RAIN takes the construction industry to the next level

What makes the US sprinter team so superior? Seamless team work, communication between team members and that everyone knows exactly what they need to do to take the team toward the shared goal. How could we do the same in construction? This was the big question that the RAIN project brainstormed over in this summer’s workshop.

We are participating in the RAIN project, which focuses on improving the integration capabilities within the construction industry. The topic of the June 2017 workshop was People and Leadership.

The nature of work and leadership has changed. Flexibility, collaborative skills, trust and tolerating insecurity are the new buzzwords. Seamless collaboration is required in large alliance contracts in particular.

The major challenge in the construction industry is the fragmented network of operators made up of several customers, contract partners and subcontractors. Nonetheless, everyone should share the same clear vision of what they are working towards and what their respective roles are in the big picture. Otherwise valuable knowledge, and with it our motivation, is at risk of being lost.

Employees know best

According to Niku Jalkanen from Kavo Kerr Group, the trick is to engage the employees in the development of your company. The same goes for partners. If the subcontractor shows no interest in development work, it may be time to reconsider the partnership.

“It doesn’t matter which organisation you work for. Those who know their job also know best how to develop it,” Jalkanen says.

According to Jalkanen, companies must have a big vision, but they also need to break it down to small steps that everyone can participate in taking. As an example, the employees of Kavo Kerr were allowed to design new line models for the plant and present them to the management and other stakeholders.

“We think we are too busy to stop and think if we could do something even better. Enough with the excuses – start from things that are in your control,” Jalkanen says.

Maarit Sääksi, who leads YIT’s Performance Leap programme, agrees.

“We should be curious about what our employees have to say, what they think we could do differently so that they could do a better job. I’m calling for clear goals in this process.”

Be brave and challenge conventions

Hannu Ratamäki, who coordinates the RAIN project at Lemminkäinen, is in favour of bravely challenging conventional ways of working.

“Employees hold enormous potential for developing work into something more productive and safer. It is the job of the management to support line managers to make their leadership style more inclusive,” Ratamäki says.

According to Ratamäki, it is important to give employees a sense that they are valued as the best experts of their own jobs. Because that’s what they are.

The first step is to create a systematic model for listening to employees. After such model is in place, the development ideas can start being implemented one by one.

A tool for better collaboration

The workshop participants were introduced with a new tool developed by the Industrial Engineering and Management unit of the University of Oulu. This tool is used for measuring the success of projects from the collaborative perspective. The tool helps identify issues that need special attention and take action to improve the so-called integration capability of projects.

Based on the indicators applied in the tool, the signs of a successful alliance projects include clear division of responsibilities and leadership roles and the commitment of all parties to the collaboration. The workshop participants welcomed the tool. It remains to be seen how they will apply it in practice.

Text Noora Valkonen 

FACTS:

  • Integration capabilities in construction (RAIN) development project is a joint effort by thirteen operators in the construction industry.
  • The project will run until mid-2018.
  • The aim is to promote collaboration within the field.
  • The monthly workshops held in the project offer platforms for sharing experiences and latest research findings and for discussing a wide range of topics.
  • The project participants are Consti, Fira, Granlund, Lemminkäinen, Finnish Transport Agency, Pöyry Finland, Ramboll Finland, Sweco, Talokeskus,
    VR Track, YIT, University of Oulu and Tampere University of Technology.

 

Niku Jalkanen from Kavo Kerr Group is in the photo second from right, next to Kalle Arsalo from Lean Association of Finland.