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Lessons on Delivering Development


Nearly 80 professionals joined Landmark Planning in the Parcel Yard pub, Leicester to consider this topic at the end of April. The speakers (Richard Julian, Chris Leeson, Mike Denby and myself) could aggregate over 120 years experience between us. Hopefully we had learnt something in that time; especially as the audience were also prepared to throw in their ideas.

What was immediately obvious is that the development process is an extremely extensive continuum from conceiving an idea to disposing of the asset created; requiring a vast range of professional skills. And that no one can have a detailed handle on more than 2/3 skills. So the speakers were deliberately chosen from different parts of that continuum.

The link between Richard’s and Chris’ talks was certainly the financial aspect, with the necessity of having a clear properly costed plan that is sufficiently robust to deal with all sorts of unexpected events and yet still deliver a profitable return. That might be particularly necessary for a long term continuing company, such as Taylor Wimpey, to secure enough return to acquire new sites and maintain the development cycle. This is as we look to create not only the number of homes desperately needed, but also reduce the building carbon footprint we currently have.

However, given that 20% profit is considered the minimum for any major company with shareholders to continue as a business, it does not resonate with the public. The general public in general is usually hostile to development probably because of a fear of change; poor development in the past; but also just not respecting that a profit is essential and certainly not at the usually required rate of return.

Profit has become a dirty word (like other words over time that were once respectable but with constant use become ‘blighted'). The example I used was after the first world war, with all the permanently injured soldiers, the term ‘cripples’ was a politically correct term. Now the very use would be considered appalling. "Risk return" instead of profit might sound better, but others may have better suggestions?

Aside from the hard issue of money most of the focus was on the softer interpersonal skills that are really applicable across all aspects of the development continuum. This ranged from effective leadership to great team work.

But a particular theme related to "Trust.” And this comes in many guises: from within and between the development team and between them and the client and regulatory bodies. The number of construction companies that continue to fail is an ongoing problem in the industry and this has to be no good for anyone. Generating Trust depends on many things, but personal relationships are clearly one key. In an era of TEAMS calls Trust can be even harder to achieve, if one is not making regular personal connections, but the confrontational approach and lack off trust is a recipe for failure, when everybody or everything is so interdependent.

The final aspect of the discussion, not raised in the talks per se, focused on the essential nature of securing and maintaining sufficient expertise in the industry. Here it is clear that overall we are seeing it reducing not increasing. Making the Industry more attractive, especially to new entrants and then having the companies prepared to offer and support apprenticeships has to be critical. Good examples were discussed, but the current volume is just inadequate.

Overall another good and convivial session with an hour’s CPD and a decent drink in the bar afterwards.

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