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Sir Michael Latham; A huge loss for the industry


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Last week I was saddened to learn of the death of Sir Michael Latham, former MP and author of the hugely influential 1994 ‘Constructing the Team’ report.

Key to Sir Michael’s views and his industry recommendations was the need for greater collaboration within the construction sector. Latham condemned the industry’s siloed way of working as being ‘adversarial’, ‘ineffective’ and ‘fragmented’, causing huge inefficiencies. And as a result, ‘incapable of delivering for its clients’. At the core of his recommendations was a recognition of the importance of public sector procurement in shaping outcomes, as well as the nature of contracts and the all-important relationship between client and contractor.

"Partnering includes the concepts of teamwork between supplier and client, and of total continuous improvement. It requires openness between the parties, ready acceptance of new ideas, trust and perceived mutual benefit…. We are confident that partnering can bring significant benefits by improving quality and timeliness of completion whilst reducing costs." – Constructing the Team, 1994

At SCAPE, this view underpins everything we do.

Across every part of our business we have developed a culture of positive collaboration and partnership, delivering the highest quality and most cost-effective outcomes for our public sector clients.

Mark Robinson, Group Chief Executive

We believe collaboration delivers the best outcome for all stakeholders, and plays a vital role in SCAPE’s past and future success. However almost 25 years since the report was launched, it’s debatable how much of his wisdom the industry has taken on board.

One of his most significant recommendations was that ‘Government should commit itself to being a best practice client’. However, despite successive Government attempts to reduce fragmentation within the public sector, there is still some way to go before Government becomes the ‘model client’. Latham’s plan to reduce costs by 30% by the year 2000 have yet to materialise. A McKinsey report earlier this year found that construction productivity has remained relatively flat since 1995, a year after Sir Michael’s report was produced.

Additionally, his suggestion to increase openness between parties; improving acceptance of new ideas, trust and perceived mutual benefit, is something that is yet to be improved across all parts of the sector.

At SCAPE we believe that good procurement is the glue that holds people together, and I believe our success thus far to be living proof that Sir Michael Latham’s recommendations hold true. Bringing people together at all levels and encouraging a partnership ethos stimulates collaboration and positive behaviours, helping to deliver excellent client outcomes.

Now is as good a time as any to revisit Sir Michael’s ideas to deliver greater efficiency and achieve more for less. At SCAPE, we will continue to strive to create the way of working that Sir Michael envisioned, ensuring his positive legacy will be felt for many decades to come.