The creative personality

Good episode of 99% percent invisible on research conducted in the late 1950’s to try and find out what made some people more creative than others.

The findings of the Institute of Personality Assessment and Research (IPAR) were that creative people tend to be non-conforming, interesting, interested, independent, courageous and self-centered.

Low productivity in engineering and construction firms

Source: Beating the low-productivity trap: How to transform construction operations

This is a great article from McKinsey highlighting the relative poor performance of engineering and construction firms versus other sectors. Key take-aways are:

  • Engineering and construction firms are professional services organisations that use their distinctive know-how to provide specialised forms of business support to clients, from the initial idea to execution.
  • To improve margins the focus should be on profitability rather than on utilisation
  • Clients are looking for higher-quality and more cost-efficient solutions grounded on more productive technologies and methods. Engineering and construction companies able to bring such value-enhancing solutions to clients will likely enjoy better margins
  • Internal challenges leading to sluggish innovation and reluctance to change:
    • Shortfalls in accountability primarily due to unclear organisational structures
    • Talent management focused on hiring experienced engineers rather than looking for talent from other sectors
    • Reinventing the wheel with many functions being risk averse and reluctant to share best practices
    • Failure to adapt to new technology with most companies reliant on legacy systems
    • Problems utilising resources due to internal silos
  • External challenges
    • Fragmented value chains with differing priorities
    • Extensive subcontracting with unreasonable risk allocation and lack of incentives to improve ways of working
    • Complex portfolios with international expansion and different business environments and partners making it difficult to standardise
    • Competitive pressure, increasing legislation and projects subject to constant comment making steady improvement difficult and transformational change almost impossible
    • Coping with complexity with bigger projects and more demanding clients

To boost margins and productivity, McKinsey recommends:

  • Articulate a clear set of values and targets. There should be hard metrics such as cost efficiency and productivity but also cultural based and employee-commitment metrics
  • Build a development program for project managers to promote excellence and encourage constant improvement. The curriculum should include:
    • Project planning
    • Contracting strategy
    • Performance management
    • Change-order management
    • Project risk management
    • Contract Maangement
  • Create an integrated data system that shows the most important project metrics so that managers can track estimates
  • Encourage speedy risk mitigation and decision making. The goal is to manage the overall risk profile of the organisation.
  • Make project delivery teams more accountable
  • Standardise systems and practices. Designers learn to optimise for loads and stress, project managers must add cost efficiency to the list of priorities
  • Create an integrated and transparent performance management system with the budgeting process incorporating an awareness of risks
  • Minimise the number of changes using a stage-gate process based on:
    • Strengthen the business case
    • Study the owner’s designs
    • Implement ‘cold eye’ and constructability reviews
    • Establish a post-mortem process