Strategic Leadership Group - Emma-Jane Houghton

1 Dec 22
Strategic Leadership Group - Emma-Jane Houghton

What do you hope to achieve by being part of GIRI’s Strategic Leadership Group?

I would like to bring the best of my industry experience and expertise to bear as part of the Strategic Leadership Group and to draw on this to have productive group discussions. I have a broad mix of big four consultancy and major programme delivery experience, as well as technical training in different construction areas, and a real focus on doing things differently. I hope to build on this experience and work with the group to come up with solutions to make things happen for the better.

How does your current role align with GIRI's objectives?

A key part of my role as a senior commercial director with the Cabinet Office is driving commercial policy for major public sector programmes and developing my own role as a responsible client. As part of GIRI’s Strategic Leadership Group, I believe I can use that position and experience, and my passion for improving the way things are done.

I was also a core member of the Project 13 Steering Committee, working with the ICE and industry representatives to develop and launch the concept. Alongside my work developing the Value Toolkit, I was also heavily involved in the drafting of the Construction Playbook content for the Cabinet Office. In my current role I have developed commercial strategies that embrace the principles of the Construction Playbook to put this into practice.

What do you see as the top priority for the SLG?

The industry has many priorities, from productivity to net zero, and what brings all these things together is the need to create a sustainable future. By that, I don’t just mean a net-zero future, but all the different aspects we need to work on as an industry to move forward. That includes people and skills, net zero and sustainability, and the productivity challenge – we can’t just keep doing the same old things in the same old ways.

What do you see as the biggest barrier to reducing error on a meaningful scale in the construction industry?

It’s a culture thing – it’s about having the courage to do things differently. All the governance and systems and the ways we remunerate and incentivise as an industry have evolved from a way of thinking about risk that tries to eliminate it or pass it on, and I think this is a huge barrier to progress. There is an inherited system and an entrenched way of thinking about risk that gets in the way and makes coming together to do brilliant things harder. 

How do you think the industry's priorities have changed in the last 12 months and what impact has this had on error reduction?

In terms of error, there has been so much disruption over the last two years and the agility that is required to respond to it has increased exponentially. Everything is less predictable than it was, and the focus has been on how to respond to this rather than on benchmarks and hitting targets. We need to understand what matters most and therefore where to put our effort going forward. We need to look at the macro level and respond to things on that basis to have the biggest impact.

What first step/easy win would you suggest to someone just starting on their journey towards zero error?

Focus on the culture. Be brave enough to try new things. Don’t accept the barriers in our legacy way of working and celebrate the wins, however small, in the broader journey.

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