How to Use
Let’s Talk Business

In a recent blog entitled, “What We Don’t Do…” I highlighted the construction industry’s propensity for secrecy; keeping hard-earned lessons “close to the vest” rather than sharing what we have learned with one another.

With Let’s Talk Business I am trying to reverse that trend. You might consider this blog a recurring “case study” not unlike the case method perfected by the Harvard Business School. This blog is an ongoing discussion of the challenges construction enterprise face and an opportunity for construction professionals to share solutions. We often use the case study method to define an issues or make a point.

The Case Method – How It Works

The Case Study Method, originally called the “Problem Method”, was pioneered by Harvard Business School in the 1920s. Students are asked to analyze real-world business challenges from the perspective of an actual business confronted by them, then contrive solutions. A large number of university level classes are built around this educational innovation, and faculties produce hundreds of new cases per year.

Let’s Talk Business

Case Studies are “history” – a description of a company’s experiences in a given market and how that company fared based on the choices it made. To provide concise, pertinent information in an easy-to-understand fashion my colleagues and I offer weekly topics for discussion, often using a case study, and provide an archive of the latest research materials for your reference. You regularly have the opportunity to analyze a company’s history and propose solutions to the challenges contained in the case. In other words, we will be utilizing Harvard’s case method without you needing to pay thousands for tuition and relocating to Cambridge, Massachusetts for two years.

A Sample Case Study

Here’s a sample of how this works. A few weeks ago, in this blog, I commented about the unfortunate failure of one of the UK’s largest contractors. We concluded that the failure was a result of their engaging in all five of the common elements of construction business failure:

Changes in –  

  1. Project size
  2. Type of project
  3. Geographic area
  4. Key personnel
  5. Managerial maturity

From an article from The Guardian, the newspaper I described another large UK firm also suffering a “near-death experience,” and how they turned their company around through a strategic shift that discontinued the common causes of contractor failure. The CEO of Balfour Beatty plc stated that four years ago they had serial profit warnings and were facing likely sale or collapse. He decided, in his own words, “…to reduce the type of project risks that caused eight profit warnings. The firm is [now] much more selective in what we are bidding. Geographically, the company has pulled out of the Middle East, Indonesia, and Australia…” The lesson we drew from this was that they decided to stop engaging in several of the common elements of contractor failure.

The article pointed out that they then sharpened bidding discipline and reshaped disparate operating units that had been functioning like fiefdoms thereby creating a “new culture of openness and well-being… a renewed level of accountability and spirit.”  This last step was a significant change in #5 – managerial maturity.

Conclusion – The Lesson Learned

The successful contractor avoids completely or carefully manages, changes in size, type, and geographic area of projects, changes in key personal, and managerial maturity.

How to Use Let’s Talk Business

I offer this sample case to demonstrate how we apply the case method here at Let’s Talk Business using real-life, current information to provide relevant learning opportunities for you. We are a research archive, a data source, and a lively forum for everyone interested in the business of construction.

  • We are the construction industry’s Case Method forum.
  • Your participation is welcome.
  • We never close.
  • You can access this forum at your convenience.
  • You are welcome to suggest an agenda.
  • You may ask unlimited questions.
  • Our lifetime of construction industry research is free to you.
  • Welcome to Let’s Talk Business


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