A Behavioural Based Approach to Productivity – Construction Industry Workshop Highlights Report


The January 2018 Co.Cre8 workshop addressed the continuing failure of the construction industry to generate a sustainable improvement in productivity. To that end, the workshop proposed a model of Behavioural Based Productivity, an idea that draws on the success the industry has had in developing a positive safety culture, on the basis of three key principles: i) Autonomy – give people the authority to effect change; ii) Mastery – provide people with the training and means to get good at doing work safely; and iii) Purpose – create a common sense of purpose – the why.

The key take-aways explore the need to change our understanding of and the tone behind productivity improvement; to generate engagement across the workforce; and build and use an evidence-base to support the value of the change.

Supporting documents

5 Responses to “A Behavioural Based Approach to Productivity – Construction Industry Workshop Highlights Report”

  1. Jonathan Norman

    The safety industry has made great use of a cultural and behavioural approach to make safe working a part of everyone’s normal practice. It makes a great deal of sense to try and apply the approach to productivity which requires a similar scale of behavioural change.

  2. Ian Heptinstall

    Whilst there is some good learning PM can take from behavioural safety, this workshop seemed to focus on personal (or local contributions). What about the sytem-level issues?

    Bahavioural safety had to first change the systemic features amd measures before it could cascade the impact to lower levels.

    Improving projects needs to tackled systemically first – that is where tje dundamental issues are. Expecting people to change their behaviours whilst they are measured and managed in the same way, is unfair on the people, as well as unlikely to succeed.

    And whether McKinsey’s productivity graph is as clear cut as often claimes is another matter ( for example see

    • Jonathan Norman

      Thanks or the feedback and the link, Ian. I’ll make sure the authors of the original paper see it. I don’t know whether you will agree with me but, largely on the basis of my final year as a publisher, I feel that the biggest obstacle to productivity are organizations themselves. I definitely agee with your point – it will be tough to expect employees to take a leap of faith, while their employer continues to act disfunctionally!

    • Karen Elson

      Thanks for the feedback. You’re absolutely right, systemic issues in projects need to be addressed and McKinsey have proposed 7 levers for addressing these in construction. In this workshop we looked at behaviours as collaborative and transparent practice underpin most of these levers. A behavioural based approach is just one tool in the productivity arsenel which will work effectively alongside for example improved contracting, off site manufacturing, upskilling, etc.. Putting productivity on the table as a priority alongside safety, environment and quality is key though, making it everyone’s business to seek to continuously improve their work. There’s a lot to be learned from safety on that score.

      I liked your article about the importance of focusing on project outputs per £, not labour per £ for measuring productivity.

      • Ian Heptinstall

        Hi Karen, I am glad you have noticed that McKinsey’s 7 levers are inter-related, not simple additive elements as they present them. I disagree when they simply say that Collaboration & Contracting can improve productivity by 8-9%, out of a cumulative impact of 48-60%, because their presentation implies you can still get 39-25% improvement without it if you use the other 6 levers. But collaboration & contracting in my view underpin the other levers, and without it you cant access the claimed 48-60% improvement.

        Behind my original comment on the article, is my view that we should start with the contracting part. This is because most humans already know how to collaborate, but on projects we are inhibited because of the contracts that are in place. These too often measure performance in ways that inhibit collaboration, and reward self-centred focus. If on a project you have a situation where some companies can make good profits whilst other companies on the same project make a loss, you have a significant barrier to collaboration.

        Facilitating improved team-wide collaboration without sorting out the contracting can put individuals into a serious conflict: “Do I help the project to succeed, or do I help my employer to succeed?”. Far too often these two desires require totally different actions simply due to the contracts and performance measures No wonder stress is high on projects, and we find difficulty in attracting a diverse range of people!

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