To make construction work less stressful and more effective.
Our Founder’s Theory
The construction industry is hurting and, in my opinion, its two greatest pain points are:
- It is ineffective
- It fails to support a good quality of life for its employees.
While there are other issues, such as poor capital investment and fragmentation (see farther down the page), I believe these two issues hurt the industry the most.
What Does it Mean To Be Effective?
To be effective means to produce the desired result or effect. Defining that result is individual and subjective, however, speaking from experience as a Principal Contractor, I hope you’ll accept one, general definition as:
The desired effect of the construction industry is to deliver its projects safely and adhering to the Employer’s requirements. Specifically; on time, within budget, as per the contract documents, and with no one hurt in the process.
How often do construction projects produce the desired result defined above? Not very often. For example:
- In the last three years, just 31 percent of projects came within 10 percent of their budget!1 10 percent is still over budget, I’ll add!
- A study of 52 megaprojects reported their average cost overrun to be 88%! 2
- 90 percent of the world’s infrastructure projects are either late or over-budget.3
Now I’ve only thrown three statistics at you, but would you say that the construction industry is producing the desired result? If you wish to hear more, check out my post on ineffectiveness and incompetence. Otherwise, let’s proceed on the assumption you agree that the construction industry is ineffective.
What does the industry look like if you take away all the people?
The Industry’s Relationship with its Individuals
If you take away all the people, you’re left with:
- Empty excavators
- Disused total stations
- Concrete cured in the back of wagons
- Invoices unpaid
- Out-of-date programs
- Delivery trucks still in their yards
- Unsent Contract Instructions
Put simply, if you take away the people, nothing happens.
The industry runs on people. Its performance is dictated by the performance of its people. If you improve the performance of the individuals, the industry’s performance increases too. If you agree with this statement and you agree that the construction industry is ineffective, then what does that say about the individuals that make up the industry?
The blunt truth is we, the individuals, are ineffective. Labor-productivity has grown an abysmal one percent per year over the past two decades, according to a McKinsey Global Institute paper.4 If you are uncomfortable with the word ‘ineffective’, then perhaps I could soften this blow and say we are less effective than we need to be. I’ll admit, buildings are coming out of the ground all over the globe, so to some degree, we are effective. But if we can cast our pride to one side and focus on the facts, we seldom do what we say we will do (build things on time, in budget, etc.) therefore; we are ineffective.5
So if we, the individuals of the construction industry, are ineffective, can we do something about it? Yes, we can, and The Whole Engineer can help.
I was cripplingly ineffective in many roles on construction sites. It took some time for me to realize my problem, but when I did, I taught myself to be effective. I learned so well that I progressed from a failing low-level engineer to a successful project leader in less than two years. Now, I’m teaching others to do the same. Read my full story here. →
Did you know that many public speakers were, at some point, terrified to address an audience? They are as good as they are today, not because it comes naturally, but because it’s a skill they have mastered. I have mastered how to be effective on-site. Of course, every site and role is different, but there is so much I can teach that will help others do the same. That is why I founded The Whole Engineer.
Not forgetting the free content we post to our blog, The Whole Engineer helps individuals through two means:
- A masterclass program
- Our mastermind groups
How does helping individuals help the industry?
Firstly, if you agree that the performance of the construction industry correlates with the performance of its individuals, then there’s your answer. Increase the effectiveness of the individuals and, in turn, you’ll increase the effectiveness of the industry. The more individuals you impact, the greater the impact felt by the industry.
Secondly, we help our clients become effective, i.e., they produce their desired results, which means they have a purpose, and individuals with purpose will always out-perform those without purpose. This statement is true even for those whose purpose is unrelated to their work. For them, work is a means to fulfill their purpose. They will work with a greater passion in order to get where they are going more quickly. This employee might not stay with the same employer for ten years, but (a) while they are there, they’ll be a fantastic, self-motivated employee and (b) how often do today’s young employees remain at one post for ten years anyway?
Let’s be crystal clear, with a couple of illustrations and imagine what the construction industry would look like if each of its individuals were genuinely effective.
Figure 1 shows an oversimplified representation of how effective the construction industry is, in my opinion, today.
- The red box depicts the construction industry.
- Inside the industry’s red box are employers shown as colored circles.
- Enlarging each employer reveals more colored circles inside; these represent the employees of that employer.
- Effective employees are colored green and given a ‘tick.’
- Ineffective employees are colored red and given a ‘cross.’
- Employers that are largely composed of effective employees appear green and are therefore given a ‘tick’ (effective).
- Employers that are largely composed of ineffective employees appear red and are therefore given a ‘cross’ (effective).
- The industry is mostly comprised of employers that appear red (ineffective). Therefore, it also appears red (ineffective).
What if every individual within each company were effective and successfully fulfilled the role entrusted to them? How would that look? See Figure 2.
Between the two industry’s portrayed here (Figure 1 and Figure 2), which would be more productive, produce more quality, be more profitable, and deliver on time? The only difference between the two is the effectiveness of the aggregate, the individuals.
It is my theory that by increasing the efficacy of the people that make up the construction industry, the issues faced today will dramatically reduce if not disappear entirely.
Why Our Process Works
For four reasons, I have full confidence that our process will create a meaningful impact on the industry.
We’re Going Straight to The Individuals
Below, I’ve listed examples of issues that reputable sources believe to be the greatest of our industry’s problems. They all paint our industry’s standing in a rather bleak light, and I agree with them all:
- Fiercely competitive market
- Fragmented industry
- Poor capital investment
- Highly volatile market
- Over-reliance on labor
- Labor shortages
- Public-sector dependence
- Low-profit margins
- Adhoc technology adoption
- Unrealistic growth
- Insufficient personnel
Interestingly, only a handful of these sources can offer potential solutions, most just highlight the issues (which is better than nothing). The few that do have something to offer are looking for top-down solutions. Solutions whose impact will be created in the industry’s upper levels and hopefully disseminate to every individual in every nook and cranny.
We, The Whole Engineer, are going straight to the nooks and crannies. Straight to the individuals who heave the industry onward each day. Ours is a bottom-up approach where, to make the boat move faster, rather than have the coxswain bellow different commands we are strengthening the rowers.6
Our solution isn’t better than any other; it’s different. Several approaches may be required to bring the industry up to where it ought to be, and we believe ours (a) is unique, and (b) will make all the others easier to resolve (this second point is further explained below.)
We’re Operating in The Circle of Influence
Referring to Stephen R. Covey’s book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, our solution resides in the Circle of Influence, where we can do something about it. As opposed to the Circle of Concern where we cannot.
The facts that our capital investment is negligible and our market is fiercely competitive and fragmented are significant problems, but they reside in our Circle of Concern. If, for example, someone decides to start a wave of defragmentation by merging their company with another, they must first convince their company, then the other company, and then successfully traverse all the obstacles of a successful merger that are beyond my ability even to list. That individual, while bold, has little influence over the matter. Whereas, the power to improve one’s effectiveness is presently and is always in the hands of every one of us – we can do something about it.
Ours is a Future-Proof Investment
With or without problems, the industry will always have its individuals. Investing in their development, therefore, will always be beneficial.
Creating Freedom To Tackle The Top-Down Approaches
If the industry today looked like the one depicted in Figure 2, where everyone from trainee to CEO is genuinely effective, then the chief executives could focus less on day-to-day operations – for these operations would now be under the watchful eye of highly effective management. With this new freedom, the senior executives could focus on solving the more complex issues that will need enormous, industry-wide collaboration to resolve.
- According to KPMG as quoted in this article https://blog.plangrid.com/2018/08/construction-industry-statistics-to-improve-productivity/
- According to this paper published by the International Journal of Innovation, Management and Technology in 2017 ( Abdulelah Aljohani, 2017 ) http://www.ijimt.org/vol8/717-MP0022.pdf
- According to this article,”Efficiency eludes the construction industry”, in The Economist (Aug 2017) https://www.economist.com/business/2017/08/17/efficiency-eludes-the-construction-industry
- Refer to “Reinventing Construction” by McKinsey Global Institute (Feb 2017) https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Industries/Capital%20Projects%20and%20Infrastructure/Our%20Insights/Reinventing%20construction%20through%20a%20productivity%20revolution/MGI-Reinventing-Construction-Executive-summary.ashx
- There are always exceptions to any rule. If you are a highly effective individual of construction who delivers, as promised, time and time again then, sincerely, I’m impressed. I’d be grateful if you made contact with me as I could learn a great deal from you. Please recognize, though, that you are the minority and I am referring to the majority.
- See this Wikipedia page for clarification of these rowing terms https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coxswain_(rowing)