One of the lessons Egan helped bring to construction from more sophisticated industrial sectors was the need for continuous improvement. And if you are to take that seriously then you have to measure your performance regularly. This in turn requires well-founded measures of performance - something the construction industry is short of.
As a step in this direction, the cbpp (Construction Best Practice Programme) is developing a set of performance indicators for construction projects, in consultation with industry partners. The 10 indicators developed to date have been tried out on a wide range of projects to build up a set of typical industry performance data, providing industry benchmarks against which you can measure yourself.
This set of indicators is seen very much as a first step. There is work to do both on elaborating the existing indicators (for example, measuring performance under different procurement methods), and on widening the range of indicators. The first set mainly focuses on global measures for the construction phase of projects, though with some measurement of overall project teamperformance.
The 10 indicators cover:
client (buyer) satisfaction with the product
client satisfaction with the project team's service
predictability of time
predictability of cost
As mentioned, this is a first set of indicators, neither claiming to be comprehensive as a set nor very subtle yet in what is being measured. The following list gives some sense of the scope of the measures just launched.
For client satisfaction with product and service, the two measures comes from asking clients to score a project for each measure on a 1-10 scale. Crude, but a beginning.
For defects, again a client question, at handover. It is measured on a scale ranging from 'The project was free of apparent defects' at one end of the scale to 'Major defects delayed handover substantially' at the other end. The cbpp team knows it needs to get more specific about defects, and to look beyond handover.
Predictability of project time and cost each have two measures. One compares the initial estimate (at the stage of commitment to invest) with the actual out-turn cost. The other compares the estimate at the time of commitment to construct (tender stage under some procurement methods) with the out-turn cost. At the moment cbpp's predictability data are all pooled but one plan is to disaggregate them for different procurement methods.
Profitability is a minefield for measurement. It is much easier to compare like with like - you own profitability change over time - than to compare yourself with the industry generally or with other firms bidding for the same work. Profitability can be reported under many different conventions. But increasingly clients are found to ask about profitability, about success. Consensual measures of profitability are needed.
Currently, productivity is measured as turnover per full-time-equivalent employee. Clearly this needs to include subcontracting, and the influence of factors like capital investment in plant.
For safety, surprisingly, usable data on reportable accidents was too global to create a very well-founded measure. Work is in hand.
Construction cost and construction time are measured against a similar job's cost and time a year ago.
The cbpp has created a key performance indicator pack* with data sets covering seven sectors, eg private housing. Having measured performance for each indicator for the project, you compare yourself with the industry benchmark data, provided as a set of graphs - see example. You can then map your 10 benchmark scores on a radar chart (illustrated). This graphic presentation can be an instructive representation of your relative strengths and weaknesses.
Clearly there is not yet much that is specific to design in these measures. However cbpp's data-collecting surveys of the industry do already ask more specific questions. The development of benchmarks for design need not be far away. If you do measure yourself, that of course is the easy part. The hard bit is the continuous improvement to follow.
* Key Performance Indicators 1998. From cbpp, 0181 854 3722. £19.95. The cbpp team is organising regional workshops and can also provide customised workshops in-house.