That’s the way to do it!…..Oh no it isn’t!….Oh yes it is!

Punch and Judy

It’s behind you! Tick, tock…

(sharp intake of breath)…..we don’t do that here, we’ve always done it this way….

Pantomime season is just about behind us as we start 2014. (Oh no it isn’t!) (Oh yes it is!)

The culture of our industry interests me a great deal. Moreover, how organisations can develop and reinforce their own cultures and their real underlying values, which can frustrate change and innovation, whatever the media PR or salespeak says! It’s a bit like antibodies in the system resisting the virus of change!

Changing the industry, means the bottom line is getting people to think and work differently. Perhaps too at the root of this is really just our humanness, not wanting to be told what to do, or stick to rules or procedures.

Process, compliance, consistency, quality, efficiency, improvement, innovation, perfection. These are the buzz words, perhaps the holy grail. And we’ll get there, but we’re not there yet!

We’re seeking to improve many aspects of design and construction in the built environment industry, so this drives us towards systems and compliance. However I wonder whether this creates a conflict? We strive for individuality but processes want us to conform to a standard? (You can have any colour you like but it has to be black..!)

As a Design Manager, and now involved in BIM, it’s easy to see the need for process, but you can also see people’s hearts sink when confronted by 100 page manuals and huge spreadsheets, and flow charts.

Our digital culture has accustomed us to instant answers, “give me the headlines!”. The trick is perhaps to design processes and systems that work with our humanity, that enable compliance without frustrating creativity and being human.

When BIM systems and user interfaces are much more intuitive , I guess then it’ll be easy. Like picking up an iPad. But until then we’re going to have to do this the harder way, and learn to live with it, manuals and all.


Clearly we’re not there yet. Some people think they are, but I do wonder. There are a lot of smoke and mirrors out there! We’ve barely scratched the surface. We live in a time of mixed messages, when we can hear exemplary stories of best practice, shining beacons of best practice, and at the same time hear doom and gloom from the naysayers, and stories of failure. And everything in between. And also wondering what the real underlying truth is!

We are in the swamp. The alligators are biting and we need a way out. An escape path.

In the context of the industry this isn’t just about BIM. This is just about being better. Creating a better built environment.

Recovery v Innovation

We’ve lived through one of the worst recessions in our history, businesses, and jobs lost, careers changed , training and skills cut backs. As the fragile recovery takes shape, different pressures will emerge.

The pressure to turnover some work, to make a margin, to deliver as quick as possible to improve business prospects, the balance sheet and the bank balance, the fast buck.

This is a telling moment. Having implemented change, innovation or improvements in the way we work and deliver (not just talking about BIM workflows here) then the pressure to revert to type is immense. We all know how the script goes, it’s easier, we know what we’re doing, it’s certain, the old ways are best, comfortable and so on. We long for no stress and the armchair (metaphorically speaking!).

Ironically pushing through this pressure and keeping the faith, the nerve, if you will, will result in achieving the benefits and efficiencies that more effective collaboration provides, supported by the technologies and the new ways of working.

So a testing time is upon us but perhaps in a different way. However, in a Darwinian sense, we know that those that are quickest to adapt to new situations, will survive and and go on to thrive. As for the dinosaurs…well…we know how that worked out.

Across society we’re seeing new paradigms emerge, such as the new economics, social patterns, networking and so on. Our industry is not exempt from these forces, and in the long term we will see leaner, fitter more technically/IT savvy businesses leading the pack.

They will be the ones who reap the benefits of keeping their nerve, sticking to the plan, and maintaining the innovation.

When the going gets tough, we go out to lunch! Seriously, having invested in new ways of working, the pain of implementation, we have to see it through…surely? You can hear the arguments now!

So we’re moving into a new phase, mid way through the 4 year programme to Level 2 by 2016. Those that are just beginning the journey, will now tread a well worn path, and face questions others dealt with a long time back. Others will continue to push ahead and reap the benefits in terms of both winning and delivering work, driving innovation. And the recalcitrant rump will as always sit on the beach trying to hold back the tide, muttering.

Take a moment. Stand back from it all and take a deep breath.

Yes we achieve wonderful things everyday, but there is so much firefighting going on, we all know that. Surely this can be so much better, for our clients, for the world, for the built environment legacy we leave behind. Lifecycle is now key, and we must get our heads round that before it’s too late.

We have to do better. We have to change. Why not now?

Let’s go!

Cheers :o)


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