Thursday, 15 October 2009

House of Commons

It was quite a kick jumping into a taxi and requesting "House of Commons, please". But the traffic around Westminster slowed to a useless crawl, so I walked the last part. The occasion was the launch of a report, wittily titled, "Never waste a good crisis".

After a couple of glasses of wine and a few nibbles, Nick Raynsford was introduced to us. A very good speaker, of course, being an MP. Good eye contact, engaging, and clear points. He drew our attention to one graph in the report and told us how the best construction projects had done really well, but the rest had a long way to go. He shared with us his vision for an improved industry focused on value, and congratulated Andrew Wolstenhulme and his team on a great piece of work. Andrew then gave us an overview and, like a true gentleman, diverted the spotlight to the team rather than himself. One strange point that he made was that for every pound spent on deign, ten are spent on building, a hundred on operating and the benefit is a thousand. Yes, I know, almost impossible to figure out what it can mean, but the last incarnation of this kind of ratio was 1:5:200, a ratio that claimed that for every pound of building there are five of maintenance and 200 of operating. Clearly nonsense, otherwise construction would be half a percent of GDP. We debunked that myth in a conference paper (click here if you want to read it). I was happy with the idea of construction being pitched at roughly 10% of GDP and design being roughly 10% of construction. These are near enough in terms of orders of magnitude. But I had no idea how we could get £1,000 of "benefit" from £10 of construction. All very bizarre, but worryingly typical in this kind of gathering.

Then Vaughan Burnand, Chairman of CE enjoined us to keep the faith and continue to believe in the change agenda. By this time I was wondering if I'd stumbled into some strange kind of church gathering.

I had been involved in one of the multidisciplinary workshops that were part of the background work for this report, I was interested in meeting those participants again, and in seeing what the team had made of our input. Of course, few from our group had made it. And it was hard to recognise our words in the report. Shortly after our workshop, I received a draft nine-page summary of all we'd said, and I remember being satisfied that most of what we'd said had been captured. Perhaps it was not sufficiently "on-message" to have made it into the final report. Or, more likely, perhaps there was just too much of it! The section on industry structure in the report picks up a few of the main points and makes good use of them, so I am pleased with the impact of this. The report is available for download here. It was good to meet up with so many friends and colleagues from the industry, and catch up, and it was particularly good to see reports aobut how we organize ourselves being launched in the House of Commons. Have a look at the report, and post your comments here - it would be interesting to see what others make of it.

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