The chairman's success in reforming the forum is apparent from its end-of-year report, published this week. It has a clear objective – to drive cultural change across the industry. And it has six measurable targets, all concentrated on construction's prevailing deficiencies. These are, in no particular order, too many accidents, low-calibre recruits, lack of training, disengagement from clients, badly integrated supply chains and too much mediocre design. A pity, though, that the forum couldn't resist tacking on a couple of non-measurable "themes". It's not that insurance and sustainability aren't important – quite the reverse – but they blur the message.
As a client, Rogers will be aware that publishing a list of good intentions – like signing a contract – is easy. It will be tougher to show quantifiable progress over the next 12 months. Each of the six targets contains a ticklish challenge. For example, will the OGC be forced to hang fire while the Home Office works out how CSCS cards can be used to regulate the flow of immigrants into construction? What chance is there of engaging clients until a leader can be found for the nascent Construction Clients Group? One respected figure has already turned the job down. And can 300,000 qualified people really be recruited at a time when the baby-boom generation is retiring in droves (including about half of all civil engineers) and the industry remains the domain of white males? As for integrated teams, a straw poll at our housebuilding procurement conference last week revealed how few companies are part of fully functioning supply chains. Compared with other industries, construction is laughably out of date.
This week's pronouncements, then, are only a beginning. And the industry's ability to sustain the cultural revolution sparked a decade ago by Sir Michael Latham will depend not just on Rogers and his acolytes at the forum, but on every firm in the industry. Nothing will change until construction kicks its habit of leaving big decisions to someone else – usually for fear of having to get its wallet out. As Rogers says, why wait for clients to integrate an entire supply chain when groups of suppliers can start doing it now? Just as with CSCS cards or design quality indicators, such reforms should not be undertaken truculently, because the boss with the chequebook says so, but because it makes good business sense. The biggest target of all doesn't appear in Rogers' prospectus for change. And that is to substantially increase profits. With more money, anything's possible.
Adrian Barrick, editor