Back to the drawing board

The fold-up bike theory of productivity

Ever wondered why lycra-clad commuters seem to know something other people don’t? Have you ever noticed that air about them? Like they have some sort of confidence that comes from more than their public display of fitness? Are you wondering right now what possible relevance this could have in a blog about productivity in the construction sector?

The fold-up bike theory of productivity

It’s about having options, alternatives, and flexibility. Across the construction sector, people are no strangers to software tools. Tasks that were once complicated and took hours, are now automated and take minutes, sometimes seconds. Through 3D modelling, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and software solutions such as SketchUp, we can see things more clearly.

We can imagine more, predict more, avoid more errors at earlier stages. With modern document management systems we can organise better. We can rely on technology, functioning unobtrusively in the background, to take care of so many of those smaller, but essential details that were once so prone to human error, and now they’re not. Not only do we work more productively, we take less time to do so, and we incur lower costs.

From designers and architects, to engineers, surveyors, manufacturers, across the building site, and right the way through to Facilities Management, things are only getting better and better. We’re no longer doing more with less; we’re doing more with more.

We have more choices and options, more technology capabilities than ever. With each new one we take on, we can throw an old one out. We move onwards and upwards. So much for the drawing board. That raises the question: What do we go back to when things don’t work out?

Of all the tools you may provide for your team, how much consideration have you given to

the tools that might help them use the numerous applications
and software suites that they have at their command?
Also, how do you make sure that, as staff become more highly skilled, they don’t lose
sight of how to undertake basic tasks?


Back to basics

Don’t forget that as well as actually doing their job, your people need also to manage competently the many organisational/admin tasks that go along with cataloguing, filing, correctly versioning, and even transmitting their output. They need to ensure consistency with the standards that prevail in your organisation, understand how to collaborate with others, simultaneously or progressively, and they need to exercise complete mastery over remote working; manipulating, interrogating, and even marking up and amending models when presenting to clients or partners, without getting thrown off course by the mechanics of doing so.

In my last blog – ‘Supporting talent and skills: Productive from Day One’ – I talked about the idea of an ‘experience store’, a central repository for guidance when people need it. This is about delivering tips, hints, guidance, insights whenever the moment arises, which can often be while the job is in full flow.

At that very moment, if someone has to stop what they’re doing to Google some advice, or ask a colleague, or check a manual, or just work painstakingly through trying to resolve the problem themselves – perhaps with a smattering of hit and miss along the way – people need instant help. They need to move quickly from being off-course and frustrated to being on-course and in-control:

- Frustration when you don’t know what to do next
This requirement made me think of those pedalling commuters and my own trusty fold-up bike. My commute to work involves a walk to the over-ground station. I take a train into London, then go down to the tube, where my journey involves a change of line. When I come up into daylight there’s another healthy walk. I’m healthy enough in my humble opinion, so I use the bike.

Each stage of the trip depends on success in the stage before it. Train times start the process. A delay knocks on through the whole journey. Cancellations are not uncommon. When they happen, you see thousands of people around you plunging into anger and frustration; they face a long wait, in the knowledge that when another train turns up it will be packed.

- In-control when you simply sort it out
For me, it’s not a problem. I whip out the bike and keep moving forward; plus, I have options. I can cycle back to the previous station to miss the crowd, or I can miss out the wait and just pedal my way to the next tube station, or even a different line.

I feel independent and I feel in control. I feel ready. This is what an experience store, or a knowledge repository provides for your people – independence, control, and the resources to sort out problems just as soon as they arise.

It just makes sense to give people the tools they need to be able to use the tools they work with. It makes sense to give them options. ‘Blended Leaning’ is an approach that does this. It’s described in this blog. It’s about focusing on improving skills, enabling people to find out where they think their skills gaps might be, through KnowledgeSmart, and then giving them their own fold-up bike they can use to keep moving forward; in this case the e-Learning platform, Pinnacle Series.

Take control of your own journey

By having in place a strategy of blended learning, nobody, no company, need ever come up against an insurmountable barrier to progress when a project is underway; if you make the right tools available to all people, all the time.

The associated benefit is that any company, or organisation, by doing this, is seen to care about its employees’ personal career development. That’s something that goes a long way to motivate and retain staff. This creates a happy, productive working environment where people can be self-sufficient in resolving skills hic-cups and thus no time is wasted. Through blended learning, people can take control of their journey, rather than get distracted by detours, road-blocks, delays. As for the lycra, that’s their choice.


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