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We're getting there

ICE Chief Executive & Secretary Mike Casebourne describes his first 100 days in office.

When I left my previous job at the sharp end of the railway maintenance industry to take over as ICE's Chief Executive, my colleagues thought I was heading for a comfortable job at a gentlemen's club where nothing very much happens. Even my wife expected to see more of me in the evenings and at weekends.

Some retirement! After a hundred days on a very steep learning curve, I have come to realise what a staggering amount of work is done by the Institution, supported by extraordinarily hard working members and staff.

I would not have taken this job if I did not believe that - as we drive to improve the quality of the construction process and, therefore, the individual within it - the professional qualification and continuing professional development processes of the Institution will be increasingly important.

I have turned special attention to the New Routes to Membership because these will quickly decide the future membership and success of the Institution - nothing less. Our industry is changing fast and we have to change with it; not simply change mindset, but turn mindset into mind freedom.

The Institution will always welcome the unsung heroes and high flyers alike. The New Routes to Membership will reflect this and by the end of this year degrees, matching sections and initial professional development will be clearly displayed for all to easily understand and recognise worldwide as challenging yet attainable - a short-term effort yet a life-long personal asset.

We are talking frequently to Government. We have established regular briefings of engineer MPs, and I chaired such a meeting last week. I was involved in useful discussions with the then Transport Minister John Reid on integrated transport policy, and with Environment Minister Michael Meacher about water resource strategy. Nick Raynsford is coming next month to discuss the Movement for Innovation and new initiatives in the construction industry in which we will play a full part.

This year we are putting much greater emphasis on our international activities. We have now opened an office in Hong Kong. The President has been building links with the profession in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka during his recent annual overseas tour. We are working closely with colleagues in Russia and China to help them build their professions on largely UK lines. And just last weekend we were talking about closer co-operation worldwide with the American Society of Civil Engineers.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my visits to half the local associations and have been impressed by the enthusiasm of our elected officers. We have recognised that we need to concentrate much more on the services we provide to and for Members. Our first ever Members Guide will be distributed to all Members through NCE and CEI in the next few weeks, explaining all that we do at the moment. And we will shortly be recruiting a new director to concentrate on services to Members, including co-ordination and strengthening of local association activity.

Devolution in Scotland and Wales has prompted an energetic debate which I am sure will lead to a strengthening of the Institution's local structure - ultimately in every region of the country.

Meanwhile we are participating fully in the Egan and Latham initiatives to try to achieve a more efficient, customer-oriented industry. Our largest single contribution has been development of the NEC family of contracts which are designed to improve management and reduce conflict on projects. The latest, the NEC Short Contract, is due to be launched shortly, and an associated project management system will be developed. I was speaking last week at the conference on Movement for Innovation, one of the key Egan initiatives.

It seems to me that these are all important initiatives that you would want us to take. But am I right? What else should we be doing that we are neglecting, or doing badly, at present? And what are we doing now which is of limited value and should be abandoned?

These are the questions I am now asking. They involve resources and prioritisation. They involve people and enthusiasm, communication and style. With every Member I meet or who writes to me (through NCE or direct), we get a little nearer the answers.

I like to think we have made positive progress over these 100 days. But when I started, I said my performance should be measured by the satisfaction of the Membership, and I am very conscious that at present the report card would say 'making progress but a long way to go'.

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