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Disrupt, challenge and collaborate: the sector’s way forward in the wake of Midas

Following the collapse of Midas, Constructing Excellence South West’s Devon Club gathered senior leaders across the region to discuss its impact on the wider sector.

In the last year, more than 2,500 construction companies across England and Wales have gone into administration.

The multimillion-pound Midas Group, which went insolvent in February, is just the most recent high-profile example1.

With over 300 employees and several huge contracts underway, the firm’s collapse was a major blow for construction – especially in the South West, where Midas primarily operated2.

The Constructing Excellence Devon Club was quick to respond. Bringing together the group’s network and members, it sought to facilitate an honest and open conversation about what went wrong, how similar situations can be avoided, and how construction can address the biggest challenges that face it.

Andrew Carpenter, Constructing Excellence South West CEO was in attendance and kick-started discussions.

“The Midas collapse has had a devastating impact on the construction industry – particularly here in the South West,” says Andrew.

“But it may turn out to be the wake-up call the sector needed.

“Construction keeps the UK economy thriving – but in my experience, it struggles to adapt in difficult circumstances, and learn from the challenges it often faces.

“Constructing Excellence South West was designed to change that – and by facilitating valuable forums like these, we want to drive change and influence best practice to help shape the future of the industry.”

Silo working is detrimental

Over an evening of debate and discussion in Exeter, the room full of contractors, consultants, clients, suppliers and other key decision-makers from throughout the sector came to a number of conclusions.

The first concerned collaboration. Currently, there isn’t enough of it, and for the sector to succeed, there needs to be a lot more.

All too often, organisations operate in silos, and what little collaboration does take place is misaligned. This obviously has a detrimental impact on the projects in question.

Information sharing was consistently highlighted as a vital area for improvement. Effective knowledge sharing is an essential element of any contractual relationship.

However, with a lack of guidance on best practice and how to effectively do this, difficulties across the supply chain emerge – very often, there’s a lack of understanding about the common project goal, and how to deliver a high-quality product on time and on budget.

Participants also discussed how a shift in culture and behaviours is needed to drive real change.

People shared their personal experiences, and discussed how they believe there is a lack of trust and honesty throughout the sector. This seems to be more noticeable when it comes to the finances of a project.

Players who are driven to make money can sometimes be difficult to work with, and will often fail to abide by the outlined payment terms.

Getting everyone involved around a table early on can help to ensure a robust contractual agreement is put in place, attendees agreed. This is the fairest way to deliver projects, ensuring the prices are aligned, and everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet from the start.

Challenging the status quo

Having analysed the sector’s biggest challenges, the event concluded by exploring potential solutions – and the business leaders present strongly argued that disruption is key.

“The sector has a history of being fragmented – but now is the time to work collaboratively to tackle ongoing issues,” Emma Osmudsen, Exeter City Living Managing Director and CESW Vice Chair stated.

“To do this, we need more disruptors. We have to constantly challenge and question existing ways of working.

“Disruptors can come in, look unsentimentally at how we’ve traditionally operated, and offer the creative, innovative solutions we need to drive real transformational change.”

Attracting and recruiting a younger generation of construction professionals has been a priority for many years – but attendees agreed that as the sector seeks creative solutions to the issues it faces, this will become more important than ever. Talented young recruits have the potential to transform the way the industry operates.

Additionally, participants argued that construction is often too insular, and doesn’t learn from the successes of other sectors. By looking outside the industry to see what works well elsewhere, we can take those insights and apply them to the built environment, allowing us to tackle projects in innovative new ways.

The golden rules of best practice

Discussing the results of the evening, Managing Director of RGB Recruitment and CE Devon Club Chair, Tanya Loosemore, said: “It was an extremely successful event, which allowed us to get the thoughts of the region’s key construction players and come up with a series of next steps that can, in turn, be filtered throughout the wider industry.

“The Constructing Excellence South West Devon Club believe a new code of conduct and set of golden rules that outline best practice will help to mitigate issues with delays, costs and quality.

“Establishing a set of guidelines which clearly define the gold standard behaviour will help to create the trust, honesty and collaboration that’s urgently needed.

“Everybody in attendance has agreed to take this agenda forward on behalf of the South West region, before disseminating it more widely across the nation.”

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