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Battle of the buts Construction Round Table chairman Martin Reynolds explains how construction's culture can be changed.

Reaction to Rethinking construction has been enthusiastic. But the typical industry response runs along the lines of 'The idea sounds fine but ...'; '... not if you are Treasury controlled'; '... not in small businesses'; '... only for repeat clients'; '... not in housing'.

The sum of all the buts might be interpreted as, 'fine, but not in the majority of construction'. To challenge that assumption we need to focus on three key issues:

the diversity of construction and its clients;

continuous improvement;

learning from others.

The industry's diversity has for too long been used as the excuse for resisting change. We need to use the opportunities presented by continuous improvement and learning from others to tackle this.

Continuous improvement can only be demonstrated if it can be measured. Such measures may be hard, such as time and cost per unit of comparable output; or they may be soft, such as user perception of the attractiveness or value of the environment during and after construction activity. The exemplar project philosophy, used by both the Construction Round Table and Egan, seeks to show through real schemes how improvements can be demonstrably measured over a series of delivery cycles.

We don't want to limit the knowledge of benefits and pitfalls gained from CRT demonstration projects to just our members, so we need a framework for wider learning. This is provided for in the knowledge centre approach proposed by Egan. CRT sees this as the means by which small companies, non-repeat clients, public sector spenders and others will be able to learn from their peers.

This is also a means by which our fragmented industry can be drawn closer together. CRT is looking forward to seeing just how demonstration projects and the knowledge centre approach will work for all of us in this industry.

I have not focused on the issue of partnering specifically because construction's diversity affects the whole industry. Egan is about the entire construction culture, of which partnering is a an increasingly important element. If we develop our demonstration projects and contribute to the knowledge centres, all of us will be able to learn why partnering method X worked well in one situation, whereas Y better met the needs of the team in another.

Martin Reynolds is also development director of Railtrack.

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