The Importance of Accountability in Construction

April 30, 2019

What’s accountability got to do with it?

Perhaps you’re sighing with frustration at the lack of accountability in your workplace or perhaps you’re asking yourself what accountability even has to do with it? Either way, accountability is an essential aspect of short-term planning and has been recognised by organisations such as McKinsey & Company as one of the "levers that could close the productivity gap".

In their article, The Construction Productivity Imperative, McKinsey & Company state that “unresolved issues stack up because of lack of communication and accountability” as a result of “flawed performance management”. Whether you're frustrated with the lack of accountability in your workplace or haven't given it a thought, it's time projects re-evaluate their methods of delay tracking and utilised the data to hold people accountable and help close the productivity gap, rather than fall back on old methods that result in “flawed performance management”.

Flawed performance management can be seen across the industry from small projects to complex, high-profile schemes such as Crossrail. A report by the Public Accounts Committee - Government Must Explain Who Is Responsible For Crossrail Failures - reveals that the DfT and Crossrail Limited are “unable to fully explain how the programme has been allowed to unravel”. It's clear that Crossrail's lack of accountability has lead to major delays and emergency cash injections. But without having access to on-demand data that provides you with an insight into the root cause of your delay, how do you know who's accountable and why?

Pointing fingers

Many construction projects don’t track their short-term delays, resulting in a build-up of delay days that aren’t being communicated and incorporated into the master schedule. Those that do are often using methods that allow information to become diluted or corrupted, as a result of an employee's political or personal motive. Allowing an employee to amend reports on the basis of deflecting blame or having a prejudice towards a particular subcontractor, hides warning signs, slows productivity and hinders decision making.

The recent construction of Tottenham Football Club's stadium was - as many projects often are - delivered late and over budget. In Building's article Spurs Chairman Says Stadium Delays Down To 'Several Contractors', Daniel Levy reportedly explained that the delays were "not just the fault of one contractor". But how do you take control and have constructive conversations with those accountable - or even have the evidence to hold them accountable - without a comprehensive as-built record to support your claims and aid your decision making.

Make the subjective become objective

There’s so much potential to be had from using accountability as a lever to help close the productivity gap, but projects must first put aside the methods that promote subjective conversations and find new methods that make them objective. Having a platform or process that allows projects to track their delays and produce reports, could increase transparency and allow you to make more informed decisions. Having transparent accountability within projects should be non-negotiable and implementing a process or platform that supports this, is key to getting the team onboard and embedding it within the company ethos.

Chelsea Munro

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