A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

Modify Form. Preserve Substance. Know the Difference.

The following article originally appeared in the July newsletter to clients of FMI Corporation.  Reprinted with permission.

This adage has never been more relevant or more important.  Changes are percolating in every dimension of designing, financing, building, and managing those structures that create the “built environment.”  Their potential order of magnitude is from slight modification to total disruption.  The traditional delivery systems, roles, means, and methods are under intensely focused study by very bright people with innovative mindsets.  Much of this thinking is caused by the myriad technologies exploding onto the market.  Some are just emerging and being beta-tested; others are proven and being widely and rapidly adapted.  A fascinating development, adding momentum to the growth in construction technology applications, is the increasing presence of the experienced, sophisticated “Silicon Valley” investor crowd.  Over $1 billion of knowledgeable money has poured into the construction-related space in the last few months.

Other things are driving this urgency for change too.  Owners, particularly those with very large industrial projects in many parts of the globe, are understandably frustrated.  Over 90% of these projects have schedule and budget challenges; delays and overruns prevail.  They are collaboratively working with their builders through organizations like the Construction Users Roundtable (CURT) and the Construction Industry Institute (CII) at the University of Texas to invent “Construction 2.0,” which, pro forma, is radical and disruptive.  “Project Groundhog” is being funded by many players, including AGC and ABC, to test some of these theories and approaches.  At this point, it is nascent, but a real priority, attracting full resource support to give it a valid field test.  It is worth monitoring progress through these organizations’ websites or getting more directly involved.

CEOs themselves are also driving more change in their companies’ practices.  Equipped with much more data, both analytic and predictive, and seeking comparative information through peer groups and professionals, these enlightened leaders are leveraging the proven technologies with confidence to gain competitive advantage.  Surviving organizations will have to “modify form.”  But they will also have the imperative “preserve substance.”  Understanding clearly what must never change in the blizzard of mandatory changes will make the real difference.  What must be held sacred are the foundational values, built on the deeply held principles of the founder, now articulated, reinforced, and consistently lived by the current senior leadership team, especially if some members do not have construction backgrounds.  These nonnegotiable culture cornerstones will create the vital “true north” compass points when the level 5 rapids of impending change severely test perseverance.

The soul elements of the true “construction man” must always be visible, no matter how rocky or frothy: authenticity, humility, risk-tolerance, and a ferocious ethical tenacity to always “do the right thing” regardless of contract or cost.  These qualities, fully lived, are powerful magnetic forces for attracting the clients, talent, and other resources required to build multigenerational organizations.  They always have been; they always will be.