UK managers have been in the firing line of late, but the Olympics will be a great opportunity to show off our skills - and building information modelling could help us do that

There has been much media analysis of the performance of UK management lately and to say that it was all complimentary would be a bit like saying that Fifa is a well-run, transparent and admired sporting institution.

A leading steel magnate, known for his business acumen and close relationship with David Cameron, recently waded into the fray with some reportedly negative observations about the commitment and work ethic shown by managers in UK manufacturing.

This was then followed by a survey from market research firm uSamp. It reckons the average employee is allowed to waste at least an hour a day on email, social networks, or text messaging. Based on an average salary of £14.25 an hour, that adds up to £3,277.50 of wasted productivity per person per year - which for big companies with 1,000 plus employees, equates to more than £3m a year. Not a glowing reference for those charged with managing them is it?

As one can see from various reports, statistics and indices, we are now witnessing a slow and grinding return to growth. It is arriving, but it will not happen overnight and there is a lot of pain still to come. However, one should not necessarily draw lessons for our own sector from comparisons with general industry and surveys about those who are office-, rather than site-bound.

I have been interested to see the reaction of colleagues and competitors to the announcement of the adoption of building information modelling (BIM) on all government projects within five years. This is an example of changing practice that could affect everyone who manages, and underlines the fact that today’s managers need to be able to embrace change, as well as adapt and adopt new working methodologies.

A cynic might say that the current government is planning so few new projects that the news of BIM is hardly going to have today’s movers and shakers rushing to their IT departments in a state of panic and despair. There is also some criticism of the potential cost to QSs of meeting training needs, a figure of £2,000 per employee for training and IT implementation and an industry bill of £82m has been mentioned.

There is too little detail to understand in precise terms how the new system will work, but I know that, if needed, the management team at Gleeds will embrace and adapt to BIM as it always has done.

Frankly, collaborative working is not new, nor is the linkage between the technology, design and implementation. Perhaps it was the manner in which it has been announced that was less than collaborative and more confrontational than desired. Those who manage from the viewpoint of the smaller contractor or consultancy have already voiced reservations and see a potential conspiracy in which those working for the government are stitching up a deal with large consultancies and IT providers. They see it as an unnecessary and costly imposition.
Others see it as the way ahead, offering flexibility and enabling problems to be solved early in the process on a screen rather than on site.

I see BIM as a domestic dispute of a technical nature that will be resolved in time. However, for me, the recent coverage of the royal wedding and European Cup Final provided a strong foretaste of what we should expect over the next 18 months when we shall all be under the microscope as the world descends on the UK for the Olympics in 2012. Often our guests will be looking for flaws, weaknesses and dissent as we work across a competitive landscape on the world stage.

The delivery of the Olympic facilities is a massive shop window for the skill, ingenuity and professionalism of those who manage the construction process here. It is the ultimate illustration of what our designers, contractors and consultants can achieve, regardless of what systems are used.

It is something of which I hope we can all be proud.

In the context of producing the ultimate venue for the consumate expression of global collaboration, perhaps BIM will be used as the acronym for Britain’s Inspirational Managers. That’s something upon which I hope we can all agree.

Richard Steer is chairman of Gleeds Worldwide