This month Martyn Jones examines the challenges facing leaders and learners as we look to benefit from the new technologies and ways of working that are coming our way in the new paradigm. He also reflects on what we have learnt in our response to the last paradigm shift that might be helpful to us now.
Given the immediate difficulties and turbulence we face (according to Glenigan construction starts in the fourth quarter of 2022 slumped to their lowest level since the first Covid lockdown), it might be seen as presumptuous to be asking leaders and learners to take a longer-term view.
But we need to keep our eyes on the wider, longer-term picture if we are to benefit from the paradigm shift that is surely coming. As in previous shifts to a new techno-economic paradigm, effective leadership and learning will be needed to encourage and support the change, capitalise on the opportunities, and overcome the barriers to progress.
Here are some suggested key actions we might look to taking as leaders and learners.
We might start by disrupting our own thinking, developing a greater strategic view of the construction market and the wider operating environment. Alongside this, cultivate our understanding of the change that is coming and its likely impact on our organisation and the sector of construction in which we operate.
Disrupt the thinking of those around us within our own organisations but also those in our project teams and supply chains, whilst reassuring them about the need for change, the benefits it can bring, and persuading them to join the process of change.
Recognise the importance of the readiness and preparedness of oneself, but of others too, and provide learning and development opportunities for individuals and teams to improve skills and knowledge and change behaviours.
Deploy digital technologies, including AI, to enhance decision-making, increase quality and productivity, improve communication, and build greater openness and mutual understanding.
Unlock its potential to realise value throughout the whole project lifecycle, from feasibility through design, procurement, manufacturing, construction, operation, asset management, and reuse and recycling. And more fundamentally, to help finally transform our operating system and business models.
Further flatten any hierarchies in our organisations and project teams and empower employees and partners to provide more direct and open communication to enable greater knowledge sharing and support creativity and innovation.
Build a culture of quality-based continuous improvement and pride in our work, rejoicing in the contribution we collectively make to the economy and the quality of lives, and reversing our race to the bottom.
Strive for and finally achieving gender balance in construction to access more talent, introduce new thinking to foster collaboration and innovation, and help address the changing demographics of the workforce.
Some of us are old enough to have lived through the last paradigm shift sparked by the Latham and Egan reports back in the 1990s. It is important that we take forward the lessons from this previous attempt at transformation.
What are the biggest lessons? Here are three to reflect on: collaboration, having a sense of purpose and urgency and an appropriate leadership style.
We have finally come to recognise the importance of collaboration but we still often underestimate its complexity in construction. Although it has become one of the most frequently used words in the industry today it is still probably the least understood. And given the specificities of construction we may have set ourselves targets for collaboration and integration that are unrealistic given the short-term inter-organisation relationships in much of construction.
And most of us have now come to realise that it takes time, patience, and perseverance to nurture, develop, and sustain the trust necessary for collaboration within – never mind between – organisations. Skipping steps creates only the illusion of speed and never produces a satisfying result.
There needs to be a great enough sense of purpose and urgency. We often fail to convey the need to look hard and critically enough at our competitive situation, technological and organisational trends, behaviours, and our all too often disappointing project outcomes. Without purpose and motivation, people do not actively participate in the change process and the outcomes are disappointing.
A new techno-economic paradigm requires new styles of leadership. We are still too wedded to the authoritative “command-and-control” management style, which demotivates people, increases stress and suppresses initiative, engagement, and innovation.
Whereas, at the other end of the leadership spectrum, coaching focuses on problem solving and learning and helps create a culture of high performance. Characteristics of this culture are collaboration, empowerment, and fulfilment. It is underpinned by clear skills and ethics which include trust, partnership and collaboration, belief in potential, intention and meaning, active listening, and learning.
Research Title: Competencies for identifying construction activities that produce recyclable materials
Research Aim: Identify the competencies for identifying construction activities that produce recyclable materials
The survey’s link is as follows: https://www.surveylegend.com/s/4moqTo achieve that aim, the research objective to investigate the competencies for identifying construction activities that produce recyclable materials
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As 2022 ended we looked back on a momentous year and early indications are that the outlook for 2023 is looking perhaps even more challenging. As we continue to grapple with the impact of Covid-19, Brexit, and the war in Ukraine, this month Martyn Jones offers some timely advice for clients on addressing two dilemmas they now face: Whether given current economic and market uncertainties to build now or delay, and, if the case for building is persuasive, how to build.
Construction has been surprisingly resilient in 2022 but according to data collected and analysed by the Building Cost Information Service (BCIS), total construction output has only just reached pre-pandemic levels, largely driven by growth in the repair and maintenance sector – but new work output is still below 2019 levels.
High energy-use components, including steel, concrete, and plasterboard, as well as specialist labour, are expected to continue to experience inflationary pressures until the energy crisis is abated, while construction businesses are going bust at their fastest rate in a decade.
The good news is that price increases now appear to be slowing, suggesting we are past the peak of inflation.
But the outlook for construction continues to be challenging for the immediate future, with BCIS forecasting that new work output in the construction industry will not reach pre-pandemic levels until 2027. That’s almost eight years of no real growth in the sector.
The Glenigan Construction Industry Forecast 2023 -2024 has also identified the headwinds we face including stalled UK economic growth, the disruption to UK business revenues, and declining confidence curbing private sector investment growth.
As far as housebuilding goes, in their view, weak real earnings growth, together with higher interest and mortgage rates, will check housing market turnover and dampen private house building activity over the next two years.
Public sector spending restraint will limit public sector investment and curb construction activity in areas such as health and education but the government will seek to accelerate the delivery of new infrastructure projects and lift overall civil engineering activity.
Given this uncertain economic backdrop, let us turn to the key dilemmas facing construction clients. First whether to build at all right now, or to delay investment until the economic and political landscape is less uncertain.
And second, if deciding to press ahead with a development, how should clients procure their project or pipeline of work. Should they be lured by the short-term view and the current buyer’s-market to base their procurement on what is the cheapest price right now.
Or should they take the value-based, longer-term approach to development, working collaboratively, transparently, fairly, and creatively with their advisers, partner consultants, contractors, and deliver value-based not price-based outcomes despite the challenging circumstances.
This is where the two latest publications from CESW can play their part. First, the Client Advisor Guide. This makes the case for timely, insightful professional advice for clients at the beginning of a project, including confronting the fundamental question of whether to proceed or delay. Or even maybe advising achieving business objectives in other ways such as changing internal organisational structures, working practices and processes, or making better use of existing built assets.
Having decided to proceed and build, clients need to work with their trusted advisers referring to the CESW publication, the Enlightened client’s journey to quality and compliance, which aims to capture what enlightened clients can do to chieve an exemplary standard of quality and compliance – even during challenging economic and market conditions.
Whatever your standpoint as a client and how you and your construction partners address these dilemmas, we wish you a Successful 2023, whatever it brings.
Happy New Year and welcome to the first update of 2023!
As many of you will already know, I have taken up the post of Interim CEO and very much look forward to driving a fresh direction alongside the excellent and well-established board of directors.
I have been involved with Constructing Excellence since 2010 at both club (as Chair) and regional level (Board member and Leadership Council Chair), I have built up a good understanding of the inner workings of the organisation and will be further drawing on my involvement from right across the construction, infrastructure, engineering, development, and technology sectors. This knowledge will certainly help us as we tackle the agreed direction of “Brave Movements” by needing to reset, re-evaluate and restructure our future direction by ensuring that our membership offering sits at the heart of everything we do and is of the best value available for a not-for-profit representing body within the Construction Sector.
As we quickly enter 2023, I can’t remember a time where the construction sector has been more ready to being reconfigured, the opportunity to deliver construction in a better way is upon us. The need for disruption and innovation, together with creativity and the desire to be straightforward and collaborative is now, and CESW will be at the forefront of this “Brave Movement”.
I look forward to keeping you updated on CESW’s progress and thank you for your continuing support.
“What the New Year brings to you will depend a great deal on what you bring to the new year.” Vern McLellan
Well here we are, a new year, 2023 already!
2022 seems to have been quite a full on year for everyone so what lessons have been learnt? What are you going to do differently?
No doubt we will all face challenges and obstacles over the course of this year. The construction industry doesn’t stand still and certainly keeps us on our toes however, mindset and how we approach these tests from the benefit of experience will be key to our success in overcoming them.
Constructing Excellence has long been promoting collaborative working and procuring on value, with last year’s Leadership Dinner Series proving there is some great work being done alongside a real appetite and commitment to do more. The question therefore, is what are you going to do and bring to this year to improve on 2022 and increase your chances of success in 2023?
Hopefully the above will include attending more CE events!
Wishing you all a happy and prosperous New Year.