Construction’s Speed of Response

Men working

Now what I have to resist here is wandering off too far into a Management Theory dissertation, so I’ll keep it short and sweet. Where the “Speed of Response” label for construction came from is this:

To help re-build Japan’s economy after the War they adopted the business model of Total Quality Management, or TQM as it is better known. During the 1950’s and 60’s it worked very well for them, so well, in fact that it was widely adopted by businesses in other countries. However, by the 1970’s inherent longer-term weaknesses of TQM were becoming apparent to business leaders and to academics worldwide. Their suspicions were spot on, of course! We have seen the Japanese economy in the doldrums now for the last 20 years!

So the academics congregated and decided they had to get themselves out and about to find some commercial activity which operated a business model offering “Flexibility, Adaptability and Speed of Response”. A year later they reconvened, glowing with the success of their mission, and said

“Well knock us over with a feather duster! It’s Construction, isn’t it?”

Off they all wandered again, to do a bit more academic stuff, and came up with a label for the business model that we just intuitively adopted; The Learning Organisation. They also described and defined it as having Four Disciplines, with a Fifth one postulated – but that is enough of that for now!

So, to us lot actually in construction, what does Speed of Response actually mean?

Nothing at all! We just expect everything to be constantly changing: design, materials, technology, client relationships, consultants relationship, teams we work with, construction law, H&S, jobs-worth’s, weather – you name it, it changes! What do we do? We just react to it immediately! Change is a normal part of our daily working environment and we quietly, and immediately, adjust to it!

Another post from Geniebelt about future potential changes in the construction industry shows trends coming down the pipeline for project managers.


Compare that to how a manufacturer’s factory reacts; Union disputes; months of wrangling; bickering over changes in the pecking order; years to design their new processes; decades to get the operatives all happy and productive again! Tut! Tut! And what happens if the market changes in that time? They usually go to the wall, taking down the economy of a whole town with them!

So there you have it! In construction we just get on with our jobs and our modesty prevents us from realising that we are an example in “Speed of Response” for the whole world of business to follow!

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