One key factor influencing the formation of one’s leadership style is the career journey one has embarked on. Throughout one’s professional experiences, they encounter various mentors, role models, and peers who shape their vision, values and leadership skills. The leader, in turn, has a significant impact on the culture and climate of the workplace and the attitudes and behaviours of the employees.
In this interview, we have the pleasure of speaking with John Allison, the operational manager of Douglas OHI. John shares with us his journey of career growth and development, from his humble beginnings as a design coordinator to becoming a key leader in one of the leading construction providers in Oman.
John Allison has over a decade of experience in the industry, managing complex and diverse projects across various sectors. He shares his insights and perspectives on his role and responsibilities, the challenges and opportunities in operations management and construction, and the innovative solutions he implements to ensure excellence and sustainability in every project.
My construction career began in the UK as a design coordinator at Interserve after graduating from the University of Manchester. Interserve’s graduate training programme provided excellent training and mentoring, which enabled me to progress to more prominent roles, such as site engineer and section engineer, working on various construction projects and operations in the UK.
Interserve seconded me to Dubai and then Qatar for having demonstrated my ability to manage and complete projects to a high standard efficiently. And there, I advanced to the role of Project Manager. I was involved in several challenging and innovative projects across different sectors, such as water and wastewater, aviation, retail, hospitality, education, and commercial. Some notable projects include Hamad International Airport and projects related to the FIFA World Cup 2022. The projects I took part in Dubai and Qatar gave me a wealth of experience and knowledge in the construction industry.
My recent roles have been more focused on working from the head office. I have been in charge of both Tendering and Pre-construction, which has allowed me to contribute to developing and planning new projects from the early stages.
All these experiences have given me invaluable insight into how construction companies and the wider industry operate, providing a good foundation for my current role.
The main goal of an operations manager is to ensure the successful delivery of construction projects. This is done by:
On the other hand, some of the challenges that this role entails include:
To ensure and enhance our performance, we adopt a range of strategies for our team. These include:
These enable me to identify and resolve any problems or deficiencies in safety, quality, cost, customer satisfaction, and employee satisfaction.
Additionally, I strongly advocate lean construction theory, which focuses on eliminating waste and minimising inefficiency while maximising customer value. To make this possible, I map and review our processes, use root-cause analysis to identify underlying issues, identify and conduct short-term improvement projects, promote a continuous improvement mindset within the company, and adopt new technologies and innovations.
Douglas OHI is a company that holds ISO 9001, 14001, and 18001 certifications. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) awards these certificates for compliance with specific quality, environmental, and occupational health and safety management standards.
To ensure that we meet these standards, we have dedicated departments that oversee our operations and conduct regular internal audits. We also welcome external audits by independent experts who verify our compliance and help us maintain our ISO certification.
The achievement of ISO 9001, 14001, and 18001 certifications demonstrates Douglas OHI’s commitment to providing high-quality goods and services, reducing the impact on the environment through sustainable resource use, and promoting occupational health and safety in the workplace.
Striving to maintain systems that prevent delays, errors, and accidents is a must. My belief is to use a structured problem-solving approach to handle and resolve any issues that occur.
Structured problem-solving is a disciplined method that helps to identify, analyse, and solve problems clearly and logically. My role is to guide this process and ensure that we leverage our collective expertise and experience to find the best solutions.
The first step is to define the problem clearly and precisely and then form a team of experts who can help solve it. The team will then examine the situation, generate possible solutions, and choose the best fix for all parties involved. The chosen solution will then be implemented, monitored for results, adjusted as needed, and finally integrated into the company’s quality management procedures.
Douglas OHI is a company that encourages everyone, including myself, to help foster a highly engaged workplace culture where all of us are empowered and equipped to be effective problem solvers. Establishing trust with employees and other stakeholders is vital to achieving a collaborative workplace that develops a mutually beneficial solution.
We keep our team driven by implementing a strategy based on what we believe are the four areas of high motivation levels.
The construction industry is constantly evolving with new technological innovations. Among these, I find BIM, Lean Construction, and AI to be particularly fascinating and relevant to my work.
With these technologies’ continuous development and integration of these technologies, Douglas OHI can evolve into an even more streamlined and efficient construction business and remain at the forefront of the construction industry here in Oman.
We are committed to developing Douglas OHI’s BIM capability, focusing on 4D planning that connects the programme to the 3D model and 5D – using the 3D model to perform take-offs and embed cost data. These solutions will enable us to better review and communicate our construction approach and increase efficiency in analysing cost data.
Developing our BIM models will enable the integration of AR and VR technology to help all stakeholders visualise and evaluate designs and schedules before the construction phase begins on site.
In addition, we have adopted 3600 photo and video capture for all our new projects to enhance the recording and communication of site progress, which is especially beneficial for some of our more remote projects. These can be linked and compared to BIM models for better coordination.
From Lean theory, we have applied digital Kanban with Asana to better visualise some of the submittals and procurement processes we follow on projects. We now have a more refined early warning system to identify and track slippages.
We will also persistently seek to use precast and off-site construction whenever feasible to minimise waste and increase quality control.
Our commitment to quality and excellence is shaped by five essential factors we constantly consider and apply in every project.
My goal is to support Douglas OHI’s long-term vision by fostering the development and growth of our employees. I will provide job training and mentoring opportunities that will enable our people to acquire the skills and confidence to excel in their roles and increase their productivity and satisfaction with their work.
Together with everyone, I will show my commitment to contribute to the improvement of the organisation’s people management system by giving feedback, constructive criticism, conflict resolution, and performance management, which are essential for our people’s development and the company’s achievement.
The construction industry is undergoing significant technological changes; being current in understanding these and being early adopters can also foster long-term success, which I will continue to champion with the help of our team.