Ten things I’d wish for if I were a construction client…

Can clients’ wishes survive their encounter with construction?

 

If I were a UK construction client, I’d have to be rich, and have a pretty pressing need. One does not commission developments lightly, that’s for sure.

I’d be excited at the prospect no matter the job or what kind of client I was. Dream home, cool new museum, office block, social housing, or whatever – ordering a new building is always going to be a big deal.

Decision made and this thing hurtling straight at me, I’d also be a bit deer-caught-in-the-headlights, paralyzed by the options. I’d definitely need survival training, an action plan, and a few trustworthy hands to hold along the way.

Finally, I didn’t get where I am today without hitting the buffer a few times when faced with big, difficult, complex jobs. Along the way, I picked up a few pearls of wisdom, the biggest of which was that you make better decisions and get much better results if you know wtf you’re doing.

“I’d want the building I ordered, not some shambolic residue requiring creative accountancy or wing-and-a-prayer marketing guff to rescue it from fiasco.”

So, if I were a construction client, yeah, I’d want the best building ever, forever … but these ten things would also be on my wishlist:

1 THE RIGHT TEAM. I’d want a design and construction team able to demonstrate their competence based on robust evidence gathered from feedback and finished projects in use over several years, both rated against national benchmarks. Takes the guesswork out of it.

THE RIGHT RELATIONSHIP. I’d want to deal with a single senior person authorised to speak for the unified design and construction team, and for him or her to pre-empt problems and resolve them without bothering me unless it was important to do so. A kind of mirror of me, but who understands what’s going on in the background.

3 THE RIGHT MOTIVATION. I’d want all the parties in the team to share the risk and to have proportionate stakes in the success of the completed building so that they all work for the project rather than for themselves. You care more when you’ve got skin in the game.

4 THE RIGHT CULTURE. I’d want a no-blame, no-bullshit culture, where all parties were able to hold their hands up when things were going wrong without fear of retribution or undue penalty, backed by integrated project insurance. Really, I have no interest in who’s right or who’s wrong – I just want a good building.

5 A VALIDATED RISK DASHBOARD. From the start, I’d want to be able to understand the risks (to time, cost, and quality), their likelihood (based on robust, validated evidence from across the industry), and their severity (in terms that I can readily understand). “Doctor: what are the survival rates for people with my diagnosis? What can go wrong with this treatment?” Same thing.

6 A CONTINGENCY PLAN. I’d want the team to have contingency plans in place to monitor, report and deal swiftly with unforeseen effects of risks and uncertainty. Having a plan B up your sleeve allows you to react better, faster.

7 THE RIGHT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM. I’d want to avoid unnecessary waste, and have a clearly defined process with unambiguous deliverables and open communication channels that included:

– a clearly defined cost schedule that specified unambiguously where there was the possibility of increases or decreases, with good means of monitoring and reporting on changes

– a clearly defined programme that specified unambiguously where there was the possibility of delays or speeding up, with good means of monitoring and reporting on changes

– an unambiguous, properly communicated target for quality that specified clearly where there was the possibility of reductions or increases, with good means of monitoring and reporting on changes from beginning to end

Boring stuff, but it’s no good singing from different hymn sheets or for some stuff to go on under the radar. All that leads to is discord and enemy action.

8 A VALUE MANAGEMENT DASHBOARD. I’d want a robust, validated system for balancing actual changes in cost, programme and quality for best value or for modelling future impacts based on changes in risks. I’d want the building I ordered, not some shambolic residue requiring creative accountancy or wing-and-a-prayer marketing guff to rescue it from fiasco.

9 THE RIGHT BRIEF DEVELOPMENT. I’d want my brief to be developed with my primary value objectives and business case prioritized at all times. Where the team proposed more capital cost justified by better returns on investment, I’d want it to be properly evidenced. I’m a sucker for passion, but not when it’s pitted against me.

10 THE RIGHT UNDERSTANDING. I’d want a design and construction team who could demonstrate that they understood and were capable of delivering all the above. Same wavelength, better reception.

Is this wishlist reasonable? Would I be asking too much? Is it even possible in today’s industry?

At least part of this is answered by signing up to Listenback, which helps you get structured client feedback to generate validated data about what you’re like to work with.  Give it a go here.

#clientfeedback #savvyarchitect #servicedesign #businessdevelopment

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