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Debate Egan initiatives

It is two years since Sir John Egan's Rethinking Construction report demanded a change from suppliers and clients to make UK industry more efficient and wealthy.

This week we ask: Have initiatives like Movement for Innovation and the Construction Best Practice Programme which sprang from the Egan report had a significant effect in changing client behaviour for the better?


There has already been a significant impact on client behaviour in the two years since the launch of Rethinking Construction.

The Movement for Innovation (M4I) and Construction Best Practice Programme (CBPP) have played a major role in effecting this change by championing innovation within the industry. Through a wide range of excellent demonstration projects, they have shown that best practice has major benefits for the client in terms of better quality products at reduced costs.

We are seeing clients increasingly embracing such concepts as partnering the supply chain, and encouraging improvements for people by a greater focus on health and safety and better quality facilities on site.

M4I and CBPP have played a particularly significant role developing industry wide key performance indicators, and in highlighting the achievements of those clients that have already embraced forward thinking. The M4I demonstration projects and cluster groups have demonstrated the degree to which many clients have taken on board the principles of rethinking construction, and have made great strides introducing the integrated team approach.

This can only have a positive impact on the industry and encourage others to recognise the benefits of more inspired practices.

Clients are also doing their part. In tandem with the work of M4I and CBPP, clients have responded to John Prescott's challenge at the 1999 M4I conference for clients to commit to a Clients' Charter of good practice. There has been significant progress in developing the charter, which will be recognised across the industry as a blueprint for client excellence in delivering a modern industry agenda.

There is still however, much to be done.


Most of the recommendations within Rethinking Construction are concerned with eliminating waste from the construction process, driving down cost and improving quality. The greatest beneficiaries of these changes are the clients of the industry.

Clients who adopt change will receive a more effective product at a cheaper price than currently experienced through the traditional adversarial procurement process.

Contractors, consultants and suppliers are becoming increasingly keen to work within integrated project teams to deliver more professional cost effective schemes which appreciate and meet the needs of the customer.

Clients however, have a critical role. Through the manner in which they select their suppliers, allocate risk, incentivise performance and administer relationships, clients define the framework and culture of each project.

A substantial number of clients of this industry are beginning to understand that the supply chain has much more to offer them than was apparent in the mode of adversarial contracting.

On the whole they also support the concept of incentivised performance delivery. Our clients are embarking on a learning curve to determine how they can best apply the concepts of cooperative working to suit their own business needs.

This will inevitably involve a certain amount of trial and error - there is still a lack of trust between the demand and supply sides of the industry - and this will only improve through positive experiences.

The paradigm shift for the majority of our clients to embrace the concepts of Rethinking Construction, reengineer their procurement/ administrative systems and enjoy the ensuing benefits will inevitably take time.

We need to learn to put down the stick and employ the carrot.

It will take some time yet for clients to fully release the shackles and truly trust their supply chains to deliver the substantial benefits that are there to be had.

The facts Movement for Innovation was set up in November 1998 to create a movement for change to encourage people in construction to take up the recommendations in the Rethinking Construction report and to run demonstration projects to share best practice.

There are four strands of the Movement - the Housing Forum, the Government Clients Construction Panel, the Local Government Task Force and the M4I board.

The Construction Best Practice Programe exists to help the industry improve its efficiency, quality and competitiveness. Its key message is 'learn and share' and it is now charged with disseminating the results of the M4I demonstration projects.

Evidence from the demonstration projects shows that co-operative working, which allows innovation to flourish, is 50% more likely to deliver projects on time, below cost and to generate a more enjoyable working environment.

The client charter will align clients to the new thinking emerging from all the groups and commit them to being nonadversarial and incentivising innovation. It is due this November.

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