off-site fabrication and integrated teams long before the Rethinking Construction report in 1998. And in his first interview since taking the job, Rogers challenges the Egan shibboleths about clients' responsibility for driving change and the independent client advisers (pages 30-32).
That is not to belittle Egan's achievements, but four years after Rethinking Construction, the agenda is losing momentum – and the title of the strategic forum's latest oeuvre, Accelerating Change, is rather a giveaway (page 16). Even Egan couldn't hide his exasperation as he decamped to the CBI: the government is an irredeemably bad client, he said, and the industry had been too slow to reform. The energetic Rogers may be the man to re-spark the revolution, but he has his work cut out. Part of the problem is that the Egan wishlist is hopelessly bloated. Firms fully occupied with the struggle to make their sites safer, their workforce better trained and their service more reliable must now embrace everything from sustainability to single-project insurance. All these issues are important, all are interlinked and all should be on the agenda.
But if the strategic forum hopes to proselytise the unbelievers, it'd better start making its message simpler. According to Accelerating Change, there are 1000 organisations involved in promulgating it, which is laudable in one sense. But how many people really know the difference between, say, M4I and the Construction Best Practice Programme? Come on, be honest.
Another problem is that the forum has caught the New Labour disease of setting nonsensical targets. Before hitting the industry with a set of new percentages in Accelerating Change, how about reviewing those from Rethinking Construction? Well, we know that accidents haven't fallen by 20% a year – quite the reverse. But did costs and time reduce by 10% a year? Are defects down 20%? There's no point in setting targets if you don't measure them, preferably on an annual basis. Instead of insisting that integrated teams deliver 20% of projects by the end of 2004, how about 10% by 2003? And the notion of industry-wide targets implies that it is desirable for all to change. That's true on safety, but what about productivity? Doesn't the widening chasm between those in the Rethinking Construction club and the rest create just the barrier to entry that the best firms always desired?
As a director of Stanhope, Rogers is a busy man; that's part of his appeal. So where should he concentrate his energies? He wants better preplanning and site discipline, and better educated and skilled recruits. The latter should be his priority. Accelerating Change says 300,000 extra qualified people will be needed by 2006 and it wants 50% more university applicants by 2007. But with hundreds of places unfilled (page 17), and pitifully few women rising up the ranks, Rogers must act now. Perhaps he could start by persuading all those well-intentioned reformers to stop writing reports and speaking at conferences for a while – and hit the schools.