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Leaving a legacy – knowledge management to tackle the climate emergency

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How can I use my skills working in major projects knowledge to contribute to the climate emergency challenge? That was the question posed to me recently by Ego to Eco, a movement set up to shift our industry from an ego centric approach (human dominated) to an eco-centre nature driven system.

I have worked in major projects for 25 years and the last 10 doing some form of knowledge management and, after much thought, this was my response:

“I will lead the conversation on the role of knowledge as a key driver for efficiency and sustainability across the construction sector.”

So how am I doing that? For the last two years I have been developing the HS2 Learning Legacy which I’m very happy to say launched at an industry event on October 11. HS2 is a hotbed of innovation and leading edge design; decarbonisation and efficiency in delivering this mega project are top of the agenda. Through the capture and dissemination of its learning, innovation and good practice with industry, HS2 aims to raise the bar, improve UK productivity and showcase the depth and strength of major projects expertise worldwide. 

This is the third such learning legacy programme I have delivered – the first being London 2012 in 2011, then Crossrail in 2016 and now HS2, all of which are also accessible through a single portal, the Major Projects Association Knowledge hub. Over the last 10 years, the Learning Legacy has continued to evolve, build on its predecessors and improve. I am starting to see a real step change in people’s appetite to sharing their knowledge – in particular by the supply chain (tier one). At London 2012 and Crossrail there was huge appetite by the client body and some involvement in the supply chain but nowhere near the level of engagement that I am seeing at HS2. This is just the start for HS2 but to date 220 people from 39 organisations within the HS2 family have been published on the HS2 Learning Legacy website and the next content to be published in January is 85 per cent contributed by the joint venture contractors delivering the enabling works.

So why is there so much more uptake? The feedback I get from engineers and projects managers, (which corresponds with the results of a LinkedIN survey I ran a few years ago), is that learning legacies provide a gold-mine of insight and resources that saves them time and money, or at the very least, informs their planning on future projects. In 2015, PMI published research (in a survey of over 2,466 project management practitioners around the world) on the value of knowledge transfer, finding that effective knowledge transfer improved project outcomes by nearly 35 per cent. But the urgency is so much greater now, what can we as project professionals learn from each other to improve the performance of the built environment and save the planet? With these possibilities, wouldn’t it be amazing if all major projects committed to sharing their learning for the benefit of industry and the planet?

Whilst learning legacy is a great public resource, there are some learnings that you might not want published, perhaps because of reputation, or commercial or security sensitivities, however these are often where the most useful learning is. It is important that a private learning legacy framework is established to support sharing sensitive learning and enable frank conversations under the protection of an non-disclosure agreement. Crossrail has been doing this to a certain extent. At HS2, we want to take it one step further and put in place reciprocal knowledge sharing agreements so that HS2 can both share with other projects and learn from them too.

I have also been working with the Houses of Parliament Restoration and Renewal programme to support this project in its early stages to learn from others. This structured approach to facilitating the flow of knowledge between major projects has huge potential to improve project performance, sustainability and productivity across the construction sector and wider industry. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could establish a network between all projects enabling secure knowledge pathways across the industry?

Whilst a learning legacy works at an industry level, we in Co.Cre8 are also keen to lead the conversation at a project level. At the Houses of Parliament Restoration and Renewal programme we developed CLIIK as the delivery mechanism for the knowledge management framework. CLIIK stands for Continuous Learning, Innovation, Improvement and Knowledge and brings all these knowledge related activities into one holistic framework ensuring resource efficiency, removal of silos and a coordinated approach to knowledge management – a toolkit to address the programme’s knowledge requirements.

I will continue to do my bit for the climate emergency by championing a structured approach to knowledge sharing across the industry, nurturing that emerging culture of knowledge sharing across our industry and setting up conversations to support knowledge sharing.

Whether working in a project or at an industry level, we can all make a contribution to how efficient and sustainable our projects are. What’s your contribution? What do you think would be amazing?

Ego to Eco has created a Miro board to capture these commitments – complete the 5 minute form to publish your commitment to the climate change crisis. 

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