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This is M4I

Q&A; Ian Huntington; Movement for Innovation executive director Ian Huntington answers your questions.

Q. What is the Movement for Innovation?

A. It is a group of people, from the demand and supply sides of the industry who believe that adoption of the principles in the Rethinking Construction report will lead to world class performance and improved profitability.

There are four strands to the Movement. These are the Housing Forum, the Government Clients Construction Panel, the Local Government Task Force and the M4I Board. The Steering Group sets out policy for all four strands and comprises Nick Raynsford (Construction Minister), Sir John Egan, Andrew Smith (Chief Secretary to the Treasury), Alan Crane (M4I Board), Sir Michael Pickard (Housing Forum), Cllr Sir Jeremy Beecham (LGTF) and Chris Vickers (CIB).

Q. Isn't all this just another government controlled enterprise?

A. No, far from it. The 24 people sitting on the M4I Board come from all parts of the industry. There are only three board members from central government who represent government as a client. The board is empowered to set policy, which may or may not align with the government's objectives.

Q. How is the Movement funded?

A. Currently, in terms of cash, the movement is 100% funded by government. However, in reality industry is actually contributing the lion's share of the full cost through the massive investment of staff time and knowledge by the Demonstration Projects, the Board and the TEAM.

We have however always felt that the costs associated with the Movement should be part funded by industry. Central and local government between them account for about 45% of UK spending on construction. It could be argued that it is reasonable for government to fund 45% of the cost of M4I with industry footing the rest of the bill as benefits will be broadly proportional. M4I is looking into this as a substantial contribution from industry will be required to support this work.

Q. What is Rethinking construction?

A. This is a report produced by Sir John Egan's Task Force in July 1998, which was commissioned by the Deputy Prime Minister, to assess the efficiency of the UK construction industry. The report acknowledged that some parts were world class, but concluded that most of the industry was failing to perform satisfactorily, particularly in terms of cost, time and quality.

Q. How inefficient is the industry?

A. I have seen and heard numerous critiques of the Egan report which is healthy as it demonstrates that those reading it are thinking of how it affects them or their organisations. But I don't know of anybody that has read the report and thought about its contents declare that the recommendations will not improve the industry. As a result a large part of the M4I's role is like pushing against an open door. Most organisations want to change, they want to be more responsive to the market and more profitable. However there is no simple panacea, it will take time and a great deal of hard work to overcome the traditional deep suspicion which pervades large parts of the industry.

The majority will agree that clients are paying far too much for their construction products. In almost every part of the industry there is an inordinate amount of waste, which translates into increased costs.

Waste manifests itself through duplication, lack of trust, ineffective communication, imprecise specification of the client's true requirements, failure to involve the contracting professionals early enough in the process and unsynchronised objectives of the parties that affect the construction product.

I believe that a lot of this waste could be eliminated by clients setting up 'real' partnering arrangements with all of their suppliers, very early in the life of a project. Currently a large number of proclaimed partnering arrangements do not include all of the necessary mechanisms required to deliver optimum returns.

This solution will, however, only be palatable to a large number of clients (and client advisers) when they are able to be more trusting and open with their supply chains. This will, in turn, no doubt require a greater number of suppliers to consistently demonstrate that they place their client's objectives on a par with their own.

Q. Why was M4I created?

A. A key recommendation in Rethinking Construction was for the creation of a 'movement for change' to encourage people throughout the UK construction industry to take up the recommendations in the report. M4I has that clear mandate.

Q. How did M4I set out to do that?

A. Initially we focused on the core principle that the most effective means of communication is not the spoken or written word but practical demonstration. With this in mind we developed the programme of Demonstration Projects which would share and learn through the medium of 'clusters'.

Q. What are Demonstration Projects?

A. They are projects nominated from all sectors of the construction industry that seek to innovate or employ best practice in working relationships, construction technique/process, or development of components. In addition each Demonstration Project has to an obligation to (a) benchmark performance using all pan-industry Key Performance Indicators, (b) participate in clusters to share experience and contribute to the learning culture, (c) be open and honest about both successes and failures and (d) to set high standards in safety and respect for people.

We would welcome applications from projects that meet the above criteria.

Q. What are clusters?

A. We launched the cluster concept, in June this year. We have 10 clusters covering the whole of the UK, grouped by geographical location. Representatives of the whole supply chain, from each of the projects within a cluster, meet monthly to share experiences of their innovations and support each other. The enthusiasm generated by the project representatives in these forums is often staggering. Possibly the biggest plus is the manner in which organisations freely pass on information which has traditionally been seen as commercially sensitive.

Q. Why do you think that organisations are now prepared to share?

A. I think that there are a number of factors. People are realising that this 'process of change' is not going to go away. This message is reinforced by recent actions of both central government departments and local authorities who have made a commitment to meet 100% compliance with the principles of Rethinking Construction within the next three years. Furthermore, in time a large number of clients will only trade with suppliers who can also demonstrate compliance. The forthcoming 'Clients Charter' will incorporate these issues.

Organisations that are at the forefront of innovation do not fear competitors picking up on their established practices as they are already taking them on to their next stage of development.

Q. What are the Working Groups?

A. We now have seven working groups covering Key Performance Indicators and Benchmarking, The Knowledge Exchange, Partnering the Supply Chain, Education & Training, Cultural Change, Sustainability and Respect for People.

These groups meet regularly to develop M4I policy and initiatives.

Q. What is the Knowledge Exchange?

A. This is an internet facility for the exchange of ideas, views and learning. It holds data on all of the demonstration projects and the rest of the M4I organisation as well as providing a debating forum through on-line conferences and chat rooms. Feedback from users will help us develop this.

Q. What are Network Clubs?

A. As envisaged they will be a series of networks of individuals and organisations, outside of the Demonstration Projects, who wish to support M4I 's objectives. The Movement has taken some time in formulating this initiative. This is because it will form a core part of the permanent structure to sustain innovation within the industry. For that very reason we want to make sure that the structure is right first time.

Q. Who is the TEAM?

A. The TEAM is made up of a group of secondees from client organisations, designers, architects, contractors and regulatory organisations. The main role of the TEAM is to liase, co-ordinate and nurture the development and measurement of innovations within the demonstration project programme.

TEAM members are also responsible for the dissemination of the characteristics and performance of these innovations through the Cluster Groups, the Knowledge Exchange and the Construction Best Practice Programme (CBPP).

The role is immensely rewarding because TEAM members are at the forefront of change. The movement is currently looking for more secondees to join. Those interested should get in touch.

Q. What are the links between M4I and CBPP?

A. Both the M4I and the CBPP are initiatives instigated by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. CBPP was created in 1998 to collect examples and disseminate best practice across the whole industry. As part of this function CBPP will collect and disseminate the innovations, best practice and lessons learned from the Demonstration Project Programme.

Q. Is the Movement only targeting the bigger organisations?

A. No, far from it. We believe that the smaller organisations can change faster than larger ones.

Q. What does it cost?

A. In monetary terms it does not cost anything to become a Demonstration Project. What it does cost is commitment and a certain amount of the project staff's time.

Q. How are Demonstration Projects nominated?

A. If you have a project that fits the bill either enter our website (www.m4i.org.uk) and fill in the 'expression of interest' form on-line or download, complete and send it to us, or call (01923) 664820 and we will send you a form. We will meet with your project team, discuss the process and your obligations, then discuss acceptance into the programme.

Q. What is in it for me or my organisation if I get involved?

A. As an organisation, one of the most tangible benefits is that you will have a higher profile in being seen to be at the forefront of change which will also give competitive advantage in markets where clients demand this approach. This matter is likely to gain more prominence when the Clients Charter is launched early next year. Involvement with M4I also means access to a wide spectrum of learning, particularly through the clusters, to further develop the capabilities of your organisation and to be able to benchmark yourselves against the best.

Organisations within M4I should, in time, see improved productivity, predictability of performance and profitability and reductions in wasteful practices, defects and accidents.

As an individual you will gain invaluable experience of innovation and best practice which should lead to recognition as an industry 'mover and shaker'. At the same time you will network and build considerable business contacts increasing the benefits to both yourself and your organisation.

Q. What is in this for clients?

A. Clients are arguably the biggest beneficiaries of the work emanating from Rethinking Construction. The majority of current initiatives are associated with reduction of cost, albeit in numerous guises. Clients that buy into more progressive working practices will see their products costing them substantially less. However clients do not get a free ride. They will be expected to show leadership and to encourage suppliers with real incentives to extend innovation for their ultimate benefit.

Q. How effective is it?

A. We have data from mature, long term projects that unequivocally demonstrate that savings of up to 20% over a two year period have been made. We are collecting data from all of our projects over the next few weeks which we intend to collate and publish. We are confident that this data will support our preliminary findings.

Q. What happens if I don't get involved?

A. Nothing. The Movement will press on with those that want to get on- board. The others will be left behind and ultimately, as the adversarial market shrinks, may find themselves unable to survive.

Q. What has M4I achieved in its first 12 months?

A. During the first six months of the Movement's life the focus was on assembling the Board and TEAM, developing pro- cesses and procedures and in structuring the first two rounds of Demonstration Projects. This type of venture has never been tried before on this sort of scale, so there was no template available to provide assistance. Every step had to be developed on a somewhat trial and error basis. We now have a fully functional product with a full support network in place.

We have 84 Demonstration Projects from Rounds 1 and 2 valued at £3bn and an estimated 52 joining in Round 3. The clusters are up and running and they have each created their own management structure to further develop the aims of the movement. We have rolled out the KPI's across all the projects and trained people to use them. For the first time performance measurement against nationally agreed benchmarks is taking place.

On top of this we have held two extremely successful conferences. The second one, held in July, spawned two further M4I working groups on Sustainability and Respect for People (to add to the five assembled earlier in the year) and also launched the concept of the Client's Charter.

Arguably the most striking achievement during the first 12 months has been the enormous increase in awareness and understanding of M4I itself and the principles that it is promoting. This is no accident as we recognised at the beginning that we were selling a product which the vast majority would be interested in, once they were aware of its potential. Therefore during this year we have embarked upon a substantial awareness exercise including presentations, seminars, workshops and publicity in the construction press to achieve this very result. Significantly this endeavour has also generated considerable overseas interest in the Movement's work.

Q. What are your targets for the next 12 months?

A. The next 12 months in the life of the Movement is going to be very exciting. We expect to enrol the 52 new Demonstration Projects within the next few weeks. Numbers will increase further during the next 12 months. By the end of this year we aim to have KPI data from the Demonstration Projects which will be compared with the rest of industry. This should establish beyond doubt that progressive working practices do improve project and company performance. In addition to this we will be rolling out verified data on the Demonstration Project innovations in the form of case studies and tool kits. These will be showcased on the Knowledge Exchange and distributed by hard copy through the Construction Best Practice Programme.

And during the next few months we will finalise and implement plans for network clubs, funding and the sustainability of the movement.

The M4I TEAM left to right:

Timothy Penrose, Mary Mitchell (British Gas), John Mead (Construction Industry Council), Amanda Wain (Kvaerner Construction), Roy Evans (Bovis Europe), Philip White (Health & Safety Executive), Adrian Blumenthal (Crown House Engineering) and Ian Huntington (Christiani & Nielsen).

Other TEAM members not in the picture are Ken Treadaway (Construction Round Table), Paul Craddock (Ove Arup Partnership, Wendy Frampton (Buro Happold), Peter Jones (Construction Best Practice Programme) and Peter Runacres (Geoffrey Reid Associates).

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