Thursday, March 13, 2008

Constructing Excellence

Article on the Contract Journal website on 12 March 2008 by

It starts "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime, or so the saying goes. The same may well be true of health and safety. While it's great to have the latest safety equipment, it's irrelevant if nobody shows you how to use it properly."

The article is actually about an organisation called 'Constructing Excellence' that aims to improve safety in the industry. "Through this initiative, companies put forward current projects that in one way or another are demonstrating innovation or best practice in their development." Constructing Excellence then "work alongside these leading-edge projects to capture the knowledge, benchmark their performance and use the resulting case studies to demonstrate the business case."

I know nothing about the scheme or whether it is being successful. But it very much fits with my view of the world. Too often I hear about centralised initiatives where everyone is expected to follow what is considered to be best practice. However, I never understand how a single approach can really be best for everyone. In fact, the best things are done at a local level, where people are prepared to take a risk to be innovative. Hence, rather than running things centrally I feel it is better to give local groups some scope to be innovative and take some risks, but in a context where learning (about success and failure) is shared.

The article is a bit strange because it does not provide a link to the organisations website. It also gets the name wrong on several occassions, calling is 'Construction Excellence' rather than 'Consulting Excellence.'

Andy Brazier

Monday, March 10, 2008

Q&A: UK forces equipment failures

Interesting article on BBC website 15 February 2008 by Paul Adams.

Inquests into service men deaths in Afganistan have highlighted shortages of equipment have put people in danger. But this article also references board inquiries that also referenced "poor tactical decision-making" and a "lack of SOPs" (Standard Operating Procedures) on the ground.

The value of some of the missions (high risk for minimal benefit) and whether commanding officers could have taken more time to organise and prepare their men before sending them out is questioned. With the unpredictable nature of 21st century counter insurgency operations is another factor.

I often hear "we don't have enough equipment" or "we don't have enough people" in the industries I work in. It always strikes me that, with the exception of very small cash strapped companies, this is an unhelpful comment. It is not the absolute number but whether it is enough for what you want to do. The option is always to scale back activity. The trouble is companies seem to aim to still do everything, instead of focussing on what is important. The consequence is everything gets done rather poorly and this introduces risk.

Andy Brazier