Indeed, the client opinion surveys collected by the Construction Clients Forum and published by the Construction Industry Board (both of which emerged from Constructing the Team) have shown that clients accept that there has been a significant improvement in their satisfaction with the performance of their contractors over the past few years and, to a lesser extent, of their professional consultants.
The surveys give no grounds for complacency, however. There is still a long way to go to achieve real client satisfaction and world-class best practice.
Things are moving in the upper echelon of projects and this is valuable, but it still leaves huge areas of smaller work unaffected. Many small firms are excellent in the actual techniques of construction, but they could be better still, if they were aware of some of the guidance that has come from many sources, including the CIB and the Reading Construction Forum, in recent years.
One does not need to be Laing or Bovis to know how to improve performance. A much smaller firm, George & Harding of Bournemouth, understands those techniques very well, as Colin Harding regularly shows in these pages.
The challenge for the CIB and others over the next few years, as CIB Best Practice Panel chairman Richard Saxon has pointed out all too often, is to push the knowledge down to a wider base.
Had there been no improvement at all, I would have wasted the last six years of my life. So, too, would the large number of expert practitioners from the client and supply sectors who gave evidence to my review, made up the working groups of the CIB, sat on the board and its panels and in many other expert forums such as the CIB umbrella groups, the Construction Round Table and the Design Build Foundation.
The Egan report, and all the work that went into it, would have been pointless. The government's strong lead for client improvement, headed by deputy prime minister John Prescott and ably supported by construction minister Nick Raynsford and defence minister John Spellar, would have been futile.
When people grumble that nothing has changed, some are really complaining that clients still choose contractors on lowest price alone
There would be no partnering. No Construction Act. No demonstration projects. No Movement for Innovation.
A very experienced construction barrister said to me recently that there had been a sharp decline in the number of construction writs being issued, and claims work had noticeably reduced.
Much has changed. The industry is capable of vast improvement and it has shown it. The only part of the Egan report that I regretted was its suggestion that the industry was not capable of improvement, but would have to begin all over again. In reality, the choice is not as stark as that.
The industry was already rethinking construction, and taking action accordingly. Egan described the correct route. The government's best practice programme, strongly supported by the Treasury and the DETR, has provided the dynamic impetus and the tools.
So, what do people mean when they grumble that nothing has changed? Some are really complaining that clients are still choosing their contractors on the basis of lowest price alone, without any attention to best practice or value for money. That is true. There is still much to be done to get the best-value message over to smaller or occasional clients.
The Construction Clients Forum produced an excellent leaflet aimed specifically at such clients a couple of years ago. Resources should be sought, perhaps through the DETR's Construction Best Practice Programme, to ensure the widest possible dissemination of that leaflet through chambers of commerce, Rotary and Lions' clubs, professional institutions and trade associations unconnected with construction, and any other route that will attract the attention of small and occasional clients, particularly in the commercial, retail and industrial sectors.
If the CCF still has spare copies, it should be helped to clear them. If it has run out, the leaflet should be reprinted. We cannot rely on Bob the Builder to get the message across, or on National Construction Week once a year or so.