Reading the published edition of the Government Industry Strategy, Construction 2025, released yesterday I had two metaphors in mind, Snakes & Ladders and Babies in the River. Metaphors at first annoyingly contradictory, but on reflection pleasingly complementary.
The Construction 2025 Industrial Strategy vision contains ambitions to cut costs, deliver projects faster, reduce carbon emissions, improve image and exports, through working digitally, sustainably, and yes more efficiently.
Snakes and Ladders: illustrates the myriad strands and issues we are trying to deal with in the industry. Indeed the strategy includes a number of ladders with the excellent intention to move the industry forward, but also a number of slippery snakes to prevent meaningful progress for industry players and the industry as a whole. And, no doubt there will be plenty of commentaries on what issues are ladders (BIM and Carbon perhaps?) and which are snakes (image, diversity, SME relevance perhaps?)
Babies in the River: illustrates why only dealing with these strands and issues will not move us forward, and we will continue with energy sapping improvements, incremental changes and pockets of best practice. (You need to read Annie Leonard, Story of Stuff excellent article)
The strategy lacks any significant vision for transformational change, in the structure, purpose and thinking for the industry. Babies in the River is such a great analogy here, as we busy ourselves rescuing babies out of the river without going up river to understand why babies are coming down the river in the first place.
A strategy for doing less bad, rather than more good?
The world in 2025 will be a very different place, environmentally, socially and financially, yet today’s strategy, incrementally fixing today’s problems, perhaps fails to set a real vision and scenario for the best possible industry in 2025, and back-cast from ‘there’, rather then forecast from ‘here’ (as for example the Living Building Challenge does – see Mel Starrs thoughts)
From today’s thought leaders and leading organisations, across many sectors, we can start to see what the future may bring – a circular economy, restorative sustainability, purpose driven business models, diversely-led industries, healthy products, transparency driven by social media and social responsibility. All missed opportunities in the 2013 Industry Strategy.
It is tempting to say not to worry as another strategy will be along soon, but whilst 2025 sounds futuristic it is just around the corner, we have limited time for a raft of reasons.
The strategy quite rightly states this is just the start, and a ‘people-led’ strategy. Going forward to deliver, we need real new thinking – the kind of visionary thinking that challenges the status quo and sets a vision. And the Circular Economy and Living Buildings Challenge are two great exemplars to learn from.