Danny Frost, Managing Director
Time and time again we find ourselves embroiled in quantum related disputes. Frequently these derive from disagreements within the project team and, more specifically, Quantity Surveyors holding ground on monetary matters. Establishing liability and value is not always black and white and an abundance of grey often leads to differing opinions with respect to what is correct, appropriate or fair.
How Can We Reduce This?
Along with technical ability, the personality and social skills possessed by those assigned to a job are undeniably important. The ability to manage expectations, deal with people and defuse problems that could potentially lead to disputes can often prove an invaluable skill. Unfortunately, this is frequently overlooked.
It is vital that we consider the attributes of our Quantity Surveyors and how they balance with their opposite number and the rest of the project team in the early stages of a venture, before the fun – or work – commences. A project will be far more successful if the QS possesses both the technical ability and people skills to deliver confidently the competence level the profession is striving to demonstrate.
Technical ability involves a high degree of expertise in the standard form of contract for a project, and the proficiency to value quantum as defined. This can be an unwavering and rigid demonstration of the role of a QS and, whilst admirable, it can present difficulties.
Those with high level technical skills but lacking in people skills tend to know the contract back to front, have an excellent eye for detail and are usually technically correct. They do a great job and have an unrivalled intelligence in deducing conclusions… until they meet individuals of a similar ilk. The result? A deadlock. Calculated interpretation versus calculated interpretation without the adaptability to contemplate an alternative argument. This is a difficult place to begin a discussion about resolution.
Alternatively those who have exceptional people skills bring a different approach. It is an underestimated skill of perception and requires the ability to listen, understand and explain circumstances so that the opposition can appreciate another side to the story, even if they do not agree.
These individual possess the talent and competence to also do a great job and can establish good working relationships. Everything will go well until they come up against a QS with superior technical skills. The different approaches can create an impasse, a misconception of each other’s objectives or a misplaced assumption of emotion – for example, an assumption of ego, arrogance or ignorance. As nobody likes to feel inadequate, least of all in a negotiation, this often leads to defensive tactics.
The bulk of the industry is not made up of such extremes. The majority of us are not ‘perfect’ QSs, nor do we possess only technical or social abilities. Instead, we are typically made up of varying levels of both skill sets. As we begin to recognise the significant impact personality can make on the path of a project, we can ensure that different personalities and experience levels are better deployed, resulting in a better project outcome. As expertise is fuelled by experience, which is largely developed over time, let’s not send Junior QSs into complex negotiations. Instead, attend with them and demonstrate what having a balanced skill set looks like.
The ‘perfect’ Quantity Surveyor possesses a combination of both extreme skill-sets and would be a desirable asset to any project team. They work well with others, perform to a high standard, always deliver, and possess the aptitude to read a situation and adapt their behaviour to achieve the best outcome. Much like the Bengal Tiger, the ‘perfect’ Quantity Surveyor is hard to find but does exist. With more talent emerging in the industry and better funding on training we should only see their numbers increase.
So, the next time you are thinking of allocating a Quantity Surveyor to a project, have a think about the balance of technical skills, experience and nature of that person. Putting the right person on the job might just avoid an unnecessary dispute.