Friday, October 4, 2013

For Sam Houston, Executive Director of Gammon - personally

End of day 4 of my  Hunger strike and I’m suspending it.
Will explain later.

First, I’m going to write about Sam, the executive director of Gammon and the person responsible for the risk management of the company and our brief, but nevertheless interesting ‘relationship’.
Corporate lawyers should not get too excited about big ‘confidential’ info getting aired here, this post is going to be much more lyrical, and about what things could have been have we understood each other a bit better…
A sort of a ‘sliding-door’ type of a scenario – though the real events will be mentioned too.
The juicy parts the industry knows already, better than me, unfortunately.

Bizarrely, it all started at the lift; what better example of a sliding door;
I think I was going up to the 28th floor of Devon House, it was my first day at Gammon, end of May this year. He was coming out of the same contraption at the lobby level. Turns out just to get a sandwich from Pret, as I saw him again minutes later why I was sitting still at the reception waiting for the HR person to come and meet me.

See, Sam cuts quite an authoritative figure, you can’ really miss him.

We did formally get introduced, later that day – though his limp handshake and detached manner could have been summarised with one word ‘whatever’ and giving the unspoken view of me
being this terribly overpriced woman with a skewed English accent, brought in as a Head of the Innovation Department, no one really needed and wanted, especially him, the finance man.
 I could have been ‘a colour consultant’ or a ‘Feng shui’ expert when it came to Sam that day , his mind was on the money that was invisibly strapped around me as an already wasted  overhead/profit.

Little did he know, or wanted to know, that for years I considered myself to be one of the best ‘risk-management-tools’ a construction company could buy on the market, that I had the magic to go through project documentation and point out all the places delays were likely to happen years down the track or isolate the sheets of drawings that could form the basis for the juiciest of claims.
That I knew exactly where Leighton will screw up its project years ahead of time and have warned of those issues affected directors and mangers (the CEO too, and to no use, but that is a different story).

On the day I started at Gammon I was given the job to organise a BIM conference.
Five and a half weeks to get a major event off the ground, with little inside knowledge of the company, it kept me busy.
The next time I saw Sam was at the conference.
The event was successful, though no better or worse than many others that get held regularly in the global BIM arena, a field that probably organises a larger than necessary number of events like these, often recycling  the same projects, same images, same construction-sequence movies.
To make the event more than just another showcase of ‘we did this’ and ‘we did that’ – I used the opportunity (with the permission of my managers) to herald in a new era of BIM@Gammon, where as the first company to do this in Hong Kong, we would go deep-as-well as wide and get the entire company ‘BIM literate’ in the shortest timeframe possible.

We held a Q&A session at the end of the internal session – in a fairly full house – Sam was sitting close to the back, reclined in the chair, asked for the mike:
‘is this BIM just going to be another tax to pay?’  put up  the question  – and kill me, I don’t remember my answer, but must have been upbeat, I wanted this guy to feel positive about ‘this thing’ he neither liked, neither wanted to be part of, but his CEO has assured me the company was fully backing.

Later on, I learned he was part of some negotiations to insource BIM capability to Gammon – but somehow got overruled. Overruled but not forgotten that it happened.

Wind the clock a bit forward, the conference behind us;
I start looking at our jobs that have some BIM components to them;
3 stand out, all risky in their own right, one with a poorly set up design development job, based on a shaky BIM structure and already terribly late; one with a client mandated – highly onerous BIM with strict deadlines we had not met – the third, the biggest D&B job this company has ever taken on with a consultant (our consultant!) flatly refusing to do anything in 3D for it.
I try to get my head around these ‘hottest potatoes’,  stretch the very limited resource at hand see what can be achieved by when.

I plan, I present, I talk.
I get ignored, ridiculed and undermined.
Not by everyone, but by those, that matter, obviously.

Those that have followed my work know that I do look at BIM (Building Information Managed) as a fundamental risk management practice – just as project with BInM (Building Information NOT PROPERLY Managed) as a disaster to happen.  As ignorant as it sounds, forget the building and how we are going to do it, if the project information is crap and we do not manage it in time, it will blow up.
All 3 jobs were candidates for this.

So, went to see Iain Wink, Group Risk manager. A cheerful fellow, one eye on the awful rain thumping outside still pretty greenery of his office window, the other on his impending summer leave he told me not to worry much about risk – these jobs were in good hands.

Walking out of his office, came Sam to mind again, was he not the executive director responsible for RISK, surely he would not dismiss my concerns as easily as everyone else?

Unfortunately, I could never pull to his attention the risks that were growing under his nose, the next I met Sam, it was at the infamous last meeting of my final firing where he called me ‘little naughty so-and-so’….
I was sincerely taken beck by his tone of voice, despite the situation I did not think we two were people with such differing agenda. Both of us had the company’s good and our own livelihoods at hearts.

Neither had I the opportunity to present to him the plan I prepared for the Innovation Department, so far a ‘full overhead’ on the company, to become a thriving business unit.
I worked day and night to get the figures right for the director that asked me to do it while his colleagues were drafting the letter to fire me.

Well, Sam, you wanted to save money, I could have done that for you, and Gammon, but it just was not to be.

When you chose to cut me off that day, screaming at me I still was for you just an overpaid ‘colour-consultant-whatever’ with a thick folder of "sins" committed to the company recorded by the "trusted" HR director for whose firing you’ll get a nice pat on the back.

Maybe you should have taken a deep breath, listen me out and had another go at saving money where it really matters, in the mid-directorship levels.
Now, there is something really meaty to work with.

…and for those very few interested in the status of my Hunger strike and wellbeing.
Well, after 4 almost completed days, I quit at 8PM tonight. Yep, call me a wussy.
I never wanted this to become a personal story, but….
The MTR 65 Bil experiment was of no interest to anyone.
The Gammon lack of Integrity story was of no interest to anyone.
…I thought maybe a personal story would raise some eyebrows?


And fighting alone and hungry is a no-no, even in the manuals of seasoned activists, I’m told
So, if this is a blot on my character – you are welcome.
After all, how could I carry on starving, not writing and wait for ‘sure for God never to come miracle’ when Leightons are finally getting exposed in their cherished home-country.
See blog:

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