Over the last few weeks the Rugby World Cup has been going on across the country. Millions of supporters, myself included, felt the desperate disappointment following England’s early departure from the competition. As with all team sports, rugby needs the whole to equate to more than the individuals. The activities on the field and their analysis got me thinking about parallels we can draw with everyday business, in our case construction.

Part of the attraction of our work is that  the challenges we face continually change throughout each construction phase. Our project teams make countless decisions every day identifying the best outcome in a given scenario while considering time, cost, risk, opportunity, safety – among others.

Waterloo Station plant helicopter lift briefing
Like our sporting heroes we make decisions in pressured environments, albeit in a different arena and without the focus of the world on us. But those decisions are no easier on site. In fact many are much more important because of both the safety implications and the often permanent nature of them; a decision is made and construction continues, usually consigning the decision to a permanent form rather than a paragraph in the history books.

Perhaps one other significant difference between our world and that of professional sportsmen is timing. When we have decisions to make we usually have time. We can consider things and discuss options with colleagues. In fact if you look back at the decisions you’ve made this week or month, I expect the initial solution thought of when you were presented with the problem, wasn’t the one you ultimately chose. Or it was at least a more considered and balanced version of your initial idea.

My point is that quick decisions, under pressure, bring out your instinctive self (or the inner chimp for those of you know of sport psychiatrist Dr Steven Peters) not the considered view of professional mind. Emergencies aside, you have time to make decisions. You have colleagues to confer with and specialists to consult. Many of you will do it already but perhaps, if I may, a word of advice for younger colleagues – take time making decisions, take advantage of your colleagues and their perspective, consider the pros and cons, and finally don’t beat yourself up when a decision does not have the result you hoped for. A decision is made- learn from the process of making of it regardless of whether the outcome is successful or not.

The last part of the decision time line is post action. This is when hindsight offers the test of whether the decision was right. We all look back at what we did, or what others did. We often hear the phrase ‘learn from our mistakes’ but perhaps I’d rewrite that –‘learn from your decisions’ adding ‘and those around you’. Looking back prepares you for the future and the challenges ahead.

For the more senior managers reading this I’d encourage you to share the thinking behind your decisions with those under your management. Your experience, and the benefit of your hindsight, can help shape the future leaders in our business and make them better decision makers.

About the author

Jon Kiteley

Contracts Manager

Jon joined BAM as a civil engineering undergraduate in 2000. His career since then has seen him work as project surveyor, bid and pre-construction manager and currently as contracts manager in the Midlands region. He also has the role as BAM’s EFA Regional Framework manager for the East of England and West Midlands lots. He has worked across a wide range of sectors during his time with BAM including law and order, retail, education, aviation and commercial.

Jon is currently overseeing Heathlands School part of the EFA Midlands 2 Batch Priority School Building Programme having successfully handed over the previous three schools with the project teams. In parallel he is managing pre-construction on the £36m Wood Norton Care Village for Richmond Care Villages part of BUPA, a £30m 2nd Stage tender for Birmingham City University and tendering other schemes.

Away from his day-to-day responsibilities Jon is Vice-Chair of the CIOB (Coventry and Warwickshire Branch) and sits on the Industry Advisory Panel for the Civil Engineering stream at the University Of Warwick.

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