Gaining the power to overcome the challenge of ‘if only…’
Author: Ian Richardson, Sector Lead - Built Environment at BSI
When we wish something hadn’t happened, or wish it could have gone better, we hold our head in our hands and think, 'if only…'. When we are disappointed about a lack of communication on a project, or we realize someone important was left out of the loop, we sigh loudly and say, 'if only…'.
These examples of the spectre of 'if only' are always negative and come with a great deal of frustration. When applied to the built environment, 'if only' usually leads to significant negative consequences. These include:
Lower levels of health, safety, and wellbeing
Detrimental impact on ESG; and
(in some extreme cases) loss of life.
The Get It Right Initiative (GIRI) based their ethos on this very foundation – 'Improving value by eliminating error'. When analysing error, they saw it could occur at any stage of the project life cycle and could be caused by a defective product or introduced by human error.
BSI, as the UK’s national standards body, is committed to supporting the built environment sector achieve its desired outcomes including the adoption of sustainable practices, prioritization of people, digital transformation and, of course, improved quality management in the supply chain. The introduction of a new standard, BS 99001, underpins many of these outcomes. Entitled 'Quality management systems. Specification for the application of BS EN ISO 9001:2015 in the built environment sector', the standard aims to expand the provisions of BS EN ISO 9001:2015 by providing additional requirements for project-based activities within the built environment sector.
So, how will this standard begin to try and tackle the 'if only' conundrum? Let’s consider some of the most common causes of errors, using the GIRI 2016 research report, to compare the most popular root causes of errors alongside potential solutions located within BS 99001.
Inadequate Planning: Regarding management and planning, a lack of adequate planning across an organization or project team, whether that be top management or on-site staff, clearly adds significant risk to a project. Clause 4.2 in BS 99001 describes 'Understanding the needs and expectations of interested parties' whereby an organization needs to determine the requirements of relevant parties that they are, or plan to, be involved with. Eliminating the statement 'if only I’d understood who needed what before the project began'.
Ineffective Communication: Whether it be written, drawn or verbal, clear and effective communication across a project team and throughout the supply chain can be a particular problem. Clause 7.4 in BS 99001 covers 'Communication', including a provision to establish, implement and maintain processes to enable effective, specific means of communicating quality issues throughout and between all functions of a project. This includes effective induction of people working on behalf of the organization, knowledge sharing, changes to organizations in the supply chain, and retaining documented information as evidence of conformity.
Inadequate trade and professional skills: For topics such as workmanship – projects succeed and fail by the people involved in them. Appropriate levels of skills, knowledge, experience, and behaviours (i.e. competency), combined with clear roles and responsibilities, is vital to avoid what GIRI describe as 'a result of this mutual ignorance'. BS 99001 combines multiple clauses relating to this topic, to help address the culture of 'if only' in relation to the people involved in projects. For example, in clause 8.5.1 (Control of production and service provision) it requires the organization to establish criteria for inspection and testing of product and service provision, including criteria for things such as workmanship, whilst competence is mentioned throughout the standard.
These are only a few of the obstacles in the way of achieving a successful outcome, so to prevent yourself from saying 'if only' on your own projects, why not read BS 99001 today?
Work and build smarter with BSI Knowledge
Across the built environment, from housing, industrial, commercial, hospitals and schools, to civil engineering, infrastructure and urban spaces, our standards are designed to help you establish good practice, build resilience, embrace new technologies and be fit for the future.
With a BSI Knowledge subscription your team will have access to all your standards in one place, wherever they are and whenever they need them, through a fast, simple and intuitive platform that combines best practice insights with up-to-date standards to help meet your daily and strategic challenges.