Is behaviour the unmeasurable aspect of competence?

26 Apr 22

Influencing behaviour at every level is critical to improving project outcomes – but behaviour is one of the most difficult aspects of competency to measure using technology, panellists at GIRI’s Technology Working Group webinar agreed.

Watch the webinar recording

In a wide-ranging discussion that considered how to leverage technology to drive through the competency improvements required to deliver meaningful change, the issue of behaviour came up again and again in a variety of contexts.

Behaviour is key to driving change, said Steffan Speer from Morgan Sindall, but using technology to measure it may not be possible. “We can set the behaviours we are looking for to help drive rapid change, and we can measure the competence of individuals and organisations to make sure we have the right people in the right place at the right time to deliver the right requirements. But a lot of this comes down to process. If we have the process right, we know what technology we can use. If we know the technology, we can train people to use it. The technology provides the data, the data becomes information, and hopefully that information becomes knowledge. Then we have people who understand not just the process but why we are doing it, and that contributes to the continuous improvement that drives more rapid change.”

GIRI director Cliff Smith agreed that we can only really measure behaviour by looking at outcomes; whether technology can help with this is another question.

“If you improve an individual’s skills, knowledge and experience will that improve their behaviour?” asked Steve Green from Bowmer & Kirkland. “If they know better, will they behave better?”

“If they are better informed, they should be making more informed decisions,” said Technology Working Group lead Melanie Dawson from Origin7, although she acknowledged that human nature is an unpredictable variable. “If there is an option to take a short cut, sometimes they may do so, but if they are educated and informed, they should be making the right decisions.”

Steve pointed out that GIRI’s training programme focuses on changing behaviours at all levels, starting with leaders of organisations and projects. And this need for top-down behavioural change and for senior teams to take a lead in encouraging competency was highlighted by multiple attendees.

“You don’t move individuals unless you move the leadership,” agreed Steve. “We have to talk about these issues, at board level, to get the change we need to deliver the quality we need. If you haven’t got the directors onboard, you won’t turn the ship around.”

Cliff said it is important to relate these issues to the bottom line if you want to take them to board level. “This is why, when we set out on our GIRI journey, we talked about productivity, because it is productivity and efficiency that are the lifeblood of successful organisations. We need to be thinking about those behaviours at all levels – leadership, management, and on site – so we can be better at what we do.”

What about clients? How can we influence client behaviour, particularly in relation to adopting the guidance in the Construction Playbook, to deliver standardisation and long-term strategy including research, planning and allowing for skills and competence training?

It is a difficult question, acknowledged Steve Green, saying that hopefully clients recognise why the Construction Playbook was drafted and how it can deliver benefits. He noted that as a contractor, Bowmer & Kirkland must explain how it will respond to the Construction Playbook in bids. “Perhaps we need to also measure clients on their alignment to the document.”

There is also an issue of awareness, said Melanie. “Many clients I work with are not specialists in construction, so they are not familiar with these documents. They rely on the team that is providing these services to deliver them as efficiently and effectively as possible. So I think there is knowledge piece here in terms of informing clients about the Construction Playbook and why we do a lot of these things.”

According to Paul Dodd from the Scottish Futures Trust, there is an upskilling issue within client organisations around digital and technology. Sometimes there is a perception among the supply chain contractors who develop very detailed and effective digital information, that this is not being used by clients or not used as it should be. “There is a growing need to support clients with upskilling. One of the areas we looked at was creating a baseline skillset for project directors within client organisations and public bodies. It was an attempt to try to identify areas needing additional resources or development and to harmonise that baseline of key client project leaders.”

How then do we achieve both quality and safety? Is the answer to allow adequate time and funding for contracts to be completed by experienced people who understand the project? Steffan pointed to GIRI’s research showing that planning is key to everything that goes into delivering a safe, quality project. “If you don’t put the time in at the start to get the planning right, you are not going to achieve the project outcomes no matter how much funding you have. For me, it is all about planning - knowing the requirements, having that early engagement, having your plans in place, and knowing who will need to work on that project, how and when.”

Which, again, largely comes back to the right behaviours. “The issue of behaviour has been challenging the industry for a long time,” said Cliff Smith as he closed the debate. “We have had a number of reports making some very good suggestions of how things could be improved, but we really need to implement these, and I think this is where behaviour comes in. The discussion today around how technology can be used to identify where the gaps are and what we need to do about it is something that deserves serious consideration.”

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Other reports from the webinar

Melanie Dawson from Origin7: Technology and competence - what should we consider?

Steve Green, Bowmer & Kirkland: The role of technology in managing competence requirements

Paul Dodd, Scottish Futures Trust: Can technology change how we think about performance?

Steffan Speer, Morgan Sindall: Establish a baseline to effectively measure competence


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