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Platitudes and clichés will not solve construction industry issues

Michael Chesterman
Michael Chesterman October 12, 2022

At the outset, it is important that I make my views of the construction industries key players very clear. Many are ‘salt of the earth’ people who have the best interests of the industry at heart. Whether it’s clients, builders, subcontractors, suppliers, consultants, or representatives of industry associations, most are overwhelmingly hard working and committed people in the construction industry.

Consequently, the following comments in this article should not be viewed as criticism of such people.

Platitudes and clichés in the construction industry

In commencing research and planning for the launch of our new Helix Podcast series next year, I noticed a pattern. While they are well intentioned and insightful, I am struck with how many articles, papers, and presentations unfortunately contain platitudes and clichés when discussing industry challenges or issues.

It is reaching a point where I am becoming desensitised to the issues in the construction industry due to the overuse of these platitudes and clichés. We must move past these platitudes and clichés when looking for solutions.

It is not as if I disagree with the sentiment conveyed in some of these platitudes and clichés. Of course, the high suicide rate in the industry is unacceptable (see 21 below). However, I want to know what we are going to do about this horrendous situation.  Who has plans or actions ready to implement?

However, concerning other platitudes and clichés, I strongly disagree with some of the sentiments behind them. For example, I strongly disagree with the sentiment that governments must step in and fix problems with new laws, codes, policies and incentives (platitude 1 below). In my opinion, governments, while usually well-intentioned, have never been less successful in resolving complex issues.

Too late, too slow, too inefficient is my view! It is time we take responsibility for solving issues we create. We need to stop looking toward governments to solve every emerging industry issue.

It raises the following questions:

  • Will the industry actually move towards finding solutions or will we continue to respond with platitudes and clichés?
  • In other words, are we capable of having hard and probing conversations and then proceeding to make even harder decisions?
  • If so, how will the industry find meaningful, appropriate, and timely solutions to address these industry issues?

My top 25 platitudes and clichés 

  1. Governments (Federal, State, and local) must step in and fix problems with new laws, codes, policies, incentives etc.
  2. Regulators need to regulate.
  3. Banks need to be less risk-averse.
  4. Clients must accept more risk and be open to helping builders become more sustainable.
  5. Builders must accept more risk and be open to helping subcontractors become more sustainable.
  6. Subcontractors must push back on signing contracts that unfairly apportion risk to them.
  7. Subcontractors must have Security of Payment.
  8. It’s terrible how many people are waiting for social and affordable housing.
  9. Industry must achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
  10. We must eliminate modern slavery in supply chains.
  11. Homelessness has reached crisis levels.
  12. We must do something about the declining home ownership of young people.
  13. Tax reform such as changes to negative gearing allowances is just too hard.
  14. Councils must streamline their development processes.
  15. There must be more land made available to address the housing shortage.
  16. There is a critical labour shortage.
  17. Construction costs keep rising with no end in sight.
  18. The industry must do better with its waste.
  19. It’s terrible the declining number of apprentices completing their training.
  20. We need more women in the industry.
  21. The high rate of suicide in the industry is unacceptable.
  22. The level of insolvency in the industry is a scourge and something must be done about it.
  23. The industry must embrace much more innovation.
  24. The industry focuses too much on the cheapest price for doing anything.
  25. The industry must become more sustainable.

I could go on and easily come up with 50 plus platitudes or clichés, but I am sure you as the reader are getting my drift.

Some readers may have an issue with my top 25 platitudes and clichés. I am more than happy to receive any feedback in this respect. The more we open this topic for discussion, the better solutions we can implement.

Watch this space!

Commencing in February 2023, along with my friend Emily Taylor, we will be hosting a new Helix Podcast series.

For the last 28 years, I have been actively involved in the industry. While I have accumulated a lot of knowledge and information about the industry, I recognise that I have some biased views about the construction industry. Emily on the other hand, while a recently admitted lawyer who has worked at Helix for several years, sees the industry through very simple, fair, and clear terms. In other words, no inbuilt presumptions, or prejudices.

Hopefully these differences will ensure that we are able to interview people in a friendly but probing manner. We want to challenge the people who come on our podcast to talk about real solutions to industry issues.

This podcast series will most definitely be platitude and cliché free! We will develop our podcasts around platitudes and clichés and have people talk about real and achievable solutions. Any guest attempting to leave a talking point with a platitude or cliché will be called out, respectfully!!

We already have some people lined up but if anybody wants to feature in this series, please reach out to our team.

Finally, while the issues we will be talking about are very serious, this podcast series should be seen as an opportunity for industry participants to demonstrate that they are capable of ‘walking the talk’ when grappling with finding meaningful solutions to serious industry issues.

We will be announcing the start of the podcast next year on our Helix Legal LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram page. Be sure to follow our socials or subscribe to our newsletter to be the first to hear when the podcast is launching.

Not intended as legal advice. Read full disclaimer.
Michael Chesterman
Michael Chesterman October 12, 2022

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