

Firstly, I have to say I like the Government Construction Strategy (The Strategy). It was concise in articulating

  • the need for change,
  • proposing what needs to be done and
  • formulating an implementation plan.

In doing so, The Strategy was practicing what it preached by demonstrating clear leadership, one of its important tenets. Separate task groups implemented the plan and after 12 months, there was an update report. At the same time, Building held the first of what has become an annual Construction Summit, with the principal aim of coordinating the key messages and progress of the Strategy.

As I’ve blogged on the Strategy (previous posts link) and I wanted to review progress; not least because as we enter 2015, I was reminded that the principal objective of The Strategy was to reduce costs by up to 20% by the end of this Parliament (i.e. May 2015).

So what’s happened with the implementation of the Strategy?

In short, a lot has happened. Each task group has delivered outputs, with reports available on the Government website. The BIM Task Group has been the most visible with their own micro-site and twitter feed and has been instrumental in setting standards and coordinating the development of industry capability. Progress with procurement has seen the production of guidance on new procurement models and numerous trial projects take place. Moreover, work of the procurement task group has merged with Infrastructure UK who have *quietly* produced some outstanding documents on improving delivery in relation to the Project Initiation Routemap. And there is plenty more positive progress on, amongst other things, soft landings, developing client capability.

However, it’s unclear to me how the Government has done in relation to its original target for cost (and carbon) reduction. The 12 month update indicates savings, but there is, to my knowledge, no subsequent publication that clearly articulates progress. Don’t we need to understand how the Government has actually performed against the key objectives?

I have previously challenged whether The Strategy would result in any lasting change? On this note, in the interview with Stef Stefanou (£ Building) he lamented that despite being an industrial reformer, he no longer believes the industry will ever change. It’s my concern, that whilst there are persuasive arguments for change, we are a long way from reaching the tipping point of a more productive way of delivery.

The Strategy is a good document, a lot of good work that has taken place, however the question has be “how much influence has it really had?”

Consolidating for Growth

This is a personal reflection on a recent visit to Byrne Group’s Consolidation Centre. ImageI first came across the principle of a consolidation centre when I was working at BAA on Terminal 5. The consolidation centre was the solution to the problem of getting everything needed for construction and mobilisation on to the restricted T5 site.  Rather than every supplier face the gauntlet of the bottleneck at the entrance to the site, a centre was created nearby where all suppliers dropped of their consignments for consolidating into full loads.
The principles and benefits are well captured in the following articles:
The principle has been developed and separate logistic companies have endeavoured to replicate the operation in London and elsewhere.  I recently became aware that the Byrne Group had also adapted the principle for their purposes. It is promoted on on their website and has received recognition in the form of the “Best Practice in Management category at the Plant Services magazine 2010 Best Practice Awards”. Further information is available

  1. On Byrne Group website
  2. On COINS website
Why don’t more construction companies develop such an approach? This is more rhetorical question and probably a good dissertation topic for one of my students. What was clearly evident to me is that the Byrne Group fully appreciate where value is added in their value chain.  This has enabled them to focus on what is important in creating an efficient and effective operation. Rather than focus on developing their expertise in sub-contract management, their competence is based around effective operational management.
How many other construction companies can say that?

RICS BIM Conference

It should be patently obvious to everyone that attended the RICS BIM Conference (9th Feb’12) that the FUTURE is BIM.

My take on the day involves:

  • Trains
  • Disintermediation
  • Paul Morrell’s schadenfreude
  • Dinosaurs-in-waiting

As numerous presentations indicated the BIM-Train is leaving the platform and you need to get on board…

or get left behind.

In other words, the industry, but QS’s in particular have to recognise the threat classified by Simon Rawlinson as disintermediation. Which Simon describes as ‘other people doing what you currently do’. Plenty of examples were highlighted, but the recent demise of Kodak should be a lesson to all. (Simon explained that Kodak invented the digital camera, but failed to exploit the innovation for fear of killing their golden goose: traditional film!)

QS’s were constantly encouraged to realise the opportunity that BIM represents – although it’s not going to be easy to find, according to Simon. But essentially it means changing …

The QS should be ideally placed to significantly contribute to the hypothesis of the BIM Strategy to derive significant improvement in cost, value and carbon performance; this is what QS’s are about after all! However, listening to the presenters and in particular the client from John Lewis Partnership, it would appear QS’s don’t really understand cost (contractors do though!) and there was a constant plea to add-value; the implication being QS’s don’t!

Paul Fletcher enigmatically pleaded for change, chastising the industry for its pathetic use of information. Paul promoted systems thinking as an approach to understand what a client wants and to deliver value; lean is a sub-set of systems thinking and QS’s are systems thinkers, even if they don’t realise it! Paul also challenged everyone to consider what industry we’re in; and it’s not construction!

Paul Morrell has done his utmost to provide QS’s with the opportunity to promote their value-adding skills through the authoring of the Government’s Construction Strategy. Paul was optimistic for the future of QS’s, however I believe his most interesting comment was “he won’t be happy until he hears people being unhappy about BIM” (The Germans would describe this as schadenfreude). This says to me that until we stop cheer-leading about the importance of BIM and start realising the pain involved in implementing it, then we aren’t changing and we’re still on the platform.

Anyone that was not aware of the industry and listening to this conference would probably conclude that QS’s are dinosaurs-in-waiting. Whilst there was some cautious optimism, underneath it was a sombre message; was it the sounding of the death knell for the QS?

What is certain is the rallying cry has been sounded …

All aboard … all aboard the BIM-Train …

Thanks for reading,
Rob