Analysis

A culture-change app for construction

4 June 2015 | By Elizabeth Kavanagh

We have now bid for funding through Innovate UK to enable us to turn our Profession Map into a user-friendly app to enable project teams in facilitating collaborative working.– Elizabeth Kavanagh, Stride Treglown

Elizabeth Kavanagh, head of HR at architect Stride Treglown and founder member of the Behaviours4Collaboration group, on a project to develop an app that will help map the route to better collaboration.

It is often quoted that “successful BIM is 90% people and 10% process”. At present there is a strong technology emphasis when discussing BIM, which is natural enough given that digital innovation can be such a powerful enabler. However, innovation through technology cannot independently deliver the benefits anticipated by fully collaborative BIM. Our prediction is that in the next phase of BIM development, as we become familiar with the digital tools and the process elements, the focus will shift towards the human interactions.

In 2012, the South West Regional BIM hub held a conference introducing and exploring BIM concepts. From our “world café” discussion, it was clear that the collective opinion was “it is all about behaviour”. There was also a recognition and a desire in the room to move from a culture characterised by adversarial behaviours towards a collaborative approach.

As a result of these discussions we made a few key observations:

  • Collaboration is necessary to implement Level 3 BIM;
  • The construction industry’s culture is currently adversarial, not collaborative;
  • Culture is a pattern of our individual behaviours.

Some interesting questions came out of this discussion:

  • How could we change our industry culture?
  • What does collaboration look like?
  • What are the conditions which enable this change?

We identified that the first step in creating a collaborative culture is to be clear about what we are trying to create, by specifying what collaboration looks like. So we conducted a review based on existing literature into collaboration within BIM and other sectors.

Our research is based on two key influences, the first being a “profession map” tool which describes the knowledge, skills and behaviours required of an HR professional at each level of their career. The second was an excellent report by the Lean Client Task Group, one of six task groups which developed the Government Construction Strategy 2011, which specified the behaviours of an intelligent client. 

Our literature review quickly identified 10 factors key to enabling collaboration:

Trust and Respect

Siloes and “T-shaped” people (with depth of knowledge represented by the vertical bar of the “T”, but also an ability to collaborate across disciplines, ie the horizontal bar).

Openness/Communications

Common goals/New ways of working

Leadership/Interpersonal skills

We used these factors during a series of workshops to develop a new “profession map” which specifies the behaviours of collaboration. This tool is used in other sectors for professional development and specifies not just the knowledge and skills required but also the behaviours. An example to explain the difference is:

  • Knowledge is information about a subject, eg I understand how to indicate at a junction when driving a car
  • Skills are using what I know in a situation, eg I indicate as a standard part of my driving when I turn into a junction
  • Behaviours are the way I use my skills, what you see me do, eg whether I indicate in good time or last minute as I am turning.

A group within the South-West BIM Hub is now developing an industry-specific profession map which will identify the behaviours required to support the development of collaboration across the traditional silos of the professions (and further still to Tier 2 and 3 subcontractors). The aim of this is to enable collaboration to be a key part of the change in culture implied by Level 3 BIM.

Project partners include Stride Treglown; Building SMART UK; Constructive Coaching and Constructing Excellence, along with researchers from the University of Bath; UWE; University of Bristol and University of Salford. The partner groups all took part in a stakeholder engagement event at the University of Bath to soft launch the “Profession Map” project. 

We have now bid for funding through Innovate UK to enable us to turn our Profession Map into a user-friendly app to enable project teams in facilitating collaborative working.

This tool can be used widely by industry to support the development of these collaborative behaviours at all industry levels and we anticipate it being available in 2016 after the testing phase is complete.

Within the Digital Built Britain strategy, it is likely that further research will be undertaken in order to develop “Socio-technical behavioral change techniques that can be included in existing education processes”

In order to explore the possibilities in this area further that we have created a group called Behaviours4Collaboration. If you are interested in being part of this group please get in touch via our linkedin group Behaviours4Collaboration (B4C).