Category Archives: leadership

Could built environment leaders cut it in a digital world?

An excellent Communique newsfeed from Nancy Settle-Murphy this morning, at looking at effectiveness of leaders in a virtual world.  It strikes me this is a lesson perhaps for built environment and construction leaders as we move into a communication era that is increasingly digital, web based, social media enabled and BIM (Building Information Model) focused:

Even the most experienced team leaders can make us weep with boredom. They torture us with their monotone narrations of 10-Mb slide decks. They regale us with irrelevant minutiae, while sidestepping the really important stuff. Their meetings are more like monologues, with everyone else listening from the sidelines. And for the most part, they probably imagine they’re pretty interesting people!

When we experience boring leaders face-to-face, we have to at least pretend to be somewhat interested. We might take notes (even if it’s a shopping list!), throwing in a few occasional nods so we won’t be called on to replay key points. Copious amounts of caffeine help to some degree, as do the many bio breaks we’ll inevitably need as a result. And who hasn’t had a colleague place an “emergency” phone call in extreme cases of ennui?

Tuning out boring virtual leaders is far easier. Once you put yourself on mute, there’s no end to the more important things you can do, like responding to emails, writing up your latest status report, or finding the best price on that new digital camera you’ve been pining for. (If you work from home, this “important” work can extend to laundry, dinner prep, weight-lifting and more.) As long as you’re within earshot of the conversation, your team leader may assume you’re present while in fact you are completely absent.

So, how can boring virtual leaders learn to become more captivating? (And no, it is not an inherent skill that some are just born with!) In this issue, I take a look at some steps even the blandest leader can take to evolve into an engaging, stimulating and captivating leader, from near or far.

No one actively aspires to be boring. And yet regrettably, few leaders actively attempt to be interesting.

Read on … from Nancy Settle-Murphy on Commique 

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social media in the workplace

Workplaces need social media. Martin Pickard @FMGuru posted a question on twitter this morning on (should we) use Social Media in the Workplace in preparation for a debate this week. These debates are happening across all sectors, particularly so within the built environment, but I find it odd that we are have these debates at all and wonder:

  • What do I tell my son who is learning how to use facebook and how to blog at school, with QR codes to promote school sports day results, that when he starts work he wont be allowed to use such skills?
  • Did we have these discussions when the telephone or fax was introduced. (Lets send a hand written note around, get people together to explore whether we should allow the telephone on to sites)
  • Or indeed when email was introduced. I work with construction contractors who still do not allow computers on site, emails are send to an info@ address, printed in the head office and taken to sites by the contracts manager. We laugh at this now, but are we doing the same on social media?

Lets think about social media as collaboration and communication. Do we really want to have a debate as to whether we need ‘communication’ in the work place? Or whether we want people to work together, to collaborate?

Increasingly we shore up our policies and employee guidelines preventing the use of social media rather then guidelines on responsible behaviour. Better to have a workforce of ambassadors across social media than a frustrated annoyed workforce who criticise or worse during their own time or in their lunch times?

If we start to use the expression of ‘Real Time Web’ rather than social media it opens the door to thinking about using it as a tool for learning, sharing, communicating and gathering the intelligence an organisation needs (market, client, comptetitors, innovations etc)

Google have enabled Real Time as part of their search options. Staff can now see who has tweeted, blogged or shared anything they search for. Should we hence prevent the use of Google.  We cannot stop the use of social media or real time web, are we (as employers, managers, directors etc) just trying to stick more and more fingers in the soon to break dam?

Reading the traits of successful collaborative leaders for a piece of work with an innovative construction organisation and I see time and time again that a collaborative leader, (to which most built environment leaders would profess to be) is one that is connected, internally and externally across many sectors, through, yes, social media as well as traditional media. (Blog post to come)

Increasingly I am working with organisations who are waking up to the use of social media applications to improve winning work potential, from gathering leads/market/client/competitor intelligence, to gathering evidence for PQQ’s (from eg project blogs) to collaborative writing of responses and much more. (Follow me on @fairsnape for more on this)

Related links:

Using social media can help boards be better on sustainability. (CSRWire Talkback Blogpost)

Why FM needs to go social (a @be2camp FMX Article with @EEPaul)

Top 10: uses of social media to win work (check back after 23rd June after my session with Lancs Construction Best Practice Club)

ultimate job offer?

“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success”

Shackleton’s advert for the original crew is surely one of the classic job descriptions, as indeed is the manner in which he selected his team.

And now 100 years later the offer is being made again. The 100 year celebration expedition to retrace Shackleton’s journey to the south pole (well, 97 miles short of !!) is advertising for a member of the public to join the party. Only this time there are no wages! The conditions will be more palatable though. (Read the story on the Guardian site)

Applications can be made on line at www.matrixgroup.co.uk/shackleton

Shackleton has long been a ‘leadership hero’ of mine as he demonstrated many excellent leadership traits which today’s project managers would do well to consider. He has been called the greatest team leader bar none, this despite the fact Shackleton failed in nearly every objective he set himself.

I have even been known over the years to deliver presentations and workshops on Shackleton’s style of leadership and its relevance to today’s construction project management: a style that can be summarised as

Team selection – putting together a dream team
Vision and Emergence
Common Goals and shared understanding
Learning and Sharing
Personal example and connectivity
Manage out conflict
Celebrating and having Fun

from brightgreen: how to use environmental leaders

Last Friday Bright Green Talent posted this excellent five point guide:

Dreadlocks, demonstrations and duck ponds – What does today’s environmentalist look like?

What are the characteristics of these environmental leaders and how can you use them to drive your business forward?

1. Big minds: Environmental leaders have a history of excellence in everything they do. Graduating from the top universities, they are aspirational, yet practical. They are naturally drawn to complex problems that span science, economics and society.

2. Learners, not cogs: Don’t expect an environmental leader to become another cog in an organisational machine. They are here to learn and to make a difference. They flourish in small organisations, visionary
consultancies and larger organisations with a big mandate for change.

Continue reading

on be excellent

Around 10 or so years ago I was part of a BE (now constructing excellence) development group which produced the Be Excellent document and tool.

The premise was to increase the awareness of constructions relationship within facilities management and excellence through collaboration by mean of a self, or facilitated assessment tool.

What is Be Excellent?
Be Excellent is a simple but rigorous examination of business practice for all disciplines within the construction industry using the EFQM Business Excellence Model as the platform and take on board the important criteria for Collaborative Working, Supply Chain Management and the “design through to operational requirements” of Facilities Management.
If answered honestly and thoroughly, Be Excellent will identify those areas which an organisation needs to concentrate on to improve performance. Whether the organisation decides to make these a priority is a question of where each sits within their overall strategic plan.

During these last two weeks I have support a number of organisations with Be Excellent, so, with ‘excellence’ being on my mind,  I share my thoughts here.

I continue to use this approach as a first step analysis, helping groups or organisations understand where to put improvement energies and efforts.  It works best as a consensus approach, with a number of assessments done across the width and depth of the organisation, providing an unique and revealing assessment of approaches, deployment and results.  An assessment I refer to as a peoples view of the organisation, which is often at odds with a purely management view.

And here is a main difference between this consensus approach and the top down ISO 9001 improvement or quality models.  People want to be involved, or at least have a voice in shaping improvements, not to be forced into improvements via independent audit non conformance’s.

EFQM ( European Framework for Quality Management) arose out of the 1980/90’s TQM (Total Quality Management) ideas.  The UK construction sector at that time flirted with TQM but never really made the initiative ‘stick’, as it was just that an initiative with a shelf life, and not sustained. Indeed one of the factors that moved me away from employment with large contracting was the lack of ‘stickability’ on improvement, flitting across what was in vogue or required by any client at any one time. It was, and still remains, an add-on to business.

And yet the orginal philosophy and premise of EFQM remains strong and sound, providing an holistic view of any organisation, and in particular the connectivity between functions, approaches and processes, often revealing the weaknesses in the typical siloed organisation.  For example EFQM and Be Excellent force you to address questions such as:

  • How are you strategies, objectives and policies founded on customer intelligence and requirements, now and into the future?
  • How do you manage, recruit and develop people in line with your vision and strategies, How does leadership act as a role model?
  • How do you procure resources to deliver your strategies, are finances, knowledge and information aligned to your strategies, or are they a barrier, and
  • Do processes really translate your vision, objectives and strategies into operations or are they there to satisfy some other ‘tick’ box?

There is an scoring mechanism alongside Be Excellent , but this serves as a device to prioritise actions, and it is the action planning that is the main outcome. From these action plans facilitated workshops can drill down to the real root of issues, using for example the Toyota Five Whys approach, a main ingredient of lean construction or six sigma. Its is amazing where you get to on asking the fifth why, for example a recent exercise identified an issue of poor recognition for good work, 5 whys drilled it down further as:

  • We don’t hear about good things
  • We don’t tell people about success’s
  • We don’t like to blow our own trumpets
  • We look for wrongs not rights in reviews
  • Our lessons learnt exercises focus on negatives and not positives

A programme was then put into place to review the lessons learnt process, to capture good learning points so they can be repeated, in addition to problems to avoid.

Over the years the trends from Be Excellent have become very clear:

  • we are good at approaches, new initiatives, new management systems, achieving ISO standards and other on the wall certificates.
  • we are ok, but not so good at deployment, that is deployment of the approach is not sustained, either over time, or across an organisation, and often suffers at the whim of changing management.
  • we are poor at learning, at analysing results for trends causes, and comparisons, and then on closing the loop to improve.

Sadly, this reflects the view of Deming back in the 1950’s, that we do not close the Plan Do Check Act loop, even less so see this as a spiral, with the Act taking us to a better, more informed Plan position for the next project or time period.  Be Excellent provides the peoples view to kick start and to sustain the improvement cycle.

A copy of  Be Excellent can be downloaded from here and you if would like to discuss this topic in more detail contact us here.

wanted – intergrated construction manager –

A friend across in the US gave me the heads up on a job advert for an Integrated Construction Manager at Mortenson Construction .  What made me look twice at the job specification was the inclusion of all the themes and issues that we discuss today, as being the way forward, themes of virtual design, BIM, integrated management, collaboration and joined up thinking with facilities management. A sign of the times or a glimpse into the future of construction management?

Extracts from the spec:

  • The IC Manager is responsible for providing input and leadership to the design and/or virtual design and construction process.
  • Coordinates design team members and Preconstruction services (i.e. estimating, scheduling, project planning, constructability, site utilization, etc.).
  • manages the integrated delivery team’s resources
  • Oversees the preparation of models for facilities management.
  • Facilitator of project collaboration and integrated delivery activities

and basic responsibilities:

  • Oversees the production and management of 3D models
  • Establishes the scope of work for projects
  • Establishes the schedule and deliverables for integrated delivery services
  • Oversees construction coordination
  • Communicates model generated information to project team
  • Implements 3D technology during construction
  • Participates in the research and development of new technologies
  • Internal training
  • Develops project BIM models
  • Attends, participates and presents at conferences
  • Manages others
  • Business Development support
  • May lead the Operating Group Integrated Construction team
  • What is missing of course is the green sustainability theme, but then some would say that is taken for granted today, a given that an integrated construction manager would build green. (Discuss!)

    Tempted?  Seattle?  Very…

    Capable People – a new blog on the block

    I have added another blog to the blogroll – down there on the right somewhere – capablepeople is a new blog on the block and while it isnt a ‘built environment’ or ‘sustainability’ blog, is an entertaining and readable blog on general business improvement themes.

    The first batch of posts covers a wide range from EFQM and ISO 9000 to  Leadership via Joy Division and Formula 1.

    One to add to your RSS or igoogle.