It’s hard to believe that we are near the mid-point of 2023 already. Time has certainly flown by. As we entered the new year we saw a time of uncertainty ahead of us, and not much has changed really.
We managed to fight back a looming recession due to soaring prices for energy and increasing interest rates. But a backlog of construction projects from what could be a hangover from lockdown or a nervousness with the industry as a whole has kept us all busy. Perhaps as busy as ever.
It’s certainly not all doom and gloom. There are challenges ahead but we see the South-West construction industry moving along as reported in the press. We’ve seen an increase in detailed planning approvals and an increase in our projects getting to sight.
On the whole we all remain busy, even it’s a little harder to get it over the line.
With regards Constructing Excellence, all our regions appear to be engaging with a flurry of events. We’ve seen the launch of the Construction Industry Collaboration Initiative. Which is now being rolled out across the south-west. Never has ‘Collaborative’ working been more prevalent. The need for collaboration to improve contract delivery and projects through the supply chain given the current economic climate typified by market contraction, labour and skill shortages and supply chain issues.
It’s this reason that Construction Excellence Gloucestershire decided to partner with Constructing Excellence South West and Leaders Meet.
I’m sure all our readers are aware of the CICI. However, just to recap the aims and goals include:
Aims of the Initiative
– The aim of this initiative is to meet the following goals:
– Improve understanding of what effective Collaboration is and why Collaboration is important for the Construction Sector;
– Change negative beliefs and attitudes about Collaboration;
– Create a culture across the Construction sector and between parties where Collaboration and Collaborative thinking and behaviour can flourish;
– Motivate leaders to establish and lead Collaborative contracts, projects, and joint ventures;
– Engage all stakeholders in thinking and behaving Collaboratively at every opportunity;
– Share knowledge, learning, and experience about Collaboration and how it can be fostered and best built;
– Continually work to improve Collaboration skills across the Construction sector.
Goals of the Initiative
– Deliver and facilitate a Certificate training programme based upon the Collaboration Research
– Carry out and publish continuing research into Collaboration to ascertain if behaviours are changing that currently prevent Collaboration effectively working in the sector;
– Act as a resource as well as a focus point for the promotion of Collaboration in the Construction sector;
– Continue to develop potential further Collaboration training to support the certificate programme e.g. Leadership for Collaboration;
– Provide members with online quarterly workshops for members;
– Maintain and action a continuous awareness campaign to change beliefs and attitudes about Collaboration and promote its benefits across the Construction sector;
– Employ existing and develop new tools and instruments to help members and organisations to improve all facets of Collaboration;
– Provide opportunities via a platform to share learning, experience, and knowledge of Collaboration and Collaborative working;
If you are interested in booking a place, all details can be found on the website link below: https://hub.leadersmeets.com/cici
The last month has also seen the shortlist for the Constructing Excellence South West awards. I was honoured to be asked to judge a number of categories again this year.
Not an easy task given the entries that were put forward for 2023. The calibre of projects has certainly risen, giving a great benchmark for construction across the south-west. I look forward to the final part of the judging process which is imminent. Although the winners are yet to be agreed ahead of the awards presentation on 20th July in Bristol, I am very confident that whoever represents the region at the national level will do so with great promise.
I would like to wish all those who have been shortlisted all the very best of luck
This month Martyn Jones challenges us to be “curiouser” and “curiouser”. To channel the relentless curiosity of our four-year-old selves – now often buried deep within us – to ask those never-ending “Why?” questions. And “How?”, “What?”, “When?”, “Where”, and “Who?” too.
To be curiouser and curiouser about why so many of us still stick to the traditional operating system and price competitive tendering? Why are we commissioning buildings now that will require retrofitting within ten years? Or, why in a recent LeadersMeets survey, we scored our level of trust at just 5/10.
We need to be more curious about the future of our cities and towns, and how we design and build them so that they are more liveable, quieter, safer, healthier, more friendly, walkable, bikeable, and greener. Curiouser and curiouser about the nature of the materials and processes we use to create the built environment. And about our strengths and the areas for change and improvement.
And more curious still about our future and the opportunities and challenges presented by the new Digital paradigm, and whether its effect on us will be more impactful and more beneficial than any of the previous five paradigm shifts.
Is there a business case for curiosity? Well, most of the breakthrough discoveries and remarkable inventions and innovations throughout history – from flints for starting a fire to self-driving cars – have something in common, they are the result of curiosity.
When our curiosity is triggered, we think more deeply and rationally about decisions and come up with more-creative solutions. It helps us to read and adapt to uncertain market and wider conditions and seek out opportunities.
And some observers reckon it leads to more learning and hence more innovative, more adaptable, and higher-performing organisations. With heightened curiosity organisations are more likely to perform better as they share information more openly and listen more carefully. They can work together more effectively and seamlessly, conflicts are more creative than heated, leading to better results.
Curiosity encourages us to put ourselves in other peoples’ shoes and take an interest in the ideas of others rather than focus only on our own perspectives. The empathy generated, which is closely related to curiosity, inspires more-trusting relationships, integration, and collaboration.
And here’s another benefit: Curiosity generates alternatives and we are less likely to fall prey both to confirmation bias (looking for information that supports our beliefs rather than for evidence suggesting we are wrong), and the stereotyping of people and roles.
How then can we become more curious? First, by stopping crushing curiosity and actively shift to promoting it. Here are some suggested strategies that we can deploy.
We can hire for curiosity by recruiting “T-shaped” people: People, of course, with the deep skills that allow them to contribute to the creative process (the vertical stroke of the T) but also with a predisposition for collaboration across disciplines, a quality requiring empathy and curiosity (the horizontal stroke of the T).
Clients and their advisors can take a wider more innovative industry perspective by appointing more curious consultants, main and specialist contractors and suppliers. And leaders across our supply chains can model curiosity by being inquisitive themselves and by approaching issues with curiosity rather than expediency, habit, or tradition.
We can emphasize the importance of learning (developing competence, acquiring skills, changing behaviours, mastering new situations, and so on) by framing work around them rather than direct performance goals (such as focusing on lowest price and blaming others).
We can encourage people to explore and broaden their interests and foster their curiosity: Giving time and resources to tackling head on the reluctance of some leaders to invest in employee learning for fear that they will jump ship to a competitor taking their expensively acquired knowledge and skills with them.
And how about having “Why?” “What if…?” and “How might we…?” days at pivotal points in the design of buildings and production planning? Presenting opportunities. Including time, to ask “Why is this so?” to get to the heart of issues.
In most organisations, project teams and supply chains, we often receive the implicit message that asking such questions is an unwanted challenge to convention and authority, adding risk to already risky construction projects, and in doing so giving credence to the proverb that “curiosity killed the cat”.
Of course, there can be dangers in unnecessary investigation and experimentation, but maintaining a sense of curiosity is crucial to the fresh thinking and creativity that we now need, and the most effective leaders look for ways to nurture curiosity to unlock discovery, learning, and innovation.
Government announces mortgage rate cut for energy efficient homes
Last Friday (19 May), the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero announced that homeowners who make their properties more energy efficient could their mortgage rate cut under a new government-backed pilot. Perenna Bank will receive more than £193,000 in government funding to help develop their long-term, fixed-rate mortgage that will incentivise customers to make their homes more energy efficient by offering to reduce their mortgage rate. Another trial will see buy-to-let landlords add the cost of making properties more energy efficient onto their mortgage – enabling them to borrow the money for the improvements and include it in their monthly repayments. The projects are among 26 green finance products being developed and tested, backed by £4.1 million of government funding.
Unanimous support for Shadow Housing Secretary’s motion to replace leasehold with commonhold
After the Housing Secretary Michael Gove rowed back on plans to abolish leasehold, the Shadow Housing Secretary Lisa Nandy tabled a motion calling on the government to end the sale of new private leasehold houses and introduce a system to replace current private leasehold flats with commonhold. In total, 174 MPs – all from opposition parties – voted in favour of Labour’s motion while Conservative MPs abstained. During the debate, the Housing Minister Rachel MacLean insisted the government had not U-turned on its commitments. She said officials in her Department were working “flat out” to implement reform, but added that she could not comment on precise timetables or details of the expected legislation.
National Audit Office calls for clarity on government’s net zero innovation spending plans
The National Audit Office (NAO) is calling on the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero to clarify how the money set aside to support its net zero innovation plans will be spent. In June 2019, the government committed to the UK becoming a net zero economy by 2050 by investing in research and development of new technologies, but with the publication of the National Audit Office’s new report – Support for innovation to deliver net zero – the spending watchdog has called into question whether value for money can be achieved with this strategy.
Ofgem lowers price cap to £2,074
Yesterday (25 May), the UK’s energy regulator Ofgem announced the energy price cap had fallen to £2,074 a year, but the average households can still expect to pay double the rate for their gas and electricity than before costs started to soar. About 27 million households can expect a modest drop in energy bills this summer after the regulator Ofgem lowered the cap on the typical annual dual-fuel tariff to reflect a steep drop in global energy prices over recent months. From July, when the change takes effect, households will see their average gas and electricity bill fall from the £2,500 a year level set by the government’s energy price guarantee. Households could still face dual-fuel bills above £2,074 if they use more than the typical amount of energy because Ofgem’s cap limits the rate energy suppliers can charge customers for each unit of gas and electricity – not the total bill. Fuel poverty campaigners at National Energy Action have warned that most households are unlikely to feel any better off, and about 6.5 million households will remain in fuel poverty despite the lower rate.
Net Zero Council meets for the first time
The Net Zero Council convened for the first time on Tuesday (9 May), made up of the leaders of some of the world’s biggest banks, energy companies, technology giants and finance firms, and co-chaired by Energy Minister Lord Callanan and Co-op Group chief executive Shirine Khoury-Haq. The new Council discussed the UK’s position on net zero and the importance of building one coherent voice across government, finance and business to support the UK’s key sectors in the net zero transition.
Energy intensive businesses across the UK receive government support to become more energy efficient
On Tuesday (9 May), the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero announced £24.3 million of government funding to help clean up manufacturing processes and improve the energy efficiency of some of the UK’s most energy intensive businesses. The Industrial Energy Transformation Fund (IETF) supports businesses using high amounts of energy to reduce their fossil fuel using innovative low-carbon technologies. Businesses include Heineken, Kellogg’s, Toyota and Britvic among others.
Government drops plans to abolish leasehold system in England and Wales
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities will announce a new range of measures next month to protect the 10 million Britons who own their homes in a leasehold. Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove is reported to be unable to find the Parliamentary time to legislate for a total ban, despite a pledge made in January to end it this year. Instead, Gove will announce measures including a cap on ground rents, more powers for tenants to choose their own property management companies and a ban on building owners forcing leaseholders to pay any legal costs incurred as part of a dispute.
Full draft policy platform that could form 2024 Labour manifesto revealed
Yesterday (11 May), LabourList published a summary of an 86-page policy handbook, built on submissions from Labour groups and beyond, six National Policy Forum documents consulted on earlier this year, past consultations and pledges announced by the Shadow Cabinet in recent years. It is Labour’s most comprehensive policy platform yet since Starmer became leader, drawing up a “provisional but wide-ranging blueprint likely to shape the next general election manifesto”. Policies will first be “debated, amended and agreed” by those involved in the National Policy Forum, with National Policy Forum members able to file amendments until June before a key meeting in late July. These are then “subject to approval” at Labour’s annual conference, to decide the “party programme”. Then ahead of an election, representatives will hold a further “Clause V meeting” to decide which parts of the programme reach the manifesto.
Provisional policies that are relevant to built environment include a £28bn investment of public capital a year into the green economy, alongside an active industrial strategy, with strategic public investment attracting private sector investment; investment in both mitigating the climate crisis but also in adapting to the effects of a warming world, for example by rapidly improving flood defences, the resilience of our national infrastructure to extreme weather and other measures; tackle planning barriers to renewable energy projects, getting planning decision timelines down from years to just months, and remove the obstacles that are currently preventing businesses from investing in the UK; setting out a clear roadmap for decarbonisation; reforming the UK’s system of energy supply, generation and transmission and distribution so that it delivers cheaper bills for consumers and businesses, clean energy and energy security; upgrade every home that needs it to EPC standard C within a decade by installing energy-saving measures such as loft insulation, going street by street in locally-delivered programmes; establishing a new Industrial Strategy Council and place it on a statutory footing, bringing together industry, unions and other experts to inform policy-making; overseeing a significant expansion of economic devolution in England by the end of first term; delivering a landmark shift in skills provision and give people the tools they need in the workplaces of the future; reforming planning and arcane land purchase rules to get Britain building, while fixing the country’s development model; reforming the private rented sector, giving tenants greater security through a powerful new renters’ charter, which will include longer-term tenancies as standard, the right to reasonable alterations, ending Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions and introducing a national register of landlords; and introducing a legally binding ‘Decent Homes Standard 2’ updated for the next decade that will apply to all buildings in the private rented sector.
‘Your beliefs become your thoughts.
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions’
Your actions become your habits’
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.’
How often do you try to contact someone to speak with them only to hear ‘I’m sorry I’m not here to take your call, please leave a message and I will get back to you?’
If you are honest, you are probably still waiting.
Emails are often a no better a means, for these are similarly left unanswered.
You may of course be trying to speak with your boss or a supplier or even trying to collaboratively solve a problem that needs resolving. Good luck.
It really doesn’t matter, for many of these people do not realise that they are behaving rudely as they don’t understand that they are actually victims of ‘busyness’ – a habit of personal behaviour that is actually both highly dysfunctional and a killer to relationships.
‘Busyness’ is a relatively new word in the lexicon of ‘business-speak’ having entered it in during the last decade. A quick search of the internet gives the following definitions: ‘the state of being or appearing to be actively engaged in an activity’; ‘the quality or condition of being busy’; ‘lively but meaningless activity’; and ‘foolishly or intrusively active’.
These all fittingly describe the ‘busyness’ concept that has come about through the colliding trinity of modern life: the internet, social media, and consumerism. ‘Busyness’ is not only a seductive trap but a difficult one to get out of once in it, for it’s toxicity meets a simple modern personal need, that is:
Busy = Important.
Far too many people, particularly business leaders, are caught up in ‘busyness bubbles’. The fascinating thing is that not only do many people not recognise this but many actually boast actually about it to colleagues and friends – they are proud of it and many wear their ‘busyness bubble’ as a ‘badge of honour’.
The implicit notion of ‘busyness’ is that if you are not in back-to-back meetings all day; have a diary that cannot fit-in an appointment for days (even better if it is weeks!); and a phone that does not stop ‘going off’ then you are simply, ‘not important enough’.
‘Busyness’ is about being in demand, needed, and wanted, for unless we are seen to be this person – the one who working all hours for the organisation and going ‘beyond and above the call of duty’ – we don’t belong.
‘Busyness’ fits the human ‘hard wired’ need ‘to belong’, underpinned by the ‘loss aversion’ fear of ‘missing out’ that resides inside us all, for not being ‘included’ can ‘burn inside us’ even when our ‘being included’ could essentially be a total waste of time.
Once we are enticed into the delusion of ‘busyness’ where we can be seen as important; heroic; seemingly make choices of whom we see and when or just ‘ignore’; be included in only ‘very important’ meetings, we have ‘arrived’ and ‘made it’. What is there not to love about that?
Let’s explore that illusion.
The seductive clutches of ‘busyness’ are a trap into which we can easily fall where we may think we are meeting our wishes of importance etc., but unfortunately we are essentially meeting the needs and whims of others; we have got our priorities wrong and have prioritised work that most probably should be done by others but ‘hey, we’re the hero’ so go for it!
Significantly, if we stand back – and put aside ‘busyness’ for a moment – we will soon realise that we have been enticed to embrace a set of ‘skewed’ beliefs that will at some stage leave us finding ourselves stressed; unfocused; short-tempered; and distracted. Without knowing, we have actually become inefficient, ineffective and as likely to fail as succeed.
Ultimately, like all bubbles a ‘busyness bubble’ bursts which costs both the organisation and the individual, many of whom seek medical help.
Doctors increasingly report of the growing number of patients attending their surgeries with the conditions of fatigue; irritability; insomnia; anxiety; headaches; heartburn; bowel disturbances; back pain; and depressive feelings. Unfortunately, doctors are in the main unable to help, for many of these symptoms are not an illness but the manifestation of ‘busyness’ – the ill effects of habit.
A habit is a routine behaviour that we learn and unconsciously regularly repeat whether it is a good or a bad one. The problem is that individuals and habits are all different with the challenge being that there is no simple or single formula for changing a habit1. Each habit requires a different approach to changing it, for each habit is rooted in one or more of the beliefs we have towards or about something.
Changing beliefs – the key to any habit change – whilst we are under the influence of the habit, and with ‘busyness’ remember this is about where we spend five days out of seven and where we may even extend it beyond normal working hours into our personal time (and of course look really important!) is problematic, particularly given that research shows that diligent habit change can take
66 days to effect2. When you’re in the grip of ‘busyness’ who has the diligence, discipline, and the time to change a habit?
Few organisations are aware of ‘busyness’ and consequently recognise its negative affect on relationships and the effects this has with peers, those they ostensibly lead, and other organisations with whom they may be looking to conduct business or collaboratively work with in a supply chain.
Leaders and organisations need to take on board the words of Gandhi, for beliefs can take you down a good behavioural route but they can just as easily take you down a bad one.
In future months we will be looking at other beliefs and behaviours that impact Collaboration and Collaborative Working. Meanwhile why not take a moment to look at our Collaboration Research that shows key belief and behaviours in the Construction Sector that impact effective Collaboration between organisations.
1 Duligg, C. (2012) ‘The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business’, Random House, London.
2 Gardner, B., Lally, P., & Wardle, J. (2012) ‘Making health habitual: The psychology of ‘habit formation’ and general practice’, British Journal of General Practice, 62, pp 664-666