The industry must talk with clients, and clients must insist on partnering if we are to really achieve the strategic forum's objectives
The Tory Manifesto for the 1966 General election was entitled Action Not Words. It did not impress the electorate, who increased Labour's Commons majority from three to 100. The best thing about that manifesto was its title. It should also be a guiding message for the strategic forum for the construction industry, Rethinking Construction, the industry federations and the government, as they seek to take forward the Egan reform process.

Some sensible decisions have already been made by the strategic forum, ably led by Peter Rogers. The main one is to reduce drastically the number of published targets.

Don't get me wrong. Some targets are vital. When I was writing my Constructing the Team report nine years ago, I took a big risk by including specific recommendations, putting alongside each of them which organisation should implement them and within what timescale. I went down that path because I remembered that President John Kennedy set a specific target for the USA to have a manned moon landing: 1970. If he had not set a date, it might never have happened.

That was why I recommended a target of 30% real cost reduction by the year 2000 for the industry. It got people talking and thinking, and it enthused clients. If I had simply said "we must improve productivity and reduce non-value-adding costs", everyone would have nodded wisely and done nothing about it. The risk was worth taking. Most of the recommendations were adopted, though not always in the same form or to the suggested timescale. That did not matter – there was action.

Egan mark two, Accelerating Change, published last September, contained far too many targets.

If President John Kennedy had not set a date for a US moon landing, it might never have happened

There was no need for that document at all. What was really required was a checklist showing which of the 1998 Egan recommendations remained to be implemented and how that was to be done. One of the first decisions made by Rogers was that there would be "no Egan mark three". The forum's plan – as I described in my column on 24 January – is to deliver five main themes, and quietly forget the rest.

One strong Rogers theme is integrated teams, along with the related issue of an integrated supply chain, and this is best achieved through partnering. The need here is for delivery. Most people who believe in best practice understand the desirability of an integrated team. Excellent detailed work has been done on this, led by Martin Davies of Emcor Drake & Scull, and the forum has recognised it.

But the forum does not build anything. If there are to be integrated teams, we need pilot projects. That requires a specific client to demand such an approach, supported by committed consultants, totally involved main and specialist contractors, and effective buy-in from the materials and components sector. That will not happen by accident. It involves leadership, which must initially come from the client.

As I write, there is no clients' forum, though work is proceeding to create one. This gap is a desperate blow to the reform process. There is little value in the industry talking to itself. It has to talk with clients. In the last days of the Confederation of Construction Clients, some of them had become fed up because they felt that they were being asked to lead the industry. That was a misconception. It is the industry's job to deliver the clients' wishes. It is not up to the client to do the industry's work. What clients can do is to insist on an integrated team working on a partnering basis, because that way they will get a quality job, with a guaranteed maximum price, no claims and no litigation, delivered on or ahead of time.