President highlights key work of FIDIC committees at Geneva conference

11 Sep 2022

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FIDIC president Tony Barry has hailed the brilliant work of FIDIC’s committees at a meeting of committee chairs at a special business session before the official opening of the organisation’s Global Infrastructure Conference in Geneva on 11 September 2022.

Barry thanked the committees for maintaining and strengthening the global profile of the FIDIC brand during the period of the pandemic. “You have adapted magnificently to a world of virtual meetings, sometimes taking place at all hours, and FIDIC is really grateful for the important work that you do and the way that you do it,” said Barry (pictured above with committee chairs on stage at the event in Geneva).

FIDIC vice chair Catherine Karakatsanis chaired the session, which saw the chairs of all FIDIC’s working committees gathering to update an industry audience on their work over the past year and to share plans for the coming months.

Andrew Reid, chair of the business practice leadership committee, spoke about the importance of leveraging technology in the modern business world, but also being aware of its limitations too. “We need to get the balance right but also never forget the value of face-to-face interaction,” said Reid. Digital transformation committee vice chair Stacy Sinclair agreed with Reid, saying that losing the opportunity for “water cooler moments” in the office was challenging but it was about finding a balance and combining the best of all worlds.

Future Leaders advisory council chair Adam Białachowski said that through the pandemic digital and technology had changed everything and leadership was more important than ever before. Trust and building supportive networks were also crucial as was diversity and Białachowski praised the steps forward that FIDIC had taken in that area in recent years.

Dr Michele Kruger, chair of FIDIC’s diversity and inclusion council, highlighted the need for finding time for face-to-face discussions amidst the virtual world which is so prevalent today. Combining the benefits of digital and in-person engagement was crucial and leaders needed to be aware of both ways of working and maximizing their respective benefits, said Kruger.

“Technology can be good and bad but it’s important to convey messages in a way that can be clearly understood and in-person interaction is a key part of that, especially when dealing with project risk,” said Nora Fung, chair of the risk, liability and quality committee. Vincent Leloup, chair of the FIDIC contracts committee, said that technology had broken down barriers and enabled people to interact like never before. “Yes, there are limits and not everything can be done online, but to look on the bright side of things, the pandemic has given us opportunities to work in a different way and more smartly too,” said Leloup.

Membership committee chair Enni Soetanto said that her committee was looking at ways for FIDIC to share global experiences and best practice to provide a global exchange of ideas, find new ways to open up FIDIC to a wider user group and make FIDIC more attractive to member associations and potential members.

Richard Stump, chair of the integrity management committee, said that the increasing prevalence of digital working in the industry was leading to new challenges. Talking about increasing shades of grey, Stump said that with technology it was so easy, sometimes too easy, to take decisions and therefore there was a need for increasing oversight and safeguards in the business governance process.

Chair of the sustainable development committee Tracey Ryan said that it was important to always remember the key challenge of climate change, despite working more remotely and smartly. Ryan also highlighted the increasing levels of stress and mental anxiety that were been seen in the industry as a result of the general speed up of working practices and this was something that really needed to be addressed by leaders.

Manish Kothari, chair of the FIDIC’s international financial institutions committee, agreed with Ryan saying that “nothing can replace a trained engineer” and that the challenge in future wouldn’t be a lack of projects, but a shortage of skilled people to do the work.

Chair of the FIDIC directors and secretaries advisory council Chris Campbell, said that there was a need to change the way that infrastructure projects are planned and rolled out, because there was too much “feast and famine” on the work front. “FIDIC member associations need to try and influence the political space to take out the peaks and troughs of work, so that we can plan our resources better and build the numbers of skilled people in the industry,” Campbell said.

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