If you ever wondered where the Movement for Innovation (M4I) and Rethinking Construction went, they merged a few years ago to reappear as Constructing Excellence. It incorporates Be ('collaborating in the built environment') and there is now talk of a convergence with CIRIA (Construction Industry Research and Information Association).
Constructing Excellence is the name of the industry watchdog that has been charged with overseeing the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in the construction industry. It is responsible for a relentless stream of 'strategic business delivery models' that are driving a 'culture change'.
While some people see it as a useful framework device, someone told me recently that it should be renamed 'Construction Pestilence' as KPIs rain down on the construction industry like a virus, spreading to unsuspecting businesses that innocently think that they are doing alright.
Maybe the collective noun for performance indicators should be a 'plague'. KPI is the industry's E. coli. It is creating a world of eternal transparency.
Under the KPI regime, the notion that 'my business is none of your business' is a thing of the past. Get with the programme.
While you may believe your business to be healthy, under the surface the KPI is eating away at commercial autonomy. It the Alzheimer's of the business world; gradually destroying the independence of the smaller players in the sector.
At the moment, healthy businesses believe that they can ignore the demands for Construction Excellence but, slowly and surely, they will succumb. You will buy the new wallchart, measurement definitions toolkit, progress report, best practice studies and KPI handbooks. Before you know it you will have joined a benchmarking club. In these clubs you will be informed that what you thought was good business is, in fact, underperformance. After a cold bath, you will be counselled in the ways of self-improvement.
In this way, one of its delusional symptoms is that it convinces the poorest business performers that they are better than they are. The spider charts, clipped over the desks of construction professionals everywhere, are beautifully crayoned representations of their 'performance'. At a glance, contractors can see that they should do better, say, in productivity terms, but are, perhaps, nearly on target in profitability. Well done, you.
But what on earth does that mean? What is a client satisfaction percentage, and does it mean that if the client is satisfied with your performance this time, they are necessarily going to employ you next time? Or that they will be as satisfied next time? Or that they'll pay you more next time for a job well done? Answer:
none of the above.
This is simply audit culture gone mad. Nothing is valid, apparently, unless it has been measured and a little diagram has been drawn about it.
Under the relentless guise of 'transparency', everything has to be displayed, compared and benchmarked.
In the same way that there is now a fi ve-point government guide on how to talk about politics over the dinner table, KPIs lay down a paternalistic framework for business actions.
At £95 a shot, I can see what the quangos get out of it, but surely it is about time that everyone else stood up against audit madness.
Constructing Excellence, it says, 'achieves its mission by influencing government in the formation of policy'. When you read this sort of thing, it is easy to forget that the quango was actually set up by the DTI in the first place.