What does it take to be successful in any economic climate?
Here at Autodesk, we believe that resiliency is one of the most important characteristics you need to thrive regardless of the circumstances. While traits like cleverness and innovation are certainly important, resiliency — i.e., the ability to bounce back from adversity — is a key trait that can get people and companies through the toughest of times.
And the fact of the matter is that the construction industry needs to be resilient — now, more than ever.
While we've seen plenty of companies adjust and adapt to the new normal, the industry still needs to grapple with the economic fallout brought about the COVID-19 recession, which according to FMI, could take 12 to 18 months.
To successfully navigate the months ahead, construction companies need to build resiliency in their people, processes, and technologies.
This is exactly what this series is all about. Autodesk’s Construction’s Resiliency Playbook sheds light on the strategies and tactics that construction firms should implement to build resiliency and future-proof their businesses.
The first part of this series was all about resiliency in the workforce, and we discussed how organizations can help their teams thrive during tough times. In this second installment, we’ll dig into how businesses can create resiliency for business processes and models.
Let’s dive in.
A lack of resiliency within a company can be rooted in a couple of key issues concerning its business models and processes. They include:
Uncertainty and lack of direction. Resiliency during uncertain times (such as a global pandemic) is already tough to achieve, but it becomes even more difficult when there’s a lack of direction from leadership.
People often turn to leaders to find strength and inspiration, so if those at the top aren’t projecting certainty or can’t identify a clear path forward, staying resilient becomes an uphill battle.
A lack of direction amidst uncertainty also makes it difficult to improve processes and take on change, which can further hinder organizations from moving forward.
Lack of standard processes. Not having standardized procedures can inhibit resiliency. When team members aren’t on the same page with their processes, the company will see large amounts of variation, with employees and departments doing their own thing. This results in a lack of unity and collaboration, making it even more challenging to overcome economic turbulence.
Now that we’ve identified the major hindrances to organizational resiliency, let’s look how you can improve your models and processes to help your business bounce back from adversity.
Resilient companies have a clear company vision that is instilled through all levels of the organization. This vision serves as the company’s North Star that guides its employees through periods of stress and uncertainty.
That being said, a company’s vision should be established and reinforced by those at the top. As FMI points out in its recent operational excellent report, “leaders still need to set the foundation and goals that will guide their organizations for the coming years despite continuous uncertainty. To do that, we need to remind ourselves of what vision is and how it can be a transformative tool for our organizations.”
Not all visions are created equal. To truly drive and motivate the organization, its vision must be large and exciting. This is one of the reasons why big, hairy, audacious goals (BHAG) work so well.
A BHAG serves as a clear and powerful target to which companies can aspire. These goals provide a sense of purpose and can fuel an organization through good times and bad.
One of the best ways to make a goal effective is to make it bigger than yourself — or even the entire organization. Having an objective that impacts not just the company, but the community at large (or even the entire world) makes the goal even more compelling.
This may be one of the reasons why construction companies are increasingly focusing on sustainability as part of their future vision.
As Construction Dive reports, contractor giants AECOM and Flour have both discussed having a deeper interest in environmental services, while Jacobs announced that it recently hit its goal to reach net-zero carbon for its operations and business travel. Jacobs is now striving to be carbon negative by the year 2030. Meanwhile, Balfour Beatty and Lendlease both announced carbon-cutting initiatives.
Environmental goals are just one example. Regardless of what your objectives are, you need to remember that an important part of building resiliency is giving your team something big and important to work towards. And if your BHAG benefits the community at large, you can trust that your organization will be more motivated to achieve it.
Industrialized construction — which leverages innovative building techniques like design for manufacturing and assembly (DfMA) and prefabrication — is growing in use and importance in the industry.
As Amy Marks, Autodesk’s Head of Industrialized Construction Strategy and Evangelism, points out, “We are entering a new era of convergence—with industries, processes, and multidisciplinary teams blending together. Industrialized Construction is the epitome of convergence through design for manufacturing and assembly (DfMA) and prefabrication – moving make and operate information up into design. This is creating new business models and enables new value propositions.”
Industrialized construction helps construction firms achieve certainty in cost and schedule, and this is something that will serve organizations well in the coming months.
Industrialized construction also enables teams to adapt. We saw this firsthand in 2020 alone, when numerous companies started using industrialized construction at an increased level to keep projects moving forward.
Take Mark III Construction, which invested in off site construction to stay resilient. According to Makayla Oei, Project Executive at Mark III Construction, “As a company, we focus heavily on what work can we move off site. We've recently invested in a 24,000 square foot manufacturing facility that's just about a mile and a half down the street from our office. We have a crew of anywhere from 15 to 20 people working in it.”
She adds, “If you're onsite in the building and people are working on top of each other, that can be more challenging to social distance the crew on site. And being able to move some of that work into our manufacturing facility has enabled us to actually beat schedules and continue to meet our customer's needs.”
Mark III Construction was not alone in this shift in recent years. According to the 2020 JB Knowledge ConTech Report, “Due to restrictions regarding the pandemic, 24% of respondents reported their companies relied on off-site construction more than in prior years.”
The bottom line? Exploring innovative practices like industrialized construction can make you more adaptable and resilient in the future. So, ensure that you are dedicating resources to these initiatives and get comfortable with implementing them.
Technology (which we’ll discuss in more detail in the next edition of the playbook) is essential to staying resilient. But successfully implementing it first requires a solid strategy and processes to ensure that technology is leveraged effectively.
As such, construction firms should invest in change and program management that can facilitate the implementation, rollout, and adoption of new tech.
Your objective should be to promote a smooth and productive relationship between technology, people, and processes. These three components are constantly evolving, so having solid change and program management practices can ensure that an organization’s teams, procedures, and tools are working together effectively.
In line with this, it’s important for construction companies to implement solutions that truly support their vision and strategy for the future. Haphazardly choosing new tools or going live with technology without a proper plan is the opposite of effective change and program management. When rolling out new solutions, companies need a proven plan for how to do it, and this includes putting a lot of thought into training, integrations, processes, and workflows.
It may make sense to create a tech sandbox for your company, which serves as a testing environment for technology before implementing it on a live project or across the entire enterprise. This will allow you to fully understand the different solutions in the market and determine how to implement them in your business.
Process standardization improves resiliency by giving you greater certainty over tasks and operations. In addition, standard procedures increase productivity from repeatability, improves communication, and makes information easier to find and retrieve. Standardization also reduces the burden on IT, and helps organizations scale. Finally, a strong focus on standards paves the way for continuous improvement.
Standardization has proven to be quite powerful particularly in 2020, when companies had to quickly come up with safety protocols in the workplace as well as out in the field.
One company that did this well is Granger Construction. Kate Capeneka, Granger's first-ever Continuous Improvement Facilitator, took on the role of helping the company develop, improve, and implement lean processes.
Kate helped design project management processes and standards that Granger leveraged when COVID-19 hit. When jobsites were set to open back up, Granger needed an efficient way to conduct screenings. Within a week, Kate collaborated with the company’s OutSystems Developer to design and build an application that could utilize QR codes for easy check-in across workplaces.
Thanks to the process she developed, Granger could utilize QR codes for each check-in across workplaces, ultimately reducing transmission risks from physical objects.
This same process standardization and innovation can be applied to many aspects of the jobsite — not just safety. You can do this by identifying inconsistencies in your company practices or by finding opportunities to develop standardized procedures that improve productivity in the organization.
Solid business models and processes are a pillar or construction resiliency. Tightening up your organization's objectives, procedures, and standards will make it easier to bounce back and thrive amidst adversity.
Good luck, and if you’re looking for more insights on construction resiliency, check out our final installment in the series on technology.