Suffolk Construction: Creating an adaptive culture

Case study: Suffolk Construction

Hear from Chairman and CEO, John Fish, about getting over their ‘technology hump’.

Blue and purple laser walls and pillars

Suffolk is recognized as one of the most innovative construction companies on the scene, with a string of exciting projects and a self-professed desire to “transform the construction experience.”

But, as Chairman and CEO John Fish explains, it takes time to embed a new way of thinking and building. “We underestimated the challenge of becoming an adaptive culture. At first, we tried to force the issue, but we soon realized that moving the needle would take a lot longer than we ever thought — not least because we have several generations within our workforce, and everyone learns differently.”

Suffolk’s real breakthrough came when it was able to use data to measure the effectiveness of its new approaches. “I believe we’re the first construction company in the US to have a clean data lake — something that’s taken us almost 4 years and substantial investment in data scientists. Once we started measuring the effectiveness of our strategy, and demonstrating empirically how they created value, we got over what I call our ‘technology hump’.”

Data is the fuel behind all of Suffolk’s technology advances. The company is creating a digitization platform enhanced with artificial intelligence. One key investment is in safety programs with visualization on job sites, to identify and outline risky behaviors.

According to John, not every company is likely to ride the wave of innovation. “You need strong, fully committed leadership. You need a strong enough balance sheet to make capex investments. And you must overcome any fear of failure, as some initiatives won’t deliver. You’re bringing together small groups of people willing to get out of their comfort zones in a small, ‘incubator’ environment. And then you have to socialize the success or failures of that experiment.”

Suffolk appears poised for future success, having successfully created an adaptive, learning culture where everyone has a sense of curiosity.

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