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Last edited 09 Sep 2016

Overcoming difficulties in construction value management

Value management techniques are commonly used in construction projects to serve two contextual situations; to achieve resource savings when a project has potentially crossed its limiting values in terms of cost or time, or to create an interface platform between the project commissioning team and the project delivery team to facilitate the development of a project delivery plan.

Value management techniques are primarily founded on three principal themes:

  • Achievement of tasks through involvement and team work, based on the premise that a team will almost always perform better than an individual;
  • Using subjective judgement, which may or may not incorporate risk assessment; and,
  • Value is a function of whole life cost and utility in its broadest sense.

The key decisions in the application of value management on projects relate to:

  • When should it be used?
  • Who should be involved?
  • Who should perform the role of the facilitator?

A balance must be struck between early application before an adequate understanding of the problem and constraints, and late application, when conclusions have been drawn and opinions hardened. Feasibility (when identifying suitable options) and pre-construction (before the design freeze) would generally be suitable, but each project should be examined on its merits.

A facilitator can be used to gain commitment and motivate participants; draw out views, ensure a fair hearing, select champions to take forward ideas generated and, to keep to the agenda. To achieve these goals the facilitator must be independent, possess well developed interpersonal and communication skills and be able to empathise with all participants. Although the facilitator needs to understand the nature of the project, this need not be at a detailed level.

Large, complex or otherwise difficult projects may warrant an external specialist facilitator. The table below identifies some of the pros and cons of using an internal or an external facilitator (ref Hamersley, H (2002) Value Management in Construction, Dallas (2006), Kelly, (2004)). The facilitator’s role is crucial to the success of the exercise and care needs to be taken over selection.

An internal facilitator An external facilitator
For Familiarity with the project – may help the team to achieve a deeper understanding of the project.

Can contribute towards effective team building.

Fresh ideas are generated.

Items can be critically appraised without having to defend existing ideas or approaches.

Can bring experience from other more diverse projects and organisations.

Against May not be able to appraise their own work critically.

May not be able to introduce fresh and new ideas.

Are more likely to confirm that their original approach is the most effective one.

Potential conflict between external and internal parties.

The project team may be unwilling to implement recommendations made externally.

The ownership and liability for particular design ideas may be unclear.

May experience a more difficult learning curve.

Generally, the participants in a value management process are selected on the basis of their technical or managerial expertise, rather than their skills in contributing to a collaborative effort.

Difficulties can arise for many reasons; organisational, technical, personal or even due to the process itself. Some of the potential difficulties are listed below:

  • A lack of belief in the process;
  • Difficult people with difficult personality traits (“the spectator” – does not easily participate; “the windbag” – tends to try to dominate discussions; “the rambler” – loses track and uses far-fetched examples; “the squatter” – will not change from initial position – See team management for more information);
  • Members of the team representing different organisations may be working to different agendas which are not aligned to those of the value management process;
  • Conflicts between individuals and a tendency to point scoring;
  • Lack of effective communication leading to misunderstanding;
  • Differing objectives for individuals and organisations;
  • Blame culture;
  • Attitudinal issues;
  • Differing and perhaps unrealistic expectations; and,
  • Individual insecurity – needing to make their mark.

However, it is important to remember that not all the conflicts are counterproductive. One of the keys to a successful value management process (in particular the value management workshop) is to select a multidisciplinary team with different backgrounds and attitudes. Apart from ensuring that all the necessary technical expertise is present, this is likely to introduce differing views and solutions to the problem being studied. One of the challenges for the process leader (or the facilitator) is to harness this conflict constructively, leading to innovative thinking and improved outcomes.

The general rules to achieve conflict resolution in group situations are equally applicable in these instances:

  • Emotions and people issues should be separated – consideration must be given to each issue from both sides’ perspective.
  • It is important to be even-handed, and not favour one party over another. Efforts should be made to understand why the emotions are being felt and to get the person feeling those emotions to express his/her feelings clearly.
  • Focus should be on people’s interests and not their positions. Positions are normally taken as a way of avoiding talking about the problem. A list may be made of each protagonist’s interests (not their positions) on two separate sheets of paper and then the common points of interest can be identified, not focusing on the differences. It is likely that the points of common interest far outweigh the differences.
  • The facilitator (or the process leader) should focus the group on exploring a variety of options so that each party gains something (a win – win scenario), avoiding any premature judgement or a single answer. There is usually more than one way to solve a problem. Encouraging each protagonist to consider the other person’s problem as well as their own can often help the individuals to understand the issues better and allow them to accommodate at least part of the other person’s requirements.
  • When closing the process to reach an agreement, the facilitator should use objective criteria, rather than subjective parameters that are drawn directly from the problem. Use should be made of norms, standards and benchmarks, market conditions, precedence and published data. If one party’s demands are seen to be way out of line with the common practice, it is more likely that they may relax their demands.

The text in this article is based on VALUE MANAGEMENT IN CONSTRUCTION, by Saleem Akram, Andrzej Minasowicz, Bartosz Kostrzewa, Arnab Mukherjee and Piotr Nowak. The original manual was published in 2011. It was developed within the scope of the LdV program, project number: 2009-1-PL1-LEO05-05016 entitled “Common Learning Outcomes for European Managers in Construction”. It is reproduced here in a slightly modified form with the kind permission of the Chartered Institute of Building.


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[edit] External references

  • Hamersley, H (2002) Value Management in Construction, Dallas (2006), Kelly, (2004).