In an industry such as construction – where the focus is on project deliverables, programme schedules and budget restrictions – the workforce is expected to fulfil the needs of the project and do whatever is required to achieve completion. However, it is the workforce who make the processes happen and, all too often, little attention is paid to the working relationships, the loyalties, personality clashes, changes to work and personal circumstances – all which have an impact on performance.
There are complex reasons for failure, particularly when large multi-disciplinary teams are involved with different skill sets and ways of working. Unclear objectives, poor communication skills, avoidance of accountability, lack of trust and commitment, combined with inattention to detail – all can play a part.
Individuals who provide specialist knowledge and components are often required to collaborate with a range of other experts during each phase of the build process – many may be unknown to them.
Working in such a transient industry can be challenging due to the interactions taking place between many unfamiliar teams for a relatively short period of time – a process often described as fragmented. This can complicate an already-demanding environment when it comes to communication, in which technical language and mixed skill sets are so prominent. Failure to establish clear and efficient procedures and collaborative practices across the teams can be problematic.
How to increase the chance of success
Building Information Modelling (BIM) is at the forefront of the latest digital technology in today’s built environment. The discipline and collaborative working that BIM facilitates is no doubt a progressive step, however this must also take place outside the digital environment. We cannot rely solely on technology and by adopting the same principles of collaboration underpinned by developing the skills of project teams and encouraging communication – we increase the chance of success. The benefits of increasing diversity within the workplace is a much-debated topic but although there has been much discussion, no measurable progress has been made. As we face a skills crisis more has to happen to make the people within the industry reflect the demographics of the UK.
There are many reports and studies which demonstrate that those companies with a diverse board and workforce outperform others in their industry. Companies in the top quartile for gender, racial or ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry counterparts. To date, we appear to have little tangible evidence of this in the construction industry and even though many companies have equality and diversity programmes and policies in place, in reality we know that these polices are not having an impact, because not enough is changing.
The construction industry is becoming more globally-oriented and, therefore, clients themselves may proactively look for diverse engagement teams to negotiate and interact with supply chain and construction partners. A training session on diversity can be useful, but for it to be meaningful it will need to address individual preferences and biases at a values, beliefs and behavioural level – something that will not happen in a short workshop. This sort of workshop is quite simply about compliance and box-ticking but not about a cultural change in the workplace.
As a task-based industry, all too often little attention is paid to how teams work successfully. They are more likely to be successful when members can trust each other and are not afraid to challenge and question decisions or project-related issues, without being aggressive. It goes without saying that good communication is an essential skill and that forming good working relationships quickly can contribute towards an open and collaborative working environment.
Here are a few pointers to consider to assist your project teams deliver successful outcomes. Firstly, define the values and purpose of the team. Gain an understanding of the task work and teamwork skills required. Consider personality characteristics and attitudes that support the values and purpose of the team. Establish that these values are compatible and ensure team members appreciate their effect on others together with understanding their own impact, influence, strengths and weaknesses. Good leadership of a team or an organisation is key, at the head of the team the leader needs to be able to create the right environment for team members to deliver what is required. As you would expect the personality of the leader is just as important as the team members. They need to be able to communicate and provide an open and honest culture, one where members trust each other and at the same time are not afraid to be innovative or suggest new ways of doing things.
Much can be achieved through good communication and understanding of the team and the behaviours required to execute a plan in the right way. Frequently, forward-thinking organisations now make use of appropriate psychometric assessments which can be invaluable when recruiting or developing people individually or as part of a team. Psychometric testing can give a good overall picture of a team member’s personality, what makes them tick and how they prefer to work in given situations; how they work under pressure, for example, and how they work alone or as part of a team.
Success Train is always keen to hear from organisational leaders who would like to learn more about tools for leadership enhancement, for themselves and their employees. For more information, please visit the company’s website.