With guest speaker Rose McArthur, Director of Transport and Highways for Cheshire West and Chester Council and facilitated by Kelachi Amadi-Echendu, ResoLex
Kelachi opened the session with some background on ResoLex, explaining one of our underlying observations; projects rely on a triumvirate of competencies, technical, commercial and social. To set the landscape further, she highlighted a general challenge for lack of skills within the infrastructure sector. The skills problems begins at a high-level, so we have a technical challenge in areas such as climate change, as well as the economic challenges that organisations are wrestling with in a post-pandemic environment. The social component of major projects mentioned earlier encompasses these leadership challenges. The theme of the session was therefore to consider how we can bring people-oriented skills into the industry from other sectors whilst still appreciating the technical skills with career developments that aren’t necessarily leadership.
Rose started her presentation by talking about her own journey from being a Senior Consultant in a large engineering company, to a very different role in a local authority. Her background in integrated transport planning gave her the opportunity to work on huge projects such as the 2012 London Olympics, keeping people moving despite the challenge with an influx of people.
In her new role, she now has to focus on the practical problems within the highway sector exemplified by issues such as potholes, gulleys and pigeons. Many of the problems are much smaller in scale but there are huge amounts of them. Although Rose has a Director role and needs to strategically plan for the council’s transport and highways, many public enquiries are escalated to her due to a lack of communication from the project level and out to the local community.
Cheshire highways are a £5 billion asset, so there are many miles of road infrastructure that must be managed within very tight financial constraints. Rose made the point however that her biggest challenge is actually the people – as is the case in many engineering-focused teams, the historic basis for promotion is time served and technical expertise. Little concern has ever been paid to the skills of being customer focused and focusing strategically on future needs. All too often teams within the organisation have a silo mindset, and it is therefore difficult to get them to engage in new concepts outside of their core areas of expertise. So when it comes to management skills, technical competency is probably only around 25% of what is needed. Instead, there is a critical need for skills in communication, people management, delivering change, and the ability to engage a wider stakeholder group. Of course, some people with these technical skills may thrive in leadership and management roles but only with the right effort put into training – these important skills need development and training.
In developing her teams, Rose has found that she must therefore expand her search horizons when looking for new recruits. For example, she believes that change starts with the data-led approach, so the ability to analyse and communicate trends and issues is critical. She is also seeking people who have effective communication skills so that stakeholder relationships can be managed more effectively. More often than not, she has to go outside of the organisation to look for people in other sectors and industries to get the less technical but more strategic types of people to therefore reach the balanced team she requires.
Thoughts and observations from the floor included the following:
- An example was given of the huge value provided by somebody who had a passion for the environment but who originally came from a role in finance.
- Bringing in new skills and perspectives is important, but to be successful organisations need to be ready for the disruption they may cause. For example, construction firms are often not comfortable with people who are trying to push a different way of thinking.
- Leadership is critical in changing mindsets and behaviours. An example was given from a major programme where one of the senior leaders attended the sustainability group which significantly boosted attendance and output.
- There is a distinct leadership skill set around managing complexity and ambiguity.
- Creating resilient teams is one of the keys to survival in the 21st century, where leaders surround themselves with people who support each other in pursuit of a common goal.
The underlying message from the session is that in organisations that need to change, there needs to be a shift in the types of skills and competencies that may not be present in the current structure. The technical element which used to be dominant in many engineering-oriented businesses are still important, but at leadership, the level must often be subordinated to the ability to manage the problems created by complexity, scale and pressure on resources. The challenge for all organisations involved in infrastructure is to identify the different skills needed and create an environment which will encourage bright people to come and join them.
Putting The Construction Playbook into Practice – 30th June 2022
Facilitated by Ed Moore and Kelachi Amadi-Echendu
ResoLex’s Roundtable series recommenced with our first in-person session since Autumn 2019 and in our new home – you may have seen, we have relocated along with our friends from the International Dispute Resolution Centre to Paternoster Lane right next to the beautiful St. Paul’s Cathedral – where we welcomed a select group to delve into some of the key aspects of The Construction Playbook.
Our Chief Exec, Ed opened the session by setting out our view that the success of major projects hinges on three critical interlinked elements; Technical, Commercial and Social. His observation is that The Construction Playbook continues the worthy objective of modernising the construction industry. However, reading through the document one can see that its focus is primarily on a project’s technical and commercial elements, but has little to say on the social element, on the people that deliver projects.
Our Senior Consultant, Kelachi then introduced the report we recently produced, Changing Behaviours in Construction: A complement to The Construction Playbook. The report brings together our experience and contributions from our Associates and is designed to act as a complement to The Construction Playbook. It provides practical guidance on the behavioural and cultural elements that supplement some of the key recommendations in the Playbook, focusing on actions and activities that we know through our experience help to build a project’s ‘social capital’.
Our Roundtable sessions are designed to be an interactive discussions rather than a lecture. We, therefore, had an interactive session with participation from everyone in the room, offering a range of perspectives around two key topics:
- Collaborative Leadership
Leadership has been a hot topic within the industry lately. Kelachi pointed out that it is discussed throughout our report and was recently raised in the second iteration of the ICE review: A Systems Approach to Infrastructure Delivery. An article in the NCE references the report as identifying the need for projects to move on from the habit of appointing ‘hero leaders’ – you can find the full article here.
There was consensus in the room that when faced with complexity, there is a need to adopt different leadership styles and attributes and, that collaborative leadership is desirable, but it is probably more important to embed the right culture at the start. The discussion also brought out the recognition that the leadership needs of a project change as the project/programme moves through the cycle. In modern construction, leaders need to be truly agile, and able to adjust their approach depending on circumstances.
- Front End Loading
Ed picked up on the requirement in the Playbook to put more time into the start of a project to think through how a team will work together before moving into the task of construction. The question to the room was the extent to which this would add value.
The consensus was that time spent working through potential issues with the full design and delivery team, ideally producing a digital twin, would ultimately produce a better outcome. The proviso, however, was that project teams need to be clear on the main focus, as time can easily be frittered away on inconsequential matters.
The other challenge identified is that upfront investment in building relationships could be wasted if individuals involved in the early stages of a project then quickly moved on to other projects or roles. The answer to this problem was seen to be the need to proactively establish a strong culture so that new entrants to the project would quickly pick up the required mindset and behaviours set out in the beginning.
Taking an overview of the evening’s discussion, the common perspective was a recognition that the social, and therefore people component is a key element in the shifting of behaviours to enable the construction industry to deal with the complexity and uncertainty that are features of our current environment. The industry must therefore focus more effort to train leaders in how to become more agile and understand how to build project cultures that will embed collaborative ways of working that will endure through the life cycle of a project.
You can access The Construction Playbook and our report through the links below:
The Construction Playbook
Changing Behaviours in Construction: A complement to The Construction Playbook
Tony Llewellyn – 4 July 2022
With Howard Britton
There are not many speakers who invite the audience at the very start of a presentation to regard him as obnoxious!
But Howard is not an ordinary presenter. With a wider and more varied career background than most, including a
period as a practicing Psychoanalyst, Howard is well qualified to provide a fresh perspective on the topic of diversity.
Howard invited us to join him on a journey of thought, which he divided into three parts.
PART ONE – TEAM ARCHETYPES
Howard suggested that there are four common character types that can be found in most teams.
TYPE 1 – THE ‘IDEAS’ PERSON This is an individual who is constantly thinking of new ways of doing things. People like this are typically regarded as mavericks.
TYPE 2 – THE ‘GRAVE DIGGER’ A person who seeks order and needs to sort everything into neat boxes.
TYPE 3 – THE ‘ENGINEER’ This is someone who loves process and believes in things being done in a particular and consistent sequence.
TYPE 4 – THE ‘DOER’ Someone who likes action and has limited patience with planning. She just wants to get things moving.
The inference as that the motivational drivers of everyone in a team will be influenced by factors that are little to do with
the work environment and are more likely to be shaped by their genetic wiring, as well as their childhood experiences.
Each will have a preference for the type of work they do.
The problem, however, is that most companies do not recognise these differences and often require people
to work in a way that is misaligned with their core drivers, leading to average or below-average performance. Howard then identified several leadership archetypes:
The ‘dense’ leader, who is highly egotistical, believes can do everyone’s job better than they can. This type of leader does not listen and therefore lacks real understanding of what is going on in his team.
The ‘empty’ leader, who has been overpromoted and is clueless as to how to do their job. Ideas and feedback from the team go into a void.
The invisible leader, who is rarely available to her staff, and whose focus is anywhere but on her team. She is continually travelling or in meetings.
The ’Socratic’ leader, who is clear that she doesn’t know everything. She is therefore continually listening to her team trying to understand them. This is the type of manager that is likely to get more productivity from members of her team.
Howard’s point is that in order to successfully manage the four archetypes within the team, leaders must work with their people at the level of their identity. He emphasised that individuals are unlikely to change and so the business must adapt to them to get the best out of them, although this is incredibly challenging.
PART TWO – HIGH PERFORMING TEAMS
Howard noted that in a volatile and uncertain world, many organisations are seeking a step change in how they
operate. This will require a change in organisational philosophy where leaders must identify their vision of a
future state and then work backwards to plan how to achieve it. He cited the example of Dale Evans at Anglian Water who declared a vision for a 50% reduction in carbon from the company’s capital expenditure programme. Dale did not
know how this target would be achieved but engaged the wider team in agreeing a series of steps that would lead to
the desired outcome. These steps forced the team to break out of their ‘business as usual’ mindset and imagine a
different future with a new working philosophy. With such challenges, tapping into the different archetypal drivers
present in the team improves the chances of breaking out of the “business as usual” mindset.
This leads us towards the challenge for leaders and managers to find out what each member of their team is really
good at and harnessing it. Howard suggested that his model of archetypes has some relational aspects, where one
type of person can handle knowledge or information to be passed onto the next type of person by the leadership. In
this way, the team all perform at their best and the best outcome is achieved.
PART THREE – COGNITIVE DIVERSITY
In the final section of his presentation, Howard focused on the distinction between the diversity
of technical skills and emotionally driven cognitive skills. His argument was that whilst a diverse range of technical skills can be taught, emotionally driven abilities are embedded, and cannot be easily learned. Recognising the different cognitive archet ypes is therefore an important element in the success of teams, particularly where the team is being asked to deliver innovation, or a step change from business as usual. Howard consequently separated diversity into three primary elements:
- SKILLS DIVERSITY – knowledge and experience
- IDENTITY DIVERSITY – who we are as a person
- COGNITIVE DIVERSITY – how we think
Howard noted that much of the recent discussion about diversity focuses on the need to include minority groups into
teams who may otherwise be excluded based on their gender, race, sexuality and so on. His view is that this
discussion is much needed to ensure equality of opportunity and that everyone in the workplace is treated with dignity
and respect, regardless of our diverse identities. Howard’s suggestion throughout the evening was that perhaps the second discussion is emerging to resolve the complex challenges today’s project teams face; one that considers
diversity not only from the perspective of our identity but also how to harness the diversity
of our thought to optimise teams and deliver high performance.
Tony Llewellyn, June 2019
Roundtable with David Hancock
A short summary of the presentation by David Hancock, Chairman of the Government Construction Board for the Cabinet Office and the Infrastructure and Projects Authority and is also chair of the NEC UK Users’ Group. volume
David’s presentation led to a lengthy discussion and debate from many differing perspectives, considering challenges around risk allocation, industry-level collaboration and the impact of digital technologies on the future of construction and infrastructure delivery in the UK.
David opened the session by commenting that construction in the United Kingdom is currently at the centre of a perfect storm, which will drive change in at least some parts of the industry. Customer dissatisfaction, low (or no) contractors’ profit margins, and a shortage of skilled labour are all creating pressure to find alternative business models. Adding in the rapid digitalisation of many other aspects of the world economy offers a significant opportunity to those firms who are prepared to invest in different ways of working; a huge threat to those that are not.
As chairman of the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA), David has an overview of a huge pipeline of expenditure. The Government is planning to put £600 billion into the country’s infrastructure over the next 10 years. As the biggest client in the country, they have the potential to be a huge influence on the industry. Recognising the importance of their role, the IPA have an ambitious vision to use digital information technology to improve how the public estate is designed, constructed, operated and integrated into the country’s built environment.
The Government is therefore involved in a range of initiatives, one of which is a presumption in favour of offsite construction. Five of the largest government departments have committed to a platform design strategy based around increased standardisation, with the intention that more building components are manufactured in a controlled environment. David acknowledges that offsite manufacturing for construction is complicated and will take time to develop. The future potential benefits, however, are immense, not only producing a better product but also offering the opportunity of significant savings in cost and time.
Construction Innovation Hub
The Construction Innovation Hub brings together world-class expertise from the Manufacturing
Technology Centre (MTC}, Building Research Establishment (BRE) and the Centre for Digital Built
Britain (CDBB) to transform the UK construction industry.The future potential benefits, however,
are immense, not only producing a better product but also offering the opportunity of significant
savings in cost and time. Government has chosen three partners to form the Construction Innovation
Hub. Aligned with the themes of the IPA publication, Transforming Infrastructure Performance, this
Hub is intended to be the centre of excellence, driving challenge and change into all aspects of
infrastructure delivery to provide innovation and improved performance and productivity. There is a
clear focus on improving the use of digital and advanced manufacturing technologies to provide the
“Although there have been developments in BIM and increased uptake of digital technologies, in
construction we still use digital in an analogue way.”
One of the primary barriers the industry must overcome is the low levels of collaboration and connectivity. David provided a graphic illustration showing how weak the networking effect is within construction when compared to industries such as software engineering, manufacturing, financial services and media. The outcome of such low connectivity is the very slow spread of new ideas and limited innovation.
The IPA is also supporting initiatives such as Project 13, where value is based on overall outcome rather than simply looking at cost and programme. They recognise the challenge is to build more collaboration through the industry so that everyone can help make the ‘pie’ bigger rather than simply focusing on their own self-interest. The government has chosen three partners to form a Construction Innovation Hub. These are:
- Manufacturing Technology Centre The Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) develops and proves innovative manufacturing processes and technologies in an agile, low-risk environment, in partnership with industry, academia and other institutions.
- Building Research Establishment We are an innovative group of researchers, scientists, engineers and technicians who share a common goal – to make the built environment better for all. We generate new knowledge through independent research.
- Centre for Digital Britain The Centre for Digital Built Britain is a partnership between the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the University of Cambridge to deliver a smart digital economy for infrastructure and construction for the future and transform the UK construction industry’s approach to the way we plan, build, maintain and use our social and economic infrastructure.
The Construction Innovation Hub will support the four key themes around which the IPA is shaping its plans, explained in detail in their publication, Transforming Infrastructure performance.
David closed the session by asking the audience how these plans might have an impact on the day-to-day practices of our own work. For change to take place within the industry each of us should examine how digital transformation could have a positive impact in the way we choose to operate.
His underlying point is that the Government can act as a catalyst for change but finding answers to the challenges posed will require the engagement of individuals and organisations who are prepared to invest time in working through the complexity of the challenge to build for the future.
Roundtable with Rod Willis
Rod is an APECS Accredited Executive Coach, Windsor Leadership Trust Leadership Facilitator, Agile Business Consortium’s Strategy & Leadership Stream member and Co-founder of Assentire Ltd, Accelerating Collaboration Everywhere®.
Rod opened the session by sharing where in Project 13, there are multiple references highlighting the importance of both an enabling Environment Dynamic and effective Collaborative working, emphasising these are both required to enable the desired shift ‘From Transactions to Enterprises’ which is the name of the ICE report referenced. A few of the highlights are listed below:
- Effective organisation: One of the most surprising conclusions to emerge from the consultations with suppliers was how often collaborative teams are hampered by poor organisation. (*1P21)
- We are embracing the creation of value-driven, collaborative teams that can deliver investment programmes that secure the outcomes demanded by clients and the public. (*1P2.1)
- Too often the supply chain that delivers our infrastructure seems locked into a cycle of low margins, low investment and dysfunctional relationships. (*1P2.2)
- Three stages of maturity: It takes time for organisations to move away from the traditional approach and evolve into high-performing shared enterprises. Our studies of projects show that as collaborations mature, the partners become less reliant on the contracts between them and more skilled at managing their combined resources to produce the required outcomes. (1*P16)
- Effective teams are networks of collaborative relationships that encourage an exchange of knowledge and capabilities to drive improvement and innovation. (*1P20.2)
- “When we are confronted with evidence that challenges our deeply held beliefs we are more likely to reframe the evidence than we are to alter our beliefs. We simply invent new reasons, new justifications, and new explanations. Sometimes we ignore the evidence altogether”. (*1P13.2)
- Skills, behaviours and leadership. Alongside the commercial principles, it is essential that the capability is attracted, developed and retained within an enterprise to provide the underpinning leadership, behaviours and skills for success. There are two aspects, 1-Creating the right environment, 2-Skills and behaviours of organisations. (*2P32-34)
Source for Project 13 extracts 1 ‘Transactions to Enterprises’, 2’P13-Blueprint-Web’
Enable and Engage
Drilling down on the 4Es framework, the discussion moved to two aspects, ‘ENABLE’ & ‘ENGAGE’ critical to the ‘project environment’. Within these two areas, there is a need to pay attention to ‘An environment where desired behaviours are enabled is made available ‘and ‘Collaborative networks within enterprise model are enhanced and used to support transformation’.
Having shown the linkage between P13 and the Project Environment highlighting the relationship to Collaboration (i.e. the Environment & Group Dynamic) the talk moved from the traditional slide presentation into an evening based on Gamification. The evening focussed entirely on the Project Environment and how it felt when one reflected on a group or team.
The gamification approach is based on the AcceleratingCollaboration Everywhere® Suite of tools which were developed especially to help enhance skills identified for 2020 by the World Economic Forum’s 2018 Future Skills Report. The top ten were: complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management, coordinating with others, emotional intelligence, judgement and decision making, service orientation, negotiation, and cognitive flexibility.
By using the Gamification approach, it brought each person’s project to life, enabling them to explore their own project environment in full confidence as no actual attributable detail is shared with others around the table. All people had to do was ask 10 statements, and from the scores, each person had the knowledge of how to create the optimum project environment, enabling autonomous motivation while developing a more expansive mindset, and better understanding of what really gets in the way of major change initiatives.
Each marker on the poster represents the perception of how the Project Environment was perceived in relation to a specific group. The further to the right, the more Enabling the Project Environment was perceived to be. The distribution of stickers suggests there is a correlation between the Project Environment (horizontal scale) and what the Learning Dynamic (vertical scale). If now contrasted with the ‘norm’ group of >400, it’s possible to identify which of the 6 Zones of Collaboration a group falls within. All those that attended the evening left with their personal copy of the 6 Zones of Collaboration information sheet that describes in more detail each of the zones.
Zone 1: Collaboration is not occurring
Zone 2: Collaboration occurs infrequently
Zone 3: Collaboration occurs more frequently, yet by chance
Zone 4: Collaboration occurs more frequently, and by design
Zone 5: Collaboration is understood, supported and cascaded
Zone 6: Collaboration is understood, cascaded and highly adaptable
For more information on the ideas behind this approach, visit https://getcollaborating.com/introduction
where Rod is interviewed by Nigel Paine. ResoLex will shortly publish another video as part of the RoundTable support it brings to the community. Watch this space.
Tony Llewellyn, February 2019
Roundtable with Jane Gunn
Jane is a Professional Speaker, Mediator, Facilitator, and One-To-One Coach at Gunn Consultancy. She is Chair of the Board of Management of Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, Past President at the Professional Speaking Association and Owner of Corporate Peacemakers.
Jane opened the session with the observation that many people would rather parachute out of an aeroplane for the first time or even get their head shaved, than address difficult conflict issues at work.
And, yet it is commonly acknowledged that
“whatever is unspoken is the hardest thing to change.”
The basic premise of Jane’s presentation is that organisations should adopt the habit of addressing conflict early, and to do this they need established a clear process.Managing the process is particularly important when collaborating with other teams or organisations, where miscommunication and misunderstanding can quickly descent into conflict.
A large part of the problem is that we ignore the warning signs of early conflict, but because it is an emotive issue, the growth of dissatisfaction is exponential and so when left too long can be explosive.
Jane illustrated the conflict sequence as a stepping process through a number of stages:
The parties stop talking
They talk to others, trying to build support for their case
They start issuing threats
They take action to coerce the
others to concede or be punished
Positions become entrenched as egos become fixated on not losing face
Into the ‘abyss’ together
Conflict management is crucially about identifying conflict early and taking action.
Our brains are wired to be on alert for threat, measuring what is happening in every conversation and non-conversation.
A model for conflict management
Jane drew up a model identifying some of the key aspects of conflict management. Creating a degree of consciousness about these factors will help reduce conflict and allow for faster intervention.
Consideration – Treating others with courtesy
Connection – Being made to feel part of the ‘in group’ or excluding others
Control – A common trigger for conflict is when we feel events are beyond our control Caring – Making others feel they are heard and are important
Culture – How are things done around here
Conditioning – What bad behaviours appear to be acceptable?
The service expected from our leaders has changed and conflict management should now therefore be an important role to build better solutions, without creating the destruction that happens when we enter the abyss.
When asked if there is a particular process that could be adopted, Jane’s view was that it would vary from organisation to organisation and even from team to team. Through the questions that came from the floor, however, some of the important ingredients for conflict management are as follows:
- Having emotionally intelligent people on the team makesa significant difference.
- ‘Fist bangers’ neededhelp to understandthat aggression rarely moved them forward.
- At the start of a conversation, agreeing how we will proceedis crucial.
- Deciding when to act. This is a judgement call,e.g.is this still going to be a problem in two weeks time?
- Encourage self-determination before escalation. Encourage people to sort their own issues rather ‘pass the monkey onto someone else’s back.’
- Where is conflict likely to occur and what preemptive actions can be put in place?
- Encourage the linguistic habits of dialogue over debate.
Jane packed a lot of very useful information into a short session, but the key message I took away from the event was forteam leaders to recognize their potential tendencies to ignore conflict and to take time early in the project cycle to agree a process that encourages healthy disagreement, andalso addresses interpersonal conflict shortly after it starts to emerge.
Tony Llewellyn, January 2019