Board profile - Duncan Aspin

16 Apr 24
Board profile - Duncan Aspin

New GIRI board member Duncan Aspin is the director of health, safety, environment, quality, sustainability, and information management at VolkerStevin. He leads VolkerStevin’s Quality Ripple behaviour change programme and is instrumental in the company’s CITB-funded GIRI training rollout, which has seen VolkerStevin become an Approved GIRI Training Provider. 

Why did you decide to apply for the GIRI board position?

I have a passion for this industry, and I am always looking for opportunities to share my knowledge and help the sector improve. I am also passionate about GIRI’s focus on reducing error and I feel there is huge potential for improving the way we work as an industry. If we can eliminate errors and take the time to plan and do the job correctly, first time, we can significantly improve productivity, quality, safety, sustainability, and engagement.

A big part of the appeal of being a GIRI board director, for me, is that GIRI is about the whole industry – the contractors, clients, designers, consultants. To be on the board is to be part of bringing the industry together. As a sector, we are good at sharing, at coming together and trying to make improvements. So although there is a lot of work to be done, we have already made huge strides. I have been working in construction all my life and it has changed hugely in that time, which is something we shouldn’t overlook.

How does your role at VolkerStevin align with GIRI’s objectives?

My key focus at VolkerStevin is on the cost of error. Quality is critical. If we get it right, it impacts every other element of what we do, so my role is focused on leading our Quality Ripple programme and reducing the cost of error.

Quality Ripple is our behaviour change quality programme and the GIRI approach is a fundamental part of this. It started a few years ago with the aim of changing the company culture to put error at the forefront, and the strapline is ‘right from the start’, which aligns closely with GIRI’s messaging. This recognises that error doesn’t necessarily start on site. It can originate at the tender stage, or during design, and the Quality Ripple programme is about acknowledging that we need to ‘get it right’ from pre-construction.

As a new board member, what do you believe GIRI’s key priorities should be in the next few years?

Continuing to encourage the industry to come together to share and learn. We should also focus on bringing in all the different parties involved in construction, as there is a still a somewhat siloed approach, and we can’t achieve our aims unless we understand each other better. 

This was really brought home to me during a recent GIRI Training Across Interfaces course. The discussion of the design aspects of a project and opening up and closing down made me realise how important it is not to be so focused on programme and dates that we inhibit our designers from doing what they are good at, which is exploring opportunities. We need to make time for that process to happen before we dive into the details.

What do you believe are the biggest obstacles to reducing error on a meaningful scale in the construction industry?

All parties in the construction process have different priorities, and it is important to recognise that. One of the things we talk about in this industry is aligning these goals, but this ignores the fact that we don’t have the same goals and there might be good reasons for this. I believe that what we need to do instead is appreciate what each other’s goals are and understand how we can best work together to achieve them.

How do you think the industry's attitudes to error are changing and how can GIRI continue to support this? 

I already hear a lot of talk about GIRI in the industry, especially among clients, who are still underrepresented within the initiative. Momentum is growing. There are more than 100 members now, all significant contributors to this industry, and it will soon reach a tipping point where everyone knows about the initiative and wants to be involved. I also believe that some of the language of GIRI uses will start to become common language within the industry, such as ‘pressing pause to avoid error’ and ‘build it in your brain’. 

People always say there is no silver bullet to the industry’s error challenge, but if anything comes close, I believe it is properly engaging with the people doing the work, whether that is on site or at design level, so we can properly manage change and error. It is crucial that we take the time to do this, because that way we will get better answers, better engagement and ownership – you own what you help to create.

In this industry, we treat time as an enemy, because time is money. But this approach cuts out all the added value aspects. If instead we invest the time, whether in planning or in talking to people on site, then that time could be pulled back many times over by reducing errors. Time spent up front in getting it right is crucial, and GIRI is helping to get this message out there.

Find out more about VolkerStevin's Quality Ripple programme.

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