Meet the productivity evangelists and their tribes

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  • Meet the productivity evangelists and their tribes
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Paul Beeston


Paul Beeston


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UK plc’s productivity in general (and for the country’s construction “division” in particular) has been a conundrum for decades. The Bank of England’s February 2024 monetary policy report contained the stark view that “growth in potential productivity in 2025 and 2026 is expected to be… much lower than in the decade prior to the global financial crisis”.

Industry initiatives have come and gone and yet we seem unable to make the necessary change.

So, let us consider the productivity evangelists and their tribes – how does their reasoning measure up, given that measurement of such things is key?

The modernisers (or die)

Lining up under the “modernise or die” banner are proponents of modern methods of construction (MMC) and design for manufacturing and assembly (DfMA). The arguments are compelling: design for pipelines, embrace offsite manufacturing and seek efficiencies in the supply chain.

But the sector has hit challenges particularly in the last 18 months as residential pipelines have slowed and supply chains had their fragility exposed.

The digitisers

Next come the digital evangelists. The last part of 2023 was subsumed with AI – it is apparently a veritable tsunami coming to solve all our problems soon.

The power of data is of course a powerful thing, something that as a business founded from cost management principles, we cannot deny. There is value in data, but only the right data (with good integrity) interpreted with intelligence and respect for context.

The collaborators

The tribe of collaborators have some pedigree behind them – the Construction Act, best practice group Constructing Excellence and even, to an extent, the Construction Playbook all see their roots in the Latham report.

The waste and productivity drained by adversarial contracting can genuinely be seen as unnecessary. Collaboration is generally an enjoyable pursuit and with win-win outcomes, so what’s not to love? Yet, with more collaborative endeavours embedded, the prize that Latham anticipated for us all seems somewhat illusive:

“The prize is enhanced performance in a healthier atmosphere. It will involve deeper satisfaction for clients. It will lead to a brighter image and better rewards for a great industry.”

Will it really? 

The policy purveyors

The final tribe of productivity enthusiasts will be either lobbying their politicians or hijacking manifestos in pursuit of the role of government to drive productivity improvements. And 2024 will no doubt see a productivity focus in the election news cycles. It may not be construction focused, but manifestos will surely have impacts on future policy, some of which may be focused on rebooting the productivity of our sector.

Embrace diversity

So, with a four-way battle set to unfold in pursuit of solving the industry’s productivity challenge, which tribe will come out on top? Our industry is diverse. Our projects and our clients are diverse. The interests of the people in our industry are diverse. Given this diversity of our industry, let’s start by recognising the power of each tribe and learning from each of them.

The greatest asset that the collective industry has is its curiosity. We can all be curious about how to make our projects and our industry more productive: be curious about change and see what may be transferable, then embrace it. You don’t need to get bogged down on the destination; just contributing incrementally to “better” (in the right direction) is enough.

Ultimately, each tribe has the same destination in mind. I look forward to seeing how quickly we can get there.

This is an abridged version of an article that was featured in Building.


Paul Beeston
Paul Beeston

Partner – Head of Industry and Service Insight