In the magazine this month and through our work with the Construction Leadership Council and various industry forums, there is a lot of talk about reinvention, often the blame game then ensues. It is worth reflecting though; in these conversations, I seldom hear, “I need to….”, it is usually about how everybody else needs to reinvent.

A short article by American guru, Seth Godin, got me thinking; whether in these debates we are asking the right question. In his blog he pulls out some examples:
• Your employee regularly shows up late. How can you get them to care more?
[When can we talk about your hiring and leadership approaches?]
• Universities and local schools are in crisis with testing in disarray and distance learning ineffective…
[When can we talk about what school is for?]
He makes the point that it is comfortable to search for the easy answer, but to ignore the system is to assume it is “as permanent as the water surrounding your goldfish”.

It got me thinking what questions we should be asking in construction, I am sure you will have your own, but a few that jumped out at me were:

• Why do main contractors keep taking retentions?
[Why are there such huge credit issues within construction?]
• Why is my insurance premium constantly increasing?
[How can we better manage and insure risk as a sector?]
• Why do architects’ designs lack all the essential detail?
[How can we better inform the specifiers and make it easy for them to fill in the blanks?]
• Why do we agree standard contacts and then undermine them with reems of amendments?
[When can we talk about trust and partnerships?]
• How can I prove this will work?
[How can we be certain it won’t fail?]

Tipping point in construction
As Seth points out, in a crisis, there’s maximum attention. And in a crisis, we often discard any pretence of caring about systems and resilience and focus only on how to get back to normal. This is precisely why normal is what normal is, because we fight to get back to it.

This rings true with me as I honestly don’t think we want to go back to anything like ‘normal’ for construction, even a slightly polished version. There was a lot not to like about the way  construction has done business for the past decade and I believe we were close to a tipping point before the pandemic struck. Surely we are there now?

And as Seth points out in his reflection, “Changing the system changes everything. And it might be even less work than pouring water on today’s tactical emergency.”

Iain McIlwee, FIS Chief Executive