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Daniel Ocean, and change management in GCC construction

Industry developments in 2019 are setting the tone for the future of construction, but are business leaders equipped for change?

Neha Bhatia is the editor of Construction Week.
© ITP Media Group / RR
Neha Bhatia is the editor of Construction Week.

Town’s changed, Daniel Ocean (George Clooney) said, in a brief moment of reflection. Fans of the Hollywood heist series Ocean’s Trilogy will recognise that reference, but in case you have yet to watch Ocean’s Thirteen (2007), a brief explanation: Clooney’s character, Ocean – a suave thief that carries out elaborate heists to swindle millions of dollars from a Las Vegas hotel owner – is reflecting on how the city’s hospitality establishments have, quite literally, expanded. Partner-in-crime Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) recalls the Vegas hotels that used to be “a lot smaller back then”, but ‘seemed pretty big’. Ocean responds: “Town’s changed.”

I was reminded of this Hollywood box office hit as I reflect on Construction Week’s recently concluded Leaders in Construction Summit UAE 2019 and Leaders in KSA Awards 2019, because the slow – yet seemingly abrupt – evolution of an institution is not an unfamiliar process for our industry.

More often than not, these changes have occurred for the better in GCC construction – just look at how building information modelling (BIM) and sustainability have gone beyond the abstract, concept stage to provide strong foundations for successful business strategies.

The priority for construction industry leaders in the GCC must be to proactively adopt change that is required to boost efficiencies instead of reacting to unfavourable trends such as declining profitability or cash flow issues.

Indeed, as the delegates at Leaders UAE 2019 agreed, organisations that are continuing to win and deliver work in the region’s current market reiterate the logic of the fittest always managing to find ways of survival. Market dynamics are similarly changing in Saudi Arabia. 

Speaking at Construction Week's Leaders in Construction KSA Roundtable 2019 – held ahead of the Leaders in Construction KSA Awards 2019 on 30 September in Riyadh – American engineering company Parsons' senior vice president, John Rinard, told Construction Week that the company is at a “tipping point” with the use of technology in its Saudi Arabia division, adding that Vision 2030 is driving demand for tools such as BIM in the kingdom.

It is rapidly becoming clear that regional companies cannot rely on their track record to guarantee their future success – across the world, oil market uncertainties are impacting both investor confidence and spending power. Moreover, a renewed sense of urgency now colours conversations around climate change, challenging the products and processes that have long been the status quo in industries such as utilities, refining, logistics, and construction.

Global investors with assets valued at $33tn are calling on cement heavyweights such as Lafarge Holcim, CRH, and Hiedelberg to cut CO2 emissions from their manufacturing processes. Lest we forget, 99.14% of the shareholders of BP – one of the world’s oldest Big Oil firms – voted this May to devise a business plan that meets the Paris Agreement’s climate goals.

Going forward, the priority for construction industry leaders in the GCC must be to proactively adopt change that is required to boost efficiencies instead of reacting to unfavourable trends such as declining profitability or cash flow issues. However, regardless of how critical an organisational change might appear from the top, concerns will likely be raised – by employees, clients, and all other stakeholders – about its timing or necessity. Business leaders must be prepared to answer these questions. 

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Latest Issue

Construction Week - Issue 754
Nov 23, 2019