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Bring on the Champions

Agenda: Analysis The Champions for Change initiative has already attracted hundreds of disciples.

TWO HUNDRED of the industry's top brass turned out last month for the launch of the Champions for Change initiative. The size of the crowd, drawn in from key firms, gave the clearest demonstration yet of the new-found willingness and enthusiasm within a once jaded construction industry to improve the way it goes about business.

This latest initiative is designed to raise awareness among senior executives of the benefits that Best Practice is delivering to the construction industry.

The aim of the programme is to spread know-how so that all companies within construction adopt and apply leading-edge management approaches and techniques.

The scheme is part-funded by the Department of the Environment, Transport and Regions and has links with the Best Practice Programme and the Construction Industry Board (CIB).

As construction minister Nick Raynsford pointed out at the launch, the reference point for Champions for Change is the Egan Report, which called for better leadership.

'You have an unrivalled power to bring about change and I urge you to bring other companies into the programme,' said Mr Raynsford.

The scheme does not stop with the promotion of best practice. Industry champions will reach out to their supply chain to encourage change. Organisers promise the back-up of practical tools to facilitate this.

During the two-year programme Champions for Change hopes to engage about 500 industry chiefs that have yet to embrace Best Practice. So far pledges have been received from 140 senior managers - each of whom is entrusted with enlisting four more Champions from their peers or supply chain.

Zara Lamont, director of the Construction Best Practice Programme, believes there is enormous potential for learning and sharing within the industry.

She said: 'Companies that don't already adopt best practice principles have to get on board. We as an industry are moving forward.

'We are committed to the idea of businesses learning from other businesses.'

Some of the executives that are already committed to change say those that are not will lose out on significant benefits.

Taylor Woodrow director Derek Fryer said: 'There is a determination within the industry to do things differently. Champions for Change will help improve the way the industry interfaces with its customers, which will bring mutual benefits. It also gives us the opportunity to show customers we are ready to change.'

To target non-believers, the programme is about to roll out across the country providing forums where leaders from every part of the construction supply chain can exchange experiences and concerns. It will also focus on issues such as leadership, managing change and building relationships.

Getting the programme off to a start are two 'Mastermind Forums', the first at Radisson SAS Hotel in Manchester on November 29, the other at the Cafe Royal in London on December 1. Up to 100 board-level decision makers are expected at each event.

The morning session sees Joe Booth, a trainer on customer focus and product development, speak on how to maximise customer satisfaction. In the afternoon, Peter Wickens, a former Nissan board member, will speak on 'Energising Leadership'. This will tackle questions such as why ideas at the top do not always translate into action at the bottom.

Champions for Change will also organise a range of activities, including regional breakfast meetings and visits to industry leaders in the UK, Japan and the US.

At a time when the industry is beset by innovation fever, some industry chiefs have asked for clarification on the difference between the Movement for Innovation and Champions for Change.

Ms Lamont explained: 'We see Movement for Change as an incubator for tomorrow's best practice. But Champions for Change is here to disseminate today's best practice, and to identify the basic tools for those not at the sharp end.'