What can we do to get clients to move to a more collaborative mindset with contract procedures and risks rather than instructing lawyers to lay all the risk with the contractor?
HC: There are four things that I would highlight:
Firstly, we can demonstrate that fair and equitable sharing of risk will deliver better project outcomes in terms of time, cost and quality.
Secondly, we can identify who between the employer and the members of its supply chain are best placed (commercially and operationally) to own and manage risk.
Thirdly, client and supply chain need to work collaboratively to ensure the contract is being administered well, so that challenges, issues and risks are highlighted earlier and mitigated in a pre-emptive manner.
Finally, clients can engage the contractor (and supply chain at large) earlier to mature required outcomes and design as far as practicable, in order to collectively identify project delivery risks.
JH: I’d also add that greater transparency on costs and margin is required to build the trust needed for this to be successful.
What are the benefits of team coaching in the avoidance of disputes and poor performance?
JH: Team coaching, where both employer and contractor teams are coached to become one team, is a crucial first step to building a more collaborative project environment. Leadership from both parties needs to be very visible on this to ensure the collaborative culture reaches all areas of the project team. Where the time is given to set clear project objectives, rather than employer or contractor objectives, and the plan to reach them is developed, then this can be a hugely beneficial step in achieving the desired project outcomes and reducing disputes.
HC: Team onboarding is critical – joint understanding across all parties of project outcomes has to be in place. This requires coaching in leadership and communication skills at senior levels to avoid parochialism; rather, an emphasis by project leaders needs to be placed on creating team unity for the good of achieving overall project outcomes.
Coaching and development should cover all stakeholders from across the supply chain involved in project delivery and be founded on providing new ways of working. The emphasis in coaching has to be on ‘project outcomes must come first’ regardless of which company you work for in the supply chain.
Encourage coaching that promotes more open communication; a culture of encouraging parties to raise issues earlier without fear of recrimination, so that solutions to technical issues can be addressed before they escalate into being major risks.
The CRUX Insight report highlights that skills shortage is a key headwind. What can clients do to help address this?
HC: I would highlight a few things here:
- Provide surety of pipeline to allow contractors to know there is consistency of demand. This will allow contractors the confidence to continue to invest in encouraging / sponsoring education for new talent; continue to build requirements for apprenticeships, shorter term programmes to upskill and appoint new candidates.
- Further engagement with schools, colleges, FE Institutions and Universities.
- Address the issue of the image of Construction – it’s not just about muddy sites with a macho culture.
- Engage a wider diversity of talent – women need to be attracted to the sector.
- Communicate the role that ICT, systems and technology are playing to entice talent into construction.
JH: Taking a longer term view is key to getting engagement here. There are no quick fixes when hearts and minds need to be won over.
What approaches can the industry take to step forward to avoid challenges likely to be faced in 2023?
HC: A change of mindset in both public and private sectors at industry, enterprise and project level is needed. This is about:
- creating of long-term pipelines of work focused on the delivery of desired outcomes and value;
- a re-balancing of risk allocation, so that risk is fairly shared;
- engaging the supply chain earlier; and
- a wider perspective of talent acquisition and development.
The client needs to understand the capacity and capability of the supply chain before determining its procurement and delivery model and bringing a project to market. Collaboration is also needed on embedding digital technologies founded on common data environments to enable greater delivery efficiency.
Costs can be tested and evaluated to ensure realism, as opposed to optimism bias. There can also be consideration of the basis for a contract award. Most Economically Advantageous Tender should not just mean cheapest; it should emphasise a better evaluation of outcomes to be delivered and quality to be provided.
Identifying payment mechanism improvements (whilst ensuring relevant delivery performance in place) can help assist cash flow.
Construction project stakeholders can also plan early for the means of de-escalating problems before they arise; pre-emption rather than resolution of problems needs to be adopted. Contract challenge sessions can be used to establish whether the contracting approach is watertight, but equitable.