News of Carillion’s liquidation this week has sent shock waves, not just across the infrastructure and construction sectors, but throughout the nation.
While many will have expected administration, the fact that the company was in such dire straits that a compulsory liquidation was the only option, has raised some serious concerns.
But should we really be that surprised?
Mark Farmer, CEO of Cast summed it up when he said that there is a, “deep seated issue with construction delivery models.” An issue that he warned us about back in 2016 when he published the Farmer Review, telling us to “modernise or die”.
Maybe, Carillion’s downfall will be the catalyst for change that the infrastructure and wider construction industry needs.
Last November, the government published the “Industrial Strategy” detailing their plans to increase productivity in infrastructure and “make Britain fit for the future”. Although slightly overshadowed by the announcement of the Royal engagement, the basic idea that the UK infrastructure industry needs to innovate to survive is nevertheless gaining traction.
Organisations throughout the sector are coming together to form Project 13. An initiative established by the Institution of Civil Engineers and supported by the likes of Heathrow, Anglian Water, KPMG and Mace amongst others to develop and implement new models of working across the market.
But, to quote Dale Evans, Managing Director of the @One Alliance, “The question becomes – how do you make that shift?”
From our perspective, the best place to start is from within. Organisations that want to lead with innovative new ideas and initiatives need innovative people to lead them.
An “innovative approach” is frequently requested in job descriptions clients task us with, so how do you source innovation?
1. Where to find innovation?
Start by looking from within the sector. Not all companies have been blindly following the same business models since the dawn of time. Many companies are reviewing and adapting to keep up with changes in business priorities, technological advances and emerging markets.
Seek out people from companies that are renowned for doing the thing that you want to be doing.
If no one inside your industry is doing it yet, then who is in other allied sectors?
Back in the early 2000’s, following on from a series of fatal rail crashes, the industry had to make some changes to the way health and safety was approached. No one from inside the industry had ever considered the issue in a new light before, so they looked at what industries had.
Oil and gas had previously undertaken a massive reform of their safety measures after Piper Alpha – making it the perfect picking ground to bring in experts to advise, and implement a new approach to safety within rail.
Similarly, after John Egan’s 1998 report highlighted how other industries had managed to significantly increase efficiencies through effective management of their supply chains, Heathrow and other construction businesses looked to the automotive sector to recruit fresh new ideas on how they too could increase productivity.
Two alternative approaches to bring innovation to your business include; recruiting management consultants who personally specialise in advising clients on the relevant business topic and recruiting innovators from start-ups and younger companies that have more license to innovate.
2. How to attract innovation?
Convincing candidates to leave their forward thinking, progressive organisation and join yours is going to take some serious commitment.
You will need to prove that your company is genuinely interested in innovation and that the candidate will receive backing from board level to implement their ideas; even through the resistance that inevitably comes with change.
It is also important to bear in mind that different industries will have different pay structures. In order to attract a thought leader, you will have to be flexible on budgets and remuneration packages.
3. How to assess innovation?
There are three key personality traits to look out for when assessing if a candidate is the right person for your innovative revolution.
Firstly, they must be comfortable with ambiguity. It may take a long time for change to filter down throughout the organisation and take a hold within the company. Candidates must be flexible enough to deal with the uncertainty that will come with implementing a new way of thinking.
Second, they must be prepared to challenge the status quo in a positive and tactful way. Building stakeholder relationships is key to implementing change, someone who barges in and expects everybody to get on board with their ideas on day one will achieve nothing.
Similarly, they need to be confident enough to push forward with their ideas even when met with resistance. The ability to understand the appropriate pace of change is key.
Thirdly, the best candidate will think strategically. Having incredible, innovative new ideas is great, but the ideal candidate will understand how to implement plans strategically and what impact they will have on the wider business and market.
Infrastructure in the UK is changing rapidly and innovating is the key to its success. If you are looking to bring on board some fresh new ideas click HERE to see how we can help.