Has the pandemic reset our approach to values-based decision-making for the good?

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  • Has the pandemic reset our approach to values-based decision-making for the good?
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Ann Bentley


Ann Bentley


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The fact most of us are adept at making personal value-based decisions bodes well for the future, says Ann Bentley.


For many of us, lockdown has forced us to think about what really matters. During this extraordinary time, resources have been limited, with furloughs, pay-cuts and redundancies; risk has risen, with the constant threat of a rising infection and death rate; we have a heightened awareness of the role of local communities and key workers; and we have a greater appreciation of the natural beauty of the UK. This unfamiliar environment has meant that we have had to consider what is important – both to us as individuals and to the wider society. It turns out that most of us are pretty adept at making value-based decisions in our personal lives, and for me this bodes well for the future.

Delivering better value and whole life performance is a key element of the Reinvent phase of the Construction Leadership Council’s (CLC) Roadmap to Recovery, and I have been working closely with the Construction Innovation Hub (CIH) on its recently launched Value Toolkit. Many of you will have heard of the government-funded Value Toolkit that was the focus of a recent Building webinar. This methodology is supported by a piece of easily accessible software that the CIH is due to launch early next year. It will help clients and their advisers plan programmes and projects from the very outset, based on five key themes of natural, social, human, manufactured and financial value.

A suite of tools that support faster value-based decision-making across the whole investment lifecycle, the Value Toolkit will help define the unique value profile of a given project or programme and create a baseline against which informed decisions can be made. This will enable clients to get the best possible long-term outcomes and select a delivery model and commercial strategy that best meets their value drivers.

However, from an industry point of view it will also help us procure for value by enabling suppliers to shape their offer to best fit clients’ value drivers. By providing continuous forecasting, review and measurement of value throughout design, delivery and operation the Value Toolkit will enable clients and suppliers to create a database of real metrics from projects against which future proposals can be benchmarked, which should in the long term inform policy planning. This will allow value modelling in the truest sense of the phrase.

The industry has already received the Value Toolkit well – acknowledging that this will be part of the framework that enables us to join the different pieces of the construction puzzle together and understand the connectivity of the diverse elements. The construction minister, Nadhim Zahawi, has signalled government commitment to this approach, by engaging with the CLC and the CIH and investing time and resource in developing the theme of value.

Although it is often said that great innovation comes out of crises, the Value Toolkit was in development well before the coronavirus pandemic hit. However, the opportunity to use construction as an economic lever and to “build, build, build” our way out of the current downturn has massively accelerated the development programme.

As Dame Judith Hackitt argued so well in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, “value engineering” should be driven out of the construction lexicon. It is anything but value; it’s more a glorified way of cutting costs and quality. “The structure of industry has to change to make it more effective. We need to put a focus on the way in which buildings are procured. If we have a process that makes people bid at a cost they can’t afford to deliver at, we set ourselves up to fail,” she commented.

The Value Toolkit approach to procurement will help us as an industry do just this – change the structure of our industry and how we work. It will enable us to really procure for value and to understand the interrelated complexities and necessary trade-offs within any project – whether it be the functional performance, the social and human impact, the financial cost or the environmental impact. It will also mean that we can never again claim that we didn’t understand the quality compromises made in the drive for lowest cost.

So, while we are still in the pandemic bubble of reassessing our lives, this is now our time not only to think differently but also to act differently.

This article originally appeared on building.co.uk