Walk down any main street in the western world and check what is going on inside those large, bare, plate glass frontages, standing out among the more modest shop display windows.

These are Apple stores. I spent a week in Honolulu recently, and was surprised to see the number of people who were spending sunny days looking at electronics rather than enjoying the endless sun and sea on tap.

Is Apple a cult? People sold on the Apple message do exhibit cult-like devotion to bits of shiny, clever metal and plastic.

Sure, the new phones and other devices are appealing, and offer access to all sorts of useful information and entertainment.

But better than lazing in the 25° sea or lounging on warm, coral sand? I don’t think so.

I guess we can all go a bit over the top when given access to anything bright, shiny and new. Or is it that these electronic devices make us feel a bit smarter?


Is the construction industry a cult?

One dictionary definition of a cult is: A person or thing that is popular or fashionable among a particular group or section of society.

Sounds just like the current attempts by our design and construction industry to do the best they can to fail by following practices that have, over and over again, proven to be a mistake.

Einstein said: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

He also said: Only two things are infinite — the universe and human stupidity — and I’m not sure about the former. Sound familiar?

Leaky buildings, construction companies failing because of high-risk, fixed-price contracts, and a focus on cheapest is always best.

We continue to aim low and still expect a high quality result. Won’t happen.

A recent newspaper article by Derek Firth, an Auckland barrister specialising in construction disputes, described what, in his view, was wrong with the way construction contracts are currently set up and managed.

He believed that:

There was a lack of a large pool of financially strong contractors.

Employers were requiring contractors to take on all the contract risks.

• Employers were retaining the right to reallocate parts of the project work.

There was a move away from direct negotiation between client and a single contractor.

Contractors were less aware of the need to look after their subcontractors.

There was a focus, by those financing a project, on accepting/negotiating the lowest price and the tightest margins.

He said there needed to be a change in mindset — essentially, getting the right contractor for the appropriate project at a fair price and based on fair conditions. So why doesn’t it happen?

This also begs the question as to “who is in charge?”

Here we have a construction industry apparently blindly following the leader while seemingly having no idea of who the leader is. Sounds like a cult to me.

Back in what I fondly call “my day”, there was a slow move away from the traditional approach of the design consultant — architect or engineer — leading the design and construction process on behalf of the client, a client who was often also the owner and occupier of the completed building.

The reasons why this approach changed have been explained often enough, but it has led to a leadership vacuum at the top of the construction industry.

So the key question for me is, who is in charge? Who is making the key decision on what contract type and form to employ?


Please don’t . . .

The French established the Academie Francaise back in 1635, with the specific task of writing the official dictionary of the French language.

This august body still exists today, meeting every year to examine common language usage and to ensure the removal or replacement of what they see as unsuitable new words, particularly the introduction of Anglicised words for describing new technology and social change.

I don’t recommend that this happens with English, if indeed that were possible, because the great strength and the success of English is its flexibility and ability to cope with change.

But that’s no excuse for creating new words and phrases aimed at making the user sound more intelligent or erudite.

So at the end of another year I thought I would indulge myself by listing some of the worst examples of buzzwords and jargon appearing in common use:

Going forward.

Down the supply chain.

With a paradigm shift in learnings.

Resulting in a game-changing win-win situation.

Right through a window of opportunity to the bottom line.

What we don’t need is a new skill-set for our stakeholders that provides a results-driven road map via a thought shower to help us get off the bus.

And please don’t punch the puppy or get your ducks in a row on your way to new blue sky thinking.

And that’s without mentioning the annoying habit of people starting every reply to a question with “look”, and then turning a whole string of verbs into nouns and nouns into verbs.

The English language has survived so well and has spread its influence so far because of its ability to create and absorb new words for new concepts and new ideas.

But that doesn’t mean we have to hide our real meaning behind a bunch of lazy, meaningless jargon.

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