The Grand National – runners and riders in our new context

Constructing Excellence

Coronavirus has overtaken us all and is unique as a phenomenon having a simultaneous blanket impact on everyone. For many of us in infrastructure, the financial crisis of 2008 did not affect us until the fiscal stimulus had worked its way through the system. It was not until much later that the full consequences were felt in 2015 with delayed work won in 2012 being delivered. Balancing 2012 prices with 2015 costs was too much for some. Cashflow, margins and survival became the order of the day with some major casualties.

So what messages can we take from this new context? Has the world changed? Are there any non runners in construction’s version of the postponed 2020 Grand National?

The Pantomime villain, “Price”, heavily fancied by Procurement will be back to the fore. Even during this pandemic crisis, decisions in other markets are being made on price alone. There will be a rush to get going again with stretched procurement teams and a need to make quick decisions. Price is handicapped to beat Value.

“Value” has some strong backers (Construction Innovation Hub, IPA and Construction Leadership Council) who have invested heavily in this progressive sort. The big question will be has the lay off affected its chances of winning the big one. It will need a good jockey to navigate the fences.

“Business as Usual” is strongly fancied along with stablemate “Tried and Tested”. Punters will be on trusty performers who can stay the distance. Both will be helped by their pacemaker “Revert to Type” who responds to pressure.

These look to be ahead of the long time ante post favourite, “Collaboration”. However stable mates “Unity” and “Wartime Spirit” have been reported to be going well behind closed doors

“Enterprise Value” and the “Integrator” owned by the Project 13 consortium may have to wait to make further progress. However their connections, if not distracted, may well ensure that they have a good run on the day.

Carbon, ridden by the apprentice Greta Thunburg, must be slipping in the market. As industry looks to survive will it be able to afford long term thinking? This looks like one to watch for the future but may possibly be outpaced when the 2020 race gets underway.

Digital appears to go on all grounds and is supported by those favouring efficiency savings and riderless racing. This remains a good each way bet.

There will be one or two old familiar faithfuls running and they always attract some support in the betting. Tipsters have plumped for “Always done it this way” and “Not on My Watch” to triumph over younger horses like “Transformation” and “Agile”.

The fences look as familiar and as daunting as ever.

  • Caution and conservatism
  • Fragmentation
  • Margins
  • Skills
  • Investment

However as in 1967, Foinavon’s year, it can be the simplest of obstacles that can bring all the field down. Relief to be working again may mean “Industry Apathy” is the biggest danger.

Good luck as the horses parade around the paddock – back your winners. Tell us which horse you are backing and why on Twitter @constructingexc


Simon Flint, the author, is chairman of the Leaders Breakfast Meetings which seek to discuss topical construction issues. He has worked with Constructing Excellence and its predecessors since the 90s – looking at pioneering initiatives that improve the efficiency and productivity of the industry. However, the thoughts expressed in this “article” are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of Constructing Excellence or Advance Consultancy. 

The Leaders Breakfast series are a collaboration between Constructing Excellence and Advance Consultancy and SCC.