23/07/2020 • What we believe

Designing a culture for quality #3: Relationships

We were recently back in Whitechapel for the last in a series of mini interviews about the culture on site at The Silk District, and how that impacts the homes the team are building there. Read more below.

If you missed them, you can still read the first interview, on creating the right environment, and the second, on wellbeing

For this final chat we talked about relationships – how the way Mount Anvil interacts with, works alongside and treats contractors contributes to the site’s culture and the quality of its homes.

 

Hi again Andy! We talked about wellbeing on site last time – that got us thinking about the importance of the relationships you develop with contractors and third parties working here. Could you tell us a bit more about that?

Hi all! Look, letting good people do good work is a real core Mount Anvil value. The whole business believes – and I think consistently proves – that if you’ve got the right people in place, the best thing you can do is to create an environment where they can get on with what they do best.

We put a lot of time into designing and creating the site, into providing common spaces that help people do their work, and into creating efficient, effective workflows and processes. All of that creates a great foundation for working relationships.

 

You must help set the tone of those relationships too, right?

I have a role to play there, definitely – I’ve worked on too many sites where the leadership only appears once in a blue moon to give a contractor an earful when something’s gone wrong. That’s no way to run a site. I’m always around, in the induction room a few times a week, making sure everyone knows my face and making sure they know that I’m open to suggestions about how we can improve things for them.

If you treat people right, they’ll go out on the turnstile in the morning thinking “Mount Anvil have really looked after me, I’m going to do what I can for them”. 

 

You mentioned how strong Mount Anvil is culturally, but you obviously need everyone pulling in the same direction on site. How do you get non-Mount Anvil site workers to buy into that culture?

We’ve got around 300 contractors on site currently, and that will peak at around 350 in coming months, in line with the Construction Leadership Council guidelines – that’s a lot of people to take on this journey with us. If we didn’t know exactly what we were about, and if we didn’t set out our stall from day one, it could be a real challenge.  But there are definite strategies to bring people in culturally. Firstly, we often use contractors that we’ve used before. Those strong repeat relationships with people who already know and respect how we work are essential.

New contractors often want to impress, want to come on that journey with us, so it’s about properly communicating who we are to them. We’re not into telling when we can show – so we might take them to see another Mount Anvil site that is further on than ours, show them what we expect from people, and get that message across with a bit of passion.

 

Great – and you mentioned that you’re always improving things, always open to comments from the site team too?

Things can always be better, and it would be stupid of us not to ask the 250-odd people working out on the site every day for ideas around that. They’re the experts, really.

We have feedback consultation meetings every month, and either me or Glenn, our Project Manager, sit in on them. We have comment cards too, of course.

Let me tell you – some of the comment cards I would receive when I worked for other contractors would make a brickie blush. But the feedback we generally get here is so positive. People often say this is the best site they’ve ever worked on, which is fantastic.

 

That idea of using the input from the site team to improve things finds its way into workflows and processes too doesn’t it? I’m thinking of how hazards are reported, for example.

Hazard reporting is a great example of how the right processes can improve both the physical site and the quality of the experience for people working here. That’s important for our contractors, our JV partners, and for us.

The guys and girls that come on site, 9 times out of 10, will have a tablet or phone with them anyway, so we sign them up to our hazard reporting app. No hazard is too small – a trailing wire, loose stones on a pathway – and we try to encourage everyone to log at least one hazard a day. A reported hazard isn’t going to become an accident further down the line.

And it works. I’m proud to say we’ve been working across the site for just over two years now with demolition, archaeology and construction, and we’ve not had a serious accident. That’s down to the relationships we have with our contractors, and the culture they’ve bought into as a result.

 

Brilliant. Well thanks so much for talking to us for all of these pieces Andy, we know you’re busy! Anything you wanted to add?

Just that the homes that we create are the sum of all of the things we’ve talked about over these three chats. Everything we’ve discussed is a business point, it all impacts the product and the bottom line.

A group of people respecting the site, each other and the work they’re doing makes a difference.

A physical site that looks after its people makes a difference, because people who are thinking about being cold, or getting changed in a filthy boot room, or banging their heads on walkways can’t do their best work. A culture that emphasises wellness as much as Health & Safety makes a difference, because people who are stressed or worried about illness, or who are unable to contact their loved ones during their lunchbreak aren’t going to be firing on all cylinders.

It all matters, you know? It all makes a difference to the homes we’ll finish here over the coming years. We’re proud of the culture we’ve created here, and The Silk District is going to be a fantastic development – watch this space!