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The championing of our champions

Our CEO and champion of our change champions Andrew Carpenter has decided to step down. But what a great legacy – from helping to set up the Bristol Rethinking Construction Club in the immediate post-Egan era through to helping create CESW in 2003, and then spending the last nine years as our CEO taking CESW to a new level.

Having closely observed Andrew championing change in construction in our region over more years than he cares to remember, this month Martyn Jones reflects on the attributes of an effective change champion – and in the case of CESW’s role, providing support and succour to change champions in all parts of the supply chain.  In other words, being an effective champion of our champions.

CESW’s membership, profile and success across the supply chain from clients to manufacturers is a testament to Andrew’s energy, enthusiasm, knowledge, endless list of contacts, “performances” and sheer passion for ‘best practice’.  Under his leadership and championing of change, we’ve made great progress in setting best practice standards through seminars, workshops, conferences, webinars and summits. Our theme groups have provided thought leadership and published insightful guidance, and we’ve celebrated outstanding achievements in our annual CESW Awards.

Effective change champions are very interested in new or different ways of doing something coupled with the determination to make change happen. They have a vision for a possible better future. Many of the best champions don’t just want change: they, like Sir John Egan back in 1998, want a revolution.

As demonstrated by Andrew, a great champion is passionate about their cause and the need for transformation. He or she is a staunch, zealous, fanatic. Often emotional, irrational, irreverent, impatient, and sometimes even unreasonable.  They want the change – no matter how big – to happen now, this week, this month, or certainly by the end of this year.  They want to knock down barriers, to disrupt and demolish the status quo. They don’t just rock the boat they steer it in a new direction and sometimes even capsize it too.

Champions have a tangible presence at the critical points for change, with persuasiveness, patience, grit, and an encouraging, coaching and empowering leadership style. These attributes enable champions to overcome institutional silos, build and leverage professional networks, create tension for change, cultivate a positive learning climate, and engage key stakeholders.

And then there’s the angle of the championing of champions. Andrew was great at seeking out leaders and champions along the supply chain who are making the changes and improvements or have the desire and passion for change, and then to recognize, publicise and celebrate their success. Honouring, thanking, applauding and otherwise encouraging champions and teams to take initiatives to bring about change in their projects and supply chains, and improve construction across our region.

We’ve come a very long way but Andrew is the first to admit much work remains to be done in transforming construction in the way that Sir John Egan and others called for in the 1990s. One thing for sure, Andrew is going to be a hard act to follow.

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