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Influencing + persuading = inspiration

Constructing Excellence is very much about influencing, persuading, and inspiring. This month Martyn Jones argues that we will need to hone and deploy these skills like never before if we are to help construction embrace the technologies and ways of working of the new paradigm and play our vital part in saving and repairing the planet.

In responding to the last paradigm shift of the 1990s we invoked the thinking of gurus Peters and Waterman (In Search of Excellence), Covey (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People), Senge (The 5th Discipline), Havel and Prahalad (Competing for the Future), Freeman and Soete (The Economics of Industrial Innovation) and Womack and Jones (Lean Thinking), and many others too.

Closer to home, we had Latham (Constructing the Team), Egan (Rethinking Construction), Bennett (7 Pillars of Partnering), Wolstenholme (Never Waste a Good Crisis) and more recently Farmer (Modernise or Die), all of whom invited us to work together collaboratively to make the features of the ICT paradigm a reality.

We are now embarking on another even more significant paradigm shift, where we need to influence, persuade, and inspire more construction clients and their advisers to commission environmentally sustainable buildings and infrastructure – and as a matter of great urgency.

We need to persuade them to ask for, indeed require, that those in their construction supply systems deploy the technologies and working practices of the new paradigm for the benefit of their projects, and not just during the design and construction phases but throughout the lifecycle.

To refurbish and repurpose wherever possible rather than looking first to demolish and replace their existing built assets. To switch to the use of more environmentally friendly materials and components, energy sources, and methods of construction.

And it is not just clients and their advisers we need to influence, persuade, and inspire, but first tier contractors and supply chains too. They need to recognise that the impending paradigm shift will require new ideas and transformational leadership if we are to turn away from competing on lowest price and environmentally harmful solutions.

To offer new greener value propositions around the planning strategy proposed by The Climate Change Advisory Group, including making rapid cuts to emissions, recovering carbon from the atmosphere, and adapting to the consequences of climate change that are now inevitable.

How do we best go about influencing, persuading, and inspiring change? What tactics have we deployed in the past? Will they work in the new paradigm?

There are of course, the pressure and assertiveness tactics, employing sanctions and compulsory measures on the targets of the change upstream and downstream in the process. And these have their place in achieving compliance as, for example, in the progress we have made in protecting health and improving worker safety.

Although the use of these pressure tactics can be effective in eliciting compliance – and at the speed now necessary to combat climate change – commitment is seldom secured as they can evoke a hostile reaction and resistance.

The other, softer, slower but more enduring influence tactics were seen as being more in tune with the ICT paradigm and the principles and ethos of Constructing Excellence, and included:

Rational persuasion of the need to change (the use of logical arguments, information, and factual evidence)

Inspirational appeals to change (arousing enthusiasm by appealing to ideals, values, or aspirations and not just for us but for society as a whole and future generations)

Coalition (seeking the engagement, cooperation, and collaboration of others in shaping the change)

Faith (fostering the belief by others that Constructing Excellence was an honest broker, trustworthy, and sincere in our intentions, and that they would respond by doing what is expected of them)

Consultation (involving the targets of the change in the process of making, planning, implementing, and sustaining the change)

Personal appeals to change (appealing to feelings of friendship or loyalty when we asked for change)

Exchange (offering the exchange of material, services, or favours for commitment to the change)

Ingratiation (using flattery, praise, or helpful behaviour prior to asking for change)

If construction is to meet the current challenges, Constructing Excellence, and others, will need to deploy these tactics and possibly others to help our leaders across the built environment guide, restructure, mobilise, facilitate, envision, foster harmonious relationships, encourage learning, and strive to improve performance within their own organisations and with other organisations. They can only do this by exercising effective influence and persuasion.

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