We’ve done it all before…

I read with interest the article in ‘building’on Friday by Paul Morrell titled making a Virtue of Necessity and what struck me from his message most of all was that we’ve done all what he’s looking for before!

The essence of the message I get from him and the cabinet office document ‘Government Construction Strategy’ is for change through liked minded individuals, companies groups and organisations. Yes we need an educated client with consistent application and yes we need an integrated proposition from the industry too.

And here’s my experience  – it’s all been done before in the private sector!

Who and how?

With Bovis Construction (as then) and M & S.


Way back on 13th December 1945 at Stepney Green is when it all began……we never learn do we?

 How did it work?

Simple really……….

The client had a need to build new stores to expand after the war and it integrated Bovis along with the professional team to do just this.

The client had an expansion programme that Bovis worked with, so it new in advance what was being built and where so resources could be planned and managed

A select supply chain was established so buying power could be used, preferred rates/prices and/or schedules of rates were set up across the country.

You knew if you were working on a store in Epsom that a ‘Truro’ pelmet detail meant that it was the same detail that had been used at the Truro store.

The contracts were simple, Bovis was paid a fee for its management skills and expertise, the supply chain prices were transparent through to the client too.

At the outset of the project an estimate of prime cost was established with Bovis and the consultant qs and you worked together as a team to make it work – on the same side with the same objectives.

The contract to the subcontractors were 2 sides of paper – the thing that nobody liked on it was the infamous pay when paid clause – but that’s now outlawed isn’t it?

And it worked because everyone trusted each other throughout the entire process

So here you are Mr Morrell here’s the blue print for your strategy –it’s a document called The building process – a case study from Marks and Spencer Limited published in 1970 you’ll have to get hold of it from the national archives mind.

Here’s three quotes for you from ‘building’ magazine in July 1970 on the document too…..

  1. It is the forward looking methods employed, the enlightened manner in which primary and secondary objectives are defined, the effective co-ordination of multi-disciplinary skills and attitudes and the mutual trust and respect created by the relationship enshrined in the Marks and Spencer/Bovis method of procedure that some future improvements in the general management of building should be sought…..
  2. The case study highlights the fact that Marks & Spencer over the years consistently have simplified procedures by reducing the amount of paperwork employed and in consequence the company has placed increasing reliance upon direct personal contact and individual responsibility. The combined effect of these twin objectives has been to create a real feeling of belonging to the Marks & Spencer organisation whether the individuals concerned are directly or indirectly employed.
  3. The long and close relationship between the staffs of Marks & Spencer, their professional design teams, of Bovis and of various specialist sub-contractors must have contributed in large measure to the success story recounted in the bulletin and in particular to the recent development and application of computer techniques to location billing, material scheduling, manpower planning, expenditure control and the monitoring of progress.

I found my copy of a commemorative brochure produced by Bovis in 1970 to celebrate the long working relationship, and for these quotes. It is also the source of the pictures and quotes….couldn’t find anything on line at building!

So…….it’s been done before……… and it worked!

P. S. The document produced by Bovis is a fascinating read and if they let me I’ll try and make it available on line, its quite a story!

3 Responses to “We’ve done it all before…”

  1. 1 Mary Cross June 21, 2011 at 7:57 am

    Very interesting post. It seems Government (of whatever political persuasion) gets obsessed with ‘reviewing’ things and ‘devising strategies’ and the actual ‘doing’ part gets left behind .. until the next strategic review. Collaboration and integrated teams are seen in some quarters as new ideas but the successful companies have been doing it for years.

    • 2 derekmynott June 21, 2011 at 8:32 am

      Thanks for the comments Mary, and that’s my point, successful companies have worked along these lines over many years gone by. Sometimes there is a bigger driving force to make it happen mind….and as always the people involved or around that made it happen eventually fade away, newer and younger ideas come along to replace those older ways, all the learning is forgotten and then low and behold years later the same stuff crops up again with different buzz words and phraseology….

  2. 3 Grant Roxburgh (@RSSProjects) July 19, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    Really interesting Derek and wholeheartedly agree with your point. Have also read your Honest Tendering post and that resonates even more.

    All the talk of collaborative teams and best value procurement infuriates me when clients still insist on awarding projects to bidders who are either a) unsustainably low in their pricing or b) simply non-compliant.

    Take a look at this real life example:

    “Dear Sirs,

    I regret to inform you that your tender for the above project was unsuccessful. I can confirm that the price range for the tenders were as follows:

    1) £77,825.00
    2) £93,009.40
    3) £97,776.50
    4) £107,950.00
    5) £139,620.00
    6) £148,009.00
    7) £152,661.84
    8) £167,427.00

    Many thanks for your interest in this project.”

    Now, I led a consortium bid on this scheme. We put in a tight, fully compliant, bid and (I know you’ve already guessed this) we were 2nd. There can be no way that the lowest bid is both sustainable and compliant.

    The story deepens further when I tell you that this list of tenderers was drawn up from the 8 contractors that had got through the PQQ stage and progressed to ITT on this clients 3 yr Public Sector Framework (the ITT submissions were being assessed while the above project was put out to tender).

    We have just found out 6 of the above have secured, on a “best value” basis a place on this framework we weren’t one of them (our response to an asbestos related question was too procedure based and not project specific enough!). Take a look at the prices above, 4 of them are almost double the lowest bid and at least 3 of these high bidders have secured a place on the framework!

    Where’s the best value in that?!

    Rant over.


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About Me

I’m now the Managing Director of Mynott Associates Limited my own specialist measurement business. I’ve been in the industry all of my life since I left school. My first job was with Bovis Construction as a management trainee where I trained to become a quantity surveyor. I’ve worked for contractors all through my career, I am FRICS, FCIOB and MCIHT qualified and act as an RICS assessor. I’m also a keen Arsenal supporter having followed them from a young boy

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