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Well, to start this Blog off, let’s be a bit academic. Officially, the nature of construction is one of Complexity, Uniqueness and Uncertainty. That sounds a bit of a daft thing to us contractors; those bits that are complex, unique and uncertain just make a project interesting while we get it completed. They do, however, completely flummox the rest of the world! So what exactly is it that we find complicated?

 

Well, the first thing is the Client! The “client” can be anything, or anyone, from a house-holder wanting a bit of jobbing work done, through SME commercial clients, on to major multi-national companies and ending up with the Public Sector! To get this “client” on side can be a very complicated issue in construction overall. The plus side, though, is put the effort in and succeed in getting them committed as fully paid-up “team members” and things will flow along very nicely! There are various obstacles to this we need to be aware of and they all come down to the personality and experience of the ”client”. If they are construction professionals we usually have no serious problems.

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However if it is some lady who has been lumbered with the job and doesn’t have a clue about construction, we have to gently gain their confidence and make them realise that we just want to make them look good in their employers eyes by finishing on time and to budget – with their help! We also have to convince them that the ogling and wolf-whistles they get from the lads on site are flattering, not threatening! We know that if anyone raised a hand to them the lads would tear them to pieces!

The next type of “clients” who can be a “complicated issues” are public sector ones. These actually fall into two categories. First one is if their man is a “jobsworths”; they don’t seem capable of making decisions and are very difficult to pull into the Project Team. The second are variety is the competent ones, but they share a problem with the “jobsworths”; it can be a very long, convoluted process to get decisions passed through the Public Sector hierarchy. However, there is a very sneaky, underhand way of speeding things up in cases like this! Make quiet approaches to the LA Councillor or MP under whose domain the work is being done! Get those people interested and involved and you’ll be amazed how the whole decision-making process can be speeded up! I actually discovered this trick when contracted to a County Council! A Councillor walked in and everyone (except me, who didn’t even know who they were) fell over backwards to please them!

The next class of complicated issues are still with the Client! This time they come down to design changes whilst work is in progress. These may be quite simple to deal with but can involve a lot of work! Someone may have to sit down and completely revise the Detailed Programme, throwing all the Subbies’ future contracts elsewhere into confusion! Might also mean having to find bus-loads of additional labour! That kind of thing brings us to the next “complicated issue”:- Contractual matters!

Someone has to sit down and come up with a cost in terms of time and money for the changes. That having been done, the responsibility for this has to be identified: – the client themselves; architects; engineers? Then the complexity really sets in! The arguments start between the parties about whose responsibility it is and the accuracy of the sums. This can drag on for months and end up in Arbitration! The complicated solution to this complicated issue for the contractor is this; to bully, persuade, entice or, seduce everyone who wants to argue about it to be sensible from the word “Go”! Use your subtle soft-management skills to persuade everyone to be “friends” and instead of a major conflict, costing £00,000’s, it can all be resolved in a half-hour chat after a Site Meeting!

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Now writing that has made me think and the thinking has got me quite annoyed! If us lot, the “muddy-boot brigade”, are capable of such subtle senior management soft skills, how come we aren’t both more highly regarded in society and paid a helluva lot more money for our efforts!