Boosting construction productivity with the right leadership and culture

04 September 2023 3 min. read

Over the past few decades, the Australian construction sector has faced a notable trend. Despite advancements in technology and practices, productivity levels remain lower than those witnessed in the 1990s. Kerrie Adaway, CEO of Lysander, outlines how installing the right leadership and culture can help rejuvenate productivity levels.

According to the Productivity Commission, the productivity growth of Australia’s construction industry has been below the national average for the past 20 years. This is an unsettling trend.

Marshall Goldsmith [an esteemed leadership guru] has often highlighted the success paradox in leadership. He believes that the very attributes that once propelled a leader or organisation to success can sometimes become barriers in a changing landscape.

Boosting construction productivity with the right leadership and culture

In ‘What got you here, won’t get you there’, Goldsmith outlines how many successful people /organisations become blinded by their past victories. They key, Goldsmith asserts, is to move on from past success and continuously build future-oriented winning strategies.

For the construction sector, it’s not just about revisiting old strategies but proactively anticipating and adapting to newer challenges. The sector needs to break through the status quo, and embrace change and seize the opportunity to create a more productive, inclusive, and forward-thinking industry.

Come 2024, the Construction Industry Culture Taskforce, backed by the Australian Constructors Association, the Governments of New South Wales and Victoria, and leading workplace researchers, is poised to introduce new culture standards via the Culture in Construction initiative. These standards aim to address core industry challenges and set the foundation for a more productive, inclusive, and forward-thinking construction environment.

The introduction of these standards is not just about compliance; it’s about ushering in a transformative era for the Australian construction industry. Businesses and leaders that align early with these new standards are not just future-proofing their operations but actively contributing to reversing the productivity decline trend.

At Lysander, we firmly believe the coming culture standards are a major step forward for the construction industry. They provide a clear roadmap for how the sector can create a more collaborative, innovative, and high-performing industry.

What’s expected from leaders?

But what does this mean for leaders in the construction industry? Here’s where Goldsmith’s insights come into play, albeit briefly. Leaders need to increase their self-awareness, challenge long-held beliefs, and welcome this culture shift with open arms. The evolving landscape demands dynamic leadership that recognises the issues of today while gearing up for the challenges of tomorrow.

Key leadership takeaways from Goldsmith’s book include:

  • Success at one level doesn't guarantee success at the next
  • Some habits that were helpful in the past can be harmful now
  • There are 20 common bad habits, such as not listening, interrupting, and not admitting mistakes
  • Knowing oneself and working to change negative behaviours is crucial
  • Ways to better understand oneself include seeking feedback and analysing personal strengths and weaknesses
  • Taking responsibility for actions and actively trying to change is vital
  • It is important to give feedback in a kind and helpful manner
  • Maintaining a positive attitude and always being eager to learn is essential
  • There are tools and methods to help identify and correct bad habits
  • To move up and succeed, continuous self-improvement and dedication to learning are necessary.

As the Australian construction industry grapples with productivity concerns, the forthcoming culture standards present a beacon of hope. It’s an opportunity to reset, realign, and rebuild an industry that’s primed for innovation, growth, and unprecedented success. With the right leadership and culture, the future of the Australian construction industry is bright.