Rio Lessons

Record UK results from Rio 2016, achieved through lottery funding, show real lessons in how the money was spent. Athletes spoke of the great backup. Laura Trott, for instance, made special mention of the huge support team which even importantly included a nutritionist. Another athlete showed the pillow she carried with her to ensure a good sleep, yet others talked of the commitment and time needed to make it happen. The coaching staff told of knowing what had to be achieved to win and then examining every detail of the equipment and athlete’s performance and finding every little improvement opportunity to get that win – taking your own pillow to get a good night’s sleep being one such improvement. Funding allocated to areas to dominate, by building experience and superior training facilities such as the Manchester National Cycling Centre.

Winning ways might be summed up as:

  1. Enrol talented, dedicated people prepared to put in the training and learning time.
  2. Enable them with funds, in-depth coaching, superior facilities and backup.
  3. Empower them by setting clear goals with what must be achieved to ensure a win.
  4. Examine every detail of the equipment and athlete’s performance utilising best technology possible.
  5. Encourage with medals, all the UK cyclist, for instance, earned a medal.
  6. Excel in a few areas developing in-depth training facilities such as the National Cycling Centre.

Industry might implement the Rio lessons in the following ways:

  1. Enrol people with the capability, commitment and their belief everyone’s contribution matters.
  2. Enable them by training and providing facilities, support and tools.
  3. Empower everyone in the supply keeping the supply chain involved and informed.
  4. Examine every detail of the whole supply chain considering: H&S, automation & robotics, offsite manufacture, materials, BIM, telecoms, R&D and the best technology available.
  5. Encourage everyone celebrating every milestone.
  6. Excel in one or two areas of industry capability.

Unlimited funds would be ideal unfortunately reality is funds are always tight, progress though is still possible.

Swarm Activity, for instance, involves gaining the supply chains attention to finding all those marginal gains that Sir David Brailsford identified as being part of the reason for the London 2012 cycling success, and no doubt much of the basis of Rio results.

For Olympic cycling, the marginal gains amounted to refinements to an already incredible ability making them world beating. The complex construction supply chain, however, is a different order of problem, but with far more possible marginal gain opportunities. The numbers involved are immense but so is the accumulated benefit.

Marginal gains are not new; the construction industry always made small improvements throughout the supply chain – Value Engineering, Lean Thinking, for instance, are just procedures to find lots of small improvements.

Swarm activity takes this to the next level of involvement in a collaborative campaign, encouraging, enrolling, enabling and empowering everyone in the whole supply chain. Such a campaign makes marginal gains and the benefits everyone’s opportunity; changing perceptions, creating value for the individual and a continuing desire to improve.

Some of the Swarm Activity ideas tried in a Constructing Excellence East project, with part EU funding, identified thousands of marginal gains exist in the complexity and detail of the construction supply chain with people who work close to the detail finding them quickly. What was also evident was all these small improvements accumulate to a significant gain, while repeat application uncovers yet more opportunities.

The EU project demonstrated ways to stimulate the finding of vast numbers of marginal gains.

Collaborative workshops between supply chain organisations proved particularly fruitful. Many benefits are readily identifiable when everyone understands the detail of how their work influences the success of everyone else. To get at the detail a good way proved to be first to discuss a headline topic, say, reduce repeat work, lower the cost of bid preparation, or could be BIM or Lean Thinking. Importantly the approach recognises it is not just one topic that needs to happen but all of them.

The next step in the workshops that proved particularly beneficial was the construction of a process map of the detail activity across the supply chain and between organisations. Such mapping helps everyone understand how they might better help everyone else. Whatever the headline subject of the workshop, the objective is not to find all the answers but find as many improvement opportunities as possible. At a later date, with a different headline topic for a workshop, many more marginal gains might be found – gradually over time and as more headline topics are covered, more and more marginal gains arise. Eventually, a rolling improvement programme evolves including everyone’s ideas with benefits for each organisation.

Constructing Excellence East continues to develop Swarm Activity with some proving projects with the intent to provide a guidance model for the industry.

For more information contact John Hall, john.hall@constructingexcellence-east.org.uk, phone 07768 607014.